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Merkel challenger Schulz wants acceleration of euro zone reform

Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) - German Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz called on Thursday for accelerated reforms to the euro zone, and the basis of a strengthened currency union to be agreed by the time Britain leaves the European Union in 2019.

In a speech in Paris, Schulz said he favored an investment budget for the euro zone and a finance minister for the bloc with a mission to tackle tax competition and tax evasion.

"Reform of the economic and monetary union must not be further delayed," Schulz said, according to the text of his speech to the Sciences Po university.

He said Germany must be ready to do more for Europe, including with contributions to the EU budget. Schulz later met French President Emmanuel Macron, a pro-European reformer.

Schulz, the former European Parliament president, is hoping to beat Chancellor Angela Merkel in a Sept. 24 election but his center-left Social Democrats (SPD) have lost momentum in the polls after initial gains following his nomination in January.

An opinion poll on Wednesday put support for Merkel's conservative bloc at 40 percent, with the SPD on 22 percent.

Merkel has said she wants to breathe new life into Franco-German relations, promising closer cooperation between the two EU heavyweights with the aim of reforming the bloc.

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Alison Williams)