BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The collapse of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s talks to form a three-way coalition government is “bad news for Europe” given the leading role of the European Union’s biggest member state, the Dutch foreign minister said on Monday.
Germany’s political crisis was weighing on the euro and European shares after the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) unexpectedly pulled out on Sunday from weeks of talks with Merkel’s conservatives and the ecologist Greens.
“It’s bad news for Europe that the government in Germany will take a little longer,” new Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra said on arrival for talks with EU peers in Brussels.
“Germany is a very influential country within the EU so if they don’t have a government and therefore don’t have a mandate it’ll be very hard for them to take positions.”
Germany’s outgoing EU Minister Michael Roth, a member of the Social Democrats who are not in talks on forming a new Merkel government, said: “We all have an interest in getting a mandate so that we are able to take care fully of business in Europe.”
“We have never had such a situation in Germany. So, given the collapse of these exploratory talks, we will need to assess the situation and decide accordingly.”
The spokesman for the EU’s executive arm in Brussels stressed the need for stability in Germany, as did an official in French President Emmanuel Macron’s office.
“We are confident that the German constitutional process will provide the basis for the stability and continuity that has been a trademark of German politics and we hope this time will not be different,” said the European Commission’s Margaritis Schinas.
While some in Germany spoke of a possible new election, Zijlstra said that was a bad idea and noted that the Dutch government took seven months to form, which meant German parties could still return to talks after a pause.
Foreign Minister Didier Reynders of Belgium, which was without a government for 18 months after an election, sought to strike a lighter tone on Germany.
“In Belgium we have a tradition to do that, sometimes it’s very long,” Reynders told reporters.
Zijlstra did not think the situation in Germany affected the Brexit talks specifically for now, as the EU was “waiting for a substantial offer from the British” on the exit bill. Both Roth and Reynders agreed London must make a move on the money now.
Arriving at the same talks, the Czech Republic’s EU minister, Ales Chmelar, said: “We are hopeful that we will have a strong government in Germany sooner rather than later.”
Additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris; writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Mark Heinrich