Merkel’s conservatives are keen for the SPD to agree to a last-ditch alliance with them after talks with two smaller parties collapsed, but the parties are already revealing contrasting views on the approach to European affairs with coalition talks less than a week away.
Martin Schulz, the SPD leader, wants EU member states to sign up to a “United States of Europe” by 2025 or risk being kicked out of the bloc.
He called for a new treaty to formally convert the EU into the United States of Europe, along the lines of the United States, though bizarrely claimed this was “no threat” to individual countries.
The socialist leader, who humiliatingly led his party to its worst ever showing in September’s general election, is now attempting to stitch together a coalition deal with Mrs Merkel.
However, senior conservative Volker Kauder said Schulz’s European proposal posed “a danger to the EU and citizens’ approval of Europe” while Peter Altmaier, Merkel’s chancellery chief, said the SPD’s timeframe was unrealistic.
Lauder told the Tagesspiegel newspaper he believes European citizens want the “reliability that they believe they can find in national states”, but admitted strengthening Europe remains an important policy.
He added: “The proposal would also jeopardise the work of unification that is unique in the history of the world because the majority of member states certainly wouldn’t participate in creating a united states.”
Altmaier admitted he was surprised by Schulz’s proposal and instead believes it would be more effective to tackle specific issues, such as unemployment and immigration.
He told the Rheinische Post newspaper: “The discussion about whether Europe should be a federal state, confederation or a united states is one for academics and journalists – not for German foreign policy.
“A United States of Europe would transfer member states’ sovereignty to Brussels and there would not be a majority for that in many EU states.”
The policy doesn’t appear to have gone down well in Germany either – an Emnid poll for Bild newspaper found just 30 per cent of Germans supported Schulz’s idea while almost half (48 per cent) rejected it.
Mr Schulz, a bombastic former MEP and EU Parliament president who quit his Brussels job to take on the German chancellor, has never hidden his federalist ambitions.
His proposals would create federal Europe, which can act together in policy in areas including domestic and foreign security, tax and monetary affairs and asylum and international development.
In a conference speech he warned European values were being systematically undermined in countries like Poland and Hungary and that the EU needed more powers to uphold its laws.
Afterwards he tweeted in English: “I want a new constitutional treaty to establish the United States of Europe. A Europe that is no threat to its member states, but a beneficial addition.
“A convention shall draft this treaty in close cooperation with the civil society and the people. Its results will then be submitted to all member states. Any state that won’t ratify this treaty will automatically leave the EU.”