German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats have agreed "in principle" on a coalition deal, sources involved in the talks say, taking Europe's economic powerhouse a step closer to a new government.
Negotiations to form a grand coalition - known as GroKro in German - have dragged on far longer than expected as the two sides worked to iron out the details about the composition of the next German government.
With SPD leader Martin Schulz, a former president of the European Parliament, reported to be headed for the foreign ministry, Germany could become more amenable to proposals for strengthening E.U. institutions and the euro - to the delight of French President Emmanuel Macron.
The Social Democrats were set to get the foreign, labor and finance ministries - the latter a major prize, held by Merkel's CDU for the past eight years and an influential position given Germany's status as the eurozone's biggest economy.
Leaving the powerful finance industry in the hands of the SPD gives the junior coalition partner the opportunity to spend a record budget surplus and embracing their demands for European reform.
Merkel , in power for over 12 years, at first tried to cobble together a novel three-way coalition with the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, but those efforts collapsed in November.
The SPD leaders have promised that any coalition agreement with Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc would eventually be voted by around 450,000 members of the center-left party.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has reached an "in principle" coalition deal four months after she failed to secure a majority in German elections.
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Mrs Merkel said: "I know that millions of citizens have been watching us closely on this long road over recent weeks".
And the deal still faces a final hurdle. "We know what task we have and are trying to do justice to it", she said.
On Wednesday he declared that, with the coalition deal, Germany "will return to an active and leading role in the European Union".
Healthcare and labour policy are crucial for the SPD as it tries to convince its 443,000 members - many of whom oppose forming another awkward partnership with Merkel after their party suffered its worst postwar result in September's election.
"The big differences between the previous grand coalition and a new one will be small", Pepijn Bergsen at the Economist Intelligence Unit wrote in an email to Quartz. Refugee arrivals will be capped at an annual range of 180,000 to 220,000 and family-reunification immigration will be limited to 1,000 a month.
A spokesperson for the SPD confirmed it had reached a deal with Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), but stressed that it would need to be formally approved by the party's 460,000 members, reports CNN. A reluctant "yes" is more likely than not, but a sceptical SPD could yet surprise.
But governing in her shadow has cost them vital support and they scored a historic low 20.5% in the election.
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