German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats remained locked in talks early Friday in an effort to determine whether they can enter into formal negotiations over a future government.
Participants have described the negotiations as "good", but SPD leaders need to convince their party members as they are offering them a vote on January 21 on whether to proceed.
Merkel is betting that after five days of talks, the parties will have laid the groundwork for the start of formal negotiations for a new coalition government with her at the helm for a fourth term in office. But both parties lost votes in the September 24 election, which saw the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) enter the Bundestag (national parliament) for the first time. At the same time, Ms. Merkel seemed to give up on the notion of limits on accepting more refugees; she said in 2015 that she wasn't quite sure if Germany's borders could still be protected as they once were.
However, the SPD is still facing strong opposition of a renewed grand coalition, especially from its grassroots and youth members, who are anxious about the further marginalization of the party in its cooperation with the Union.
However, he sounded a more upbeat note than Merkel, saying there was "broad agreement on the fundamentals of European policy".More news: A Look At Recent Insider Trades For Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT)
Merkel, who is battling to form a new government to salvage her political future, had warned that it would be a "tough day" of talks.
Steinmeier, who is pressing both sides to reach a deal, told foreign diplomats in Berlin the delay in forming a government was unprecedented, but the German constitution provided clear rules for the situation, and everyone was taking it seriously.
In her 13th year as German chancellor, Angela Merkel's once-invincible reign is seemingly in free-fall.
With the EU effectively at a standstill until Berlin gets its act together, Mr Schulz, the ex-European Parliament president, insisted Europe was uppermost in his mind.
If things go well, a new government could be formed by Easter, said Horst Seehofer, the leader of the Christian Social Union - the Bavaria-only sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.More news: Alyssa Milano calls on Ivanka Trump to donate to sexual harassment fund
Should the two biggest party groups fail to agree on moving ahead, Merkel, albeit reluctantly, could try to form a minority government or accept new elections.
However, the hard political challenges will be fought outside the parliament, in the next days or probably weeks at the negotiations table to agree the terms of the "grand coalition".
Negotiators in the preliminary governing talks said on Tuesday that any agreement on specific issues depends on them reaching an overall deal. The party's leader, Martin Schulz, envisions Germany as part of a "United States of Europe".
Back then, a number of left wing members of the party led by Oskar Lafontaine left SPD, denouncing the changes of labor protection laws, as proposed by the leadership of Gerhard Schröder.
A survey published by Focus magazine found that only 30% of Germans favor a return of the conservative-SPD alliance, while 34% prefer new elections.More news: Judges rule Pa. can keep congressional map
He said the terms of the deal were "more favorable" for his vision of a reformed EU than a separate agreement that was discussed and abandoned between the Union and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) in November a year ago. "So the question, for instance, will be whether she will stay for the whole term or whether she will actually build a successor and hand over to that person".