Germany’s parliament meets for the first time today since last month’s inconclusive general election. It comes as formal talks began between conservatives and Social Democrats aimed at securing consensus over the broad policy themes to be pursued by the new power-sharing government.Gerhard Schroeder will not be playing a part in the administration. However his SPD party won the right to name half of the 16 cabinet members, in exchange for agreeing to let Angela Merkel become the nation’s first female Chancellor. Her party’s unexpectedly poor result in the poll meant she could not govern with her chosen allies. Yesterday Merkel named her set of conservative ministers, ahead of today’s parliamentary session which will see the election of a new speaker. Both sides aim to complete the talks by November 12 after which the new government will have to be formally endorsed. Slated for a key role is Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who will step out of his mentor Gerhard Schroeder’s shadow to become Foreign Minister. Top priorities for the new administration will include tackling Germany’s chronic unemployment problem.