Brussels hails German coalition breakthrough

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a statement at the CDU headquarters in Berlin, Germany, Jan 21, 2017, after Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) voted to begin formal coalition talks with Chancellor Merkel's conservatives. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Senior EU figures on Sunday (Jan 21) welcomed the breakthrough in Germany's political deadlock after the centre-left Social Democrats voted Sunday to begin formal coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

Party delegates backed a preliminary coalition deal, bringing relief to Merkel after months of uncertainty and staving off the threat of snap polls or the prospect of an unstable minority government.

European leaders have been anxiously awaiting the return to action of economic and political heavyweight Germany, hoping to see a government emerge that will unblock key EU reforms.

Martin Selmayr, the powerful chief of staff to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, tweeted his approval of Sunday's agreement, which paves the way for negotiators to launch in-depth talks on forming a government this week.

"Very good news for a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe!" Selmayr, who is German himself, wrote on Twitter.

EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici hailed the "sense of responsibility" shown by the Social Democrats.

"Europe needs an engaged, constructive social democracy," he wrote on Twitter.

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