After more than 24 hours of talks and months of political paralysis, red-eyed party chiefs and their negotiating teams reached an in-principle agreement that could lead to a new government for the biggest European Union economy in coming months. The SPD leadership will put the result of the exploratory talks to a party convention on January 21.
Mr. Schulz, who had expressly wished for a role in the opposition after the party's two stints as junior coalition partner, must now travel the country to convince his rank and file that rejoining the government will be good for both the country and the party. That decision was popular with members. It was enough for leaders of Merkel's two-party Union bloc and the Social Democrats to recommend moving on to formal coalition negotiations.
The three coalition parties' support dropped by a cumulative total of almost 14 percentage points in the election.
Under the deal, the number of refugees with "limited protection status" who could bring their families to join them would be limited to 1000 per month, and the number of asylum seekers taken in altogether would be limited to 180,000 to 220,000 per year.
The SPD party base had to be mobilized, Bülow said, to "stop this grand coalition from within Social Democrats". He didn't secure an increase in the top income tax rate that his party proposed.
In the early stages of exploratory talks this week, it was reported that Germany's would-be coalition partners had agreed to drop plans to lower carbon dioxide emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020.
Macron in September offered an ambitious vision for European renewal, but has had to wait since for a response from EU powerhouse Germany, with much on hold there after parliamentary elections.
The parties pledged to fight tax dumping and evasion in Europe, pushing for "fair taxation of big companies" including internet giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, and called for unspecified minimum rates for corporate tax.
Strengthen European Parliament and boost European Union's finances - Germany would be prepared to pay more into the EU budget.
"In the seemingly long period of time since the election, we've seen that the world is not waiting for us", said Merkel.
Nearly 16 weeks after her party won an inconclusive federal election, Merkel's second attempt to restore leadership in Europe's dominant country yielded progress, with an agreement to move on to a shared program for government.
If the new coalition doesn't come together, the only remaining options would be an unprecedented minority government led by Merkel's conservatives or a new election. "That is why we want to further strengthen and renew German-French cooperation". The SPD leader plans to tour local party chapters next week to sell the deal, while the SPD's youth organization plans protest rallies to lobby against it.