BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel promised Monday to work for a strong Europe and said she's hopeful talks can resolve the standoff over U.S. tariffs, declaring that "it's finally time to start work" as Germany's new government prepares to take office.
Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, its Bavaria-only sister party the Christian Social Union, and the center-left Social Democrats signed their coalition agreement Monday. Parliament is due to elect Merkel for her fourth term as chancellor on Wednesday, a record 171 days after Germans voted.
Merkel has been only a caretaker chancellor since October, and many unresolved issues await the new government. Those include U.S. tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum announced by President Donald Trump, along with threats of taxes on German automakers.
Merkel welcomed talks the European Union has already started, and said the new German government will hold talks of its own. "Such differences of opinion over whether situations are fair or not have to be resolved in talks, I think, and not if it can be avoided in some way by unilateral actions," she told reporters in Berlin.
"If these unilateral actions can't be avoided, we will have to consider how we can answer that, but I am counting on talks, and there will be many opportunities for that."
In Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron has been awaiting a German response to his calls for an ambitious European Union reform agenda.
Merkel said she and her finance minister-designate, Olaf Scholz, would visit France after being sworn in, and "we will be able to say more than we could in December" at an EU summit later this month.
She said that "we need Europe — a Europe that shares the same values and acts together, particularly toward the outside world, and we ... will make our contribution." And she said she hopes for progress in implementing the long-troubled peace deal for Ukraine after this weekend's Russian presidential election.
The new "grand coalition" of Germany's biggest parties emerged after Merkel's attempt to forge an alliance with two smaller parties collapsed. Following a disastrous election result that came after four years as Merkel's junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats agreed to join the new government only after lengthy internal wrangling.
"I think we all feel that it's finally time to start work," Merkel said.
"The fourth 'grand coalition' in Germany didn't start as a marriage of love," said Scholz, the acting Social Democrat leader. But he said that the allies "are in a position to work constructively together and govern decently. That is the job we have and we will fulfill it."