EU chiefs welcome German coalition deal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Senior European Union officials welcomed Wednesday’s agreement in Berlin to form a new left-right grand coalition government, calling the long-awaited announcement a boost for the EU as a whole.

Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz (L to R), leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer and German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) arrive for coalition talks at the Social Democratic Party (SPD) headquarters in Berlin, Germany February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Mang

“Coalition agreement in Germany: good news also for Europe!,” Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici tweeted.

“Respect for the constructive spirit of my friends from the SPD,” added the French Socialist, in a nod to Social Democrats who agreed to renew a coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel despite worries that it could further undermine their electoral base.

The influential German chief-of-staff to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also hailed the deal to form a government led by his fellow Christian Democrats:

“A 170-pages agreement for 4 years, opened by a strong Europe chapter, numerous committed references to the EU framework in all sectorial chapters,” Martin Selmayr tweeted, signing off with the German and EU flags.

The absence since September of an active government under Merkel in the EU’s most powerful state has been uncomfortable for Brussels as it seeks to push ahead with deeper integration while Britain, long the most hesitant big member, quits the bloc.

Emmanuel Macron’s election as French president last May with a commitment to work for closer EU ties with Germany has raised hopes in Brussels of significant progress, for example on new euro zone rules, despite differences between Paris and Berlin.

The failure of earlier coalition talks reduced the time available to advance key projects before the EU institutions effectively halt for much of 2019 due to EU Parliament elections. However, some EU leaders hope that the SPD may bring Merkel closer to Macron, an independent who was a minister in the previous Socialist government in Paris.

Juncker aide Selmayr noted that the lengthy coalition agreement included German positions on a range of EU policy areas, including the digital single market, defense cooperation, online privacy, copyright and the environment.

Manfred Weber, who leads Merkel’s center-right allies in the European Parliament, tweeted: “Good signal from Berlin to the people and whole Europe: the future German government is ready to contribute to a stronger and better Europe. This is a clear pro European approach and an answer to populists.”

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Kevin Liffey; @macdonaldrtr