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German Chancellor and head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel (R) and head of Christian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer attend a news conference after meeting of their conservative bloc to discuss their election programme in Berlin, Germany, July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt(reuters_tickers)
By Andreas Rinke and Paul Carrel
BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives promised Germans more police, more homes and full employment within eight years when they presented their programme on Monday for an election in which she will seek a fourth term in office.
With Europe's biggest economy growing robustly, Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), are able to offer voters tax relief and more investment after the Sept. 24 ballot.
The allies have put aside their differences over migrants - the CSU wants a cap to which the CDU will not agree - and German media have reported that conservative lawmakers now refer to Merkel and CSU leader Horst Seehofer as the "twins".
The conservatives hold a clear opinion poll lead over the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), but would still need to team up with another party to govern.
On Monday they added the goal of full employment - which they define as a jobless rate of less than 3 percent - by 2025 to their list of campaign pledges.
"We think we can do this," Merkel told a news conference with Seehofer convened to present the election programme, adding that jobs were central to the quest for 'prosperity and security for all'.
Germany's jobless rate is currently at a post-reunification low of 5.5 percent. A level of 3 percent has not been seen since the "Economic Miracle" boom of the mid-1970s.
The conservative parties want to add 15,000 police officers in the 16 federal states, build 1.5 million homes during the next parliamentary term, and expand Germany's broadband network.
This responds to pressure from the International Monetary Fund and European Commission, which have said Berlin has room to lift investment infrastructure, which would help reduce its huge current account surplus and benefit weaker euro zone peers.
On foreign policy, the conservatives said they rejected full European Union membership for Turkey, backed a 'Marshall Plan'-style aid effort for Africa, and development aid spending to be increased in a 1:1 ratio with the defence budget.
The programme included a special section entitled "Germany and France as the Motor of Europe" which vows to "reinvigorate the friendship" between the two countries.
"We are ready, together with the new French government, to further develop the euro zone step by step, for example through the creation of its own monetary fund," it reads.
But it also rules out the mutualisation of debt in Europe and says that "solidarity" will only be possible if EU countries stick to the rules of the bloc's Growth and Stability Pact.
Merkel said an expanded version of the euro zone's bailout fund - the European Stability Mechanism - could play a bigger role in future crises, and perhaps act alone.
In tackling Greece's debt crisis, the euro zone has teamed up with the IMF at the insistence of German lawmakers. However, the Fund has proven a reluctant partner.
JP Morgan analyst Greg Fuzesi said the proposals on euro zone reform signalled some scope for change but lacked detail, and added: "The overall tone is one of great caution about sweeping change."
The CDU/CSU are polling around 40 percent, some 16 percentage point ahead of the SPD, their current coalition partner.
(Writing by Paul Carrel, editing by Emma Thomasson and Richard Balmforth)