Exploratory talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the environmentalist Greens broke down late on Tuesday night, with the Greens ruling out the possibility of forming a governing coalition together.
It was the two parties' second attempt to find common ground, but differences in several areas proved too great to overcome, party leaders said after seven hours of discussions in Berlin.
A number of topics were discussed "intensively," said Hermann Gröhe, general secretary for the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), adding that his party had not seen any "insurmountable obstacles," but had acknowledged the Greens' refusal to enter official coalition talks.
Green Party co-chair Claudia Roth said she and her colleagues had concluded "that we cannot recommend to our party conference that we take up government coalition talks," adding that they did not feel there was a "credible foundation" for governing the country for the next four years.
Nevertheless, both parties said their second round of negotiations marked a positive development in relations between the CDU and Greens. "The door is open, and as things currently stand, it won't be closing," said Greens co-chair Cem Özdemir.
Differences on Social and Labor Issues
The announcement came after the Greens had repeatedly made it clear that there had been little progress in compromising on important issues, particularly labor and social issues. The Greens had hoped to persuade the CDU to raise taxes, aim for establishing a minimum wage and increase state benefits for the long-term unemployed. There were also reportedly major differences on transportation and agriculture.
Now Merkel's only option is forming a so-called grand coalition with the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), which is closer to the CDU than the Greens in terms of policy. Their next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, but the two parties made little progress in their last round of talks, dampening tentative hopes that the formation of a new government may be easier than expected following the Sept. 22 election.
Merkel said last week she wants to know by Oct. 22 which party she will be entering formal coalition talks with -- that's when the newly elected Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, assembles for its first session. She led her conservatives to their best general election result since reunification in 1990, coming in just five seats short of an absolute majority.
The Greens, meanwhile, have embarked on a strategic rethink after they scored just 8.4 percent in the election, a disappointing result that triggered resignations.