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Germany's SPD backs cautious new approach that could save Merkel government

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BERLIN (Reuters) - The executive board of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) on Thursday unanimously agreed to have delegates vote on a motion that avoids setting tough conditions on staying in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, officials said.

The move reduces the risk of a political crisis in Europe’s largest economy after Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken, two leftist critics of the coalition with Merkel’s conservatives, won an SPD leadership ballot last week.

In their motion for the SPD congress that starts on Friday the new SPD leaders suggest entering negotiations with Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative bloc on more public investments, a higher minimum wage and more ambitious steps to protect the climate, two party board members told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

A draft of the main motion seen by Reuters showed that SPD leaders are set to call for a big public investment push that should not be hindered by “dogmatic positions” such as the government’s “black zero” budget policy of no net new debt.

The motion calls for a higher minimum wage, without repeating previous demands from Esken and Walter-Borjans for an immediate rise to 12 euros from 9.19 euros per hour currently.

In the latest version of the draft, the SPD leaders suggest the minimum wage should increase to 12 euros in the medium term.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber and Holger Hansen; Editing by Mark Heinrich