The embattled German leader of the CDU met with SPD leader Martin Shulz today to set out the structure of exploratory talks in an initial meeting, alongside CSU leader Horst Seehofer.
The talks resulting in an initial programme of government will begin on Sunday 7, and should be completed by January 11.
But Ms Merkel has just 10 days to come up with a draft coalition deal, or else she will have to go back to the polls.
All sides talked of growing confidence today, which will be seen as good news for Ms Merkel, whose reputation as Europe’s consensus-builder is one line in this second bid to form a coalition after weeks of sniping between its would-be partners.
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Confidence has grown and we are optimistic heading into the talks
CDU/CSU/SDP joint statement
A joint statement issued after three hours of talks