BRUSSELS - European Union finance ministers started talks on Tuesday on reforming the EU's fiscal rules to adjust them to post-pandemic realities of high debt and large investment needs, with a view to a deal in March.

Some EU diplomats say an agreement might take longer, however, because of opposition from Germany and other northern European countries to European Commission proposals to negotiate individual debt reduction paths with each government, rather than have a single rule for all, as now.

"The balance between national plans and common framework is something where we need some progress in our discussions," European Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said.

The rules, called the Stability and Growth Pact, were set up to limit government borrowing to safeguard the value of the common euro currency. They require governments to keep budget deficits below 3% of GDP and public debt below 60% of GDP.

The rules need a revamp because few EU countries now comply with these limits and some, like Italy or Greece, have debt so high that compliance with the pace of debt reduction required by the rules is unrealistic.

It is less of a problem now, because the rules have been suspended since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to give governments leeway to keep economies alive during COVID-19 lockdowns, and the subsequent cost of living crisis that followed the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But the rules are to come back into force from the start of 2024 and EU governments want them to be modified by then so that they take into account new challenges like the need for large public investment in renewable energy sources.

"The proposals of the European Commission take us to unchartered territory," German Fiance Minister Christian Lindner told reporters on entering the talks.

"We can't agree with the proposals as they are, they need to be adjusted. But we are prepared to acknowledge that new investments are needed and that debts have risen so high that under the old rules member states would be faced with insurmountable problems," he said.

"Debt is debt, even if it exist for noble reasons. Markets and interest rates make no distinction. We need investments that strengthen our economy within a clear fiscal framework that does not burden future generations with debt," he added.

(Additional reporting by Bart Meijer; Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Christina Fincher)