Merkel, SPD agree in coalition talks to push for transaction tax

BERLIN Wed Oct 30, 2013 10:01am EDT

Leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) Sigmar Gabriel (L) welcomes German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel at the SPD headquarters before coalition talks between Germany's conservative (CDU/CSU) parties and the SPD in Berlin October 30, 2013. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

Leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) Sigmar Gabriel (L) welcomes German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel at the SPD headquarters before coalition talks between Germany's conservative (CDU/CSU) parties and the SPD in Berlin October 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Tobias Schwarz

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD) agreed in a second round of coalition talks on Wednesday to push for a financial transactions tax in Europe if they manage to form a new government.

"We agreed to push ahead with the financial transactions tax," said SPD negotiator Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, after a meeting of the main group of 77 negotiators from Merkel's Christian Democrats, their Bavarian Christian Social Union allies and the SPD.

The two sides began formal talks last week aimed at having a new "grand coalition" government in place by Christmas, with 16 working groups drawing up policy compromises on a wide range of issues, including Europe.

Plans for 11 European Union states to tax banks about 35 billion euros a year - partly in return for getting assistance from taxpayers during the financial crisis - face stiff opposition from other EU states, especially Britain.

"It's quite clear that there are very different views even among the 11 states who want to introduce it, but nevertheless we agreed today that both parties want to have this tax introduced on a European level," Schulz told reporters.

EU lawyers say the plan is illegal because it exceeds member states' jurisdiction for taxation, could hurt non-participating EU countries and would be an obstacle to the free movement of capital and services in the single market.

Banks have lobbied furiously against the plan, which could be scaled back by lowering the standard tax rate on transactions from 0.1 percent in the original blueprint drafted by Brussels and by introducing it more gradually.

But Berlin, one of the main backers of the FTT, remains determined to introduce the tax swiftly.

(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke, Holger Hansen and Sarah Marsh; Writing by Stephen Brown)

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