Germany's Schulz abandons plan to become foreign minister

Germany moves toward a new coalition government after major concessions by Angela Merkel

Germany moves toward a new coalition government after major concessions by Angela Merkel

Schulz's surprise announcement on Friday came two days after he struck a deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc CDU/CSU to form a grand coalition government.

"My own personal ambitions must be placed behind the interests of the party".

Last time there was such a poll, 76% voted yes; this time, that is likely to be lower, but the signs are that, despite significant scepticism, the coalition will still be signed off.

Now, the demoralized SPD is hoping that the 47-year-old Nahles can lead the centre-left party on a revival path after a series of election humiliations plunged it into an identity crisis.

Paradoxically, the political right's dismay could win over more reluctant SPD members.

Mr Schulz, facing criticism inside the SPD, said he did not want debate about his role to jeopardise a new coalition. "This government will have an even clearer Social Democrat stamp than the former grand coalition did".

Third, the SPD has secured a decent deal on policies for the next three-and-a-half years.

Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz, a centrist Social Democrat who's no darling of the party's left, is being tipped to run finance, according to German media reports.

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"Dissatisfaction is very strong among grassroots CDU members", he said.

German newspaper headlines were full of the protests of outgoing Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, at his removal from government - he was furious at Schulz apparently "breaking his word" by taking on this key ministry himself rather than allowing Gabriel to stay in post.

But before anyone can take up their posts in a new Merkel-led cabinet, the SPD's rank-and-file have to give their blessing to the coalition pact.

Her next step up the party ladder came in September a year ago when she was appointed SPD parliamentary leader, just weeks after the party's election result sunk to a mere 20.5% - its lowest level since modern Germany was founded. Merkel has been fighting to remain in power since September's disastrous elections and the price she pays could be heavy, with her new government set to be much more active in pursuing greater European integration and reform and Schulz, the former European parliament president who has called for a United States of Europe, ensconced in Cabinet as foreign minister.

So where does this leave Germany, and its relationship with the UK?

But there was anger within the SPD ranks too.

In a reminder of how indispensable Berlin has become to European affairs, the ill temper in Germany was not matched in other capitals, where news of a prospective end to four months of uncertainty was greeted with relief.

For the United Kingdom, the new Foreign Affairs Minister is unlikely to be someone sympathetic to special pleading on the terms of Brexit, and an extremely hard line can be expected.

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