European Union to get its own finance minister: German SPD leader

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Chancellor Angela Merkel was struggling to find a coalition deal with Germany's second biggest party, as a last-ditch round of negotiations stretched well into overtime Friday with "big obstacles" left to clear.

Merkel and the SPD also plan to join French President Emmanuel Macron in launching a far-reaching makeover of the Europe Union, the 28-page paper says.

However, an SPD party conference set down for January 21 still has to approve holding the talks for a rerun of the Merkel-led coalition that has ruled the nation for eight of the chancellor's 12 years in power.

Merkel has been trying to form a new government for more than three months following last September's inconclusive federal elections. It remains to be seen whether that is going to happen but the market seems to be driven up by the news at this point of time.

The chancellor, who has won widespread respect overseas in more than 12 years in power, needs the coalition talks to succeed to avoid her personal authority being further undermined and Germany's worldwide standing diminished.

To win over the SPD, Merkel agreed to 5.95 billion euros ($7.2 billion) of investment in education, research and digitalization by 2021, expanded child care rights, and a pledge to strengthen Europe's cohesion with increased German contributions to the European Union budget.

According to German Press Agency, the SPD board voted by a large majority for coalition negotiations, and the CDU board and the CSU regional group approved unanimously.

He said his party was committed to ensuring that the new government for Europe's top economy committed "above all to working toward renewal of the European Union".

The deal "smells strongly of a continuation of the governing style we know from the last grand coalition, which didn't do much good for society or for the SPD", he said.

NELSON: She said she wasn't sure until the very end that the deal would happen and lauded the negotiators for persevering.

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Five days of exploratory talks are scheduled to this evening, when both sides will announce whether they have enough common ground to proceed to formal coalition talks - with public spending one of the hot-button issues.

Le Maire sought to play down fears of a drastic EU overhaul, saying some of Macron's more controversial plans would be discussed in due time, with tax harmonisation and a banking union first on the agenda.

"It is a significant, positive, forward-looking contribution to European policy debate in Europe".

If there now has to be a new election, her position as the unassailable, undisputed leader of Germany, will be precarious.

In 2013, when Merkel was seeking the current coalition with the SPD, this process took three weeks.

"The negotiations are not just about a coalition, but also their careers".

A commitment to "sustainably strengthen and reform the euro zone" in close partnership with France does give Merkel scope to secure her legacy as a guardian of the European project.

Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state - a region known for lignite mining - stressed that Germany wants to comply with the 2020 targets set under the global Paris climate agreement.

The CSU's chief Horst Seehofer said he hoped a new government would be in place before Easter which falls on April 1.

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