German opposition says EU treaty likely delayed

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BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel's refusal to amend a European treaty on fiscal discipline with measures to promote growth in struggling EU countries might delay the deal's ratification in Germany, an opposition leader said.

The Social Democrats' caucus leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily on Saturday that his party also wants a financial transaction tax in return for the treaty's ratification. Merkel needs the opposition's support to garner a two-thirds majority.

Steinmeier told the paper that Merkel offered no concessions when she last met the opposition leaders four weeks ago, and she has yet to reconvene a meeting, likely delaying the ratification initially scheduled for late May.

Bipartisan initiatives have recently become more difficult in Germany with two important state elections looming next month.

The German opposition's stance echoes demands now voiced across Europe, saying that stimulating growth is necessary because austerity measures alone can't save struggling economies such as Greece, Portugal or even Spain — where unemployment now hovers close to 25 percent.

Merkel, the leader of Europe's biggest economy, acknowledges the need for growth, but insists that deficits must be trimmed first to overcome the debt crisis and return to a stable path of growth.

But resisting the German opposition's demands to stimulate growth would be much more difficult if Merkel loses her conservative ally President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, the 17-nation eurozone's second-largest economy, because his Socialist rival — who is the frontrunner for the run-off ballot next month — has insisted on amending the treaty to include growth-stimulating measures.

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