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Steinmeier calls for European jobs pact

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20:35 CET+01:00
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who will challenge German Chancellor Angela Merkel next year, put forward an ambitious set of recipes Thursday to help Europe out of the economic slump.

Steinmeier, the Social Democrat chancellor candidate and the number two in the government, urged heavy European investment in infrastructure, a credit programme for small and mid-sized firms, and an end to damaging tax loopholes.

"If we do not act now, we risk losing a lot of jobs," he said in a nine-point plan called "European Future Pact for Employment", intended to spark debate in Germany and with other European governments.

Steinmeier said this weekend's summit of the Group of 20 leading industrialised and developing countries in Washington was a good start to coordinating international action to grapple with the financial crisis. But he said it must be followed up in Europe with a drive to gird the economy for more turmoil to come.

Steinmeier called for tens of billions of euros in investment in infrastructure for renewable energy and broadband communication, noting that there was "a strong need for modernisation in Europe." With an eye to new spending, he said the priority should be "securing jobs in the short term without losing sight of the goal of balanced budgets."

Steinmeier said the euro had proved its strength as a currency during the current crisis and rejected French President Nicolas Sarkozy's call for "economic government" as a counterweight to the European Central Bank (ECB).

"That is why we call for stronger coordination in the framework of the Eurogroup and more intensive dialogue with the ECB," he said, referring to finance ministers in the 15-nation eurozone.

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