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Thursday October 31, 2013 MYT 12:45:01 AM
Thursday October 31, 2013 MYT 12:45:53 AM
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have begun talks with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) with the goal of having a new "grand coalition" government in place by Christmas.
The parties have created 16 working groups that are charged with proposing policy compromises on a range of issues, from economic and banking policy, to the euro and energy.
Below are the latest details on the talks and comments from participants:
The main group of 77 negotiators from both sides met for the second time on Wednesday and agreed to renew Germany's push for a financial transactions tax in 11 European Union member states. They will put it on the agenda of the next EU summit once they have formed a government. They did not discuss common euro zone bonds, which Merkel opposes and the SPD has dropped, and did not agree on SPD proposals of a debt redemption fund to reduce borrowing costs of struggling euro members like Greece.
SPD negotiator Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, said: "We agreed to push ahead with the financial transactions tax. We believe that with the strength of the 'grand coalition' we can bring this process to a conclusion.
"When a government is formed and gets to work in the coming weeks, it will launch this initiative at the next European summit."
The parties also agreed Germany should push for European integration and focus European fiscal policy more on growth, employment and innovation. They said however they needed to consult further on a common stance on a European banking union.
A separate working group on labour that met on Tuesday made progress towards introducing a wage floor in more sectors of the German economy, but did not agree on the SPD's headline demand of an 8.50 euros per hour legal minimum wage.
A working group on finance, budget and federal-state financial ties was due to meet for a second time on Wednesday after failing to reach any agreement two days earlier.
(Compiled by Berlin bureau)
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