The head of the main French employers’ organisation, the Medef, and its German counterpart, the BDI, launched a joint appeal to their respective governments in favour of enterprises’ competitiveness and employment in Europe.
Pierre Gattaz and Ulrich Grillo met in Paris on 5 February and announced the relaunch of a joint steering committee that was set up in July.
The meeting between the two men was not a coincidence. A board of Franco-German ministers is scheduled on 19 February and an EU summit will be dedicated to competitiveness, industry and energy in March.
The two presidents hugged each other at the end of the press conference, a “surprising” move according to a German journalist.
Ahead of the European summit, both employers’ organisations have called for “the development of a real industrial and technological pact for Europe, including a competitiveness agenda.”
This request comes at a time when the share of Europe's industry is declining “alarmingly” in the world.
A eurozone government
Gattaz and Grillo also strongly backed the establishment of a government for the euro area to ensure a better integration of economic policy and a more favourable business environment.
In a joint statement, both men called for the establishment “of a permanent executive body with budgetary and fiscal competences within the eurozone.”
Despite their call for a strengthened governance of the euro area, they reiterated their common opposition to a European tax on financial transactions, one of the main sources for the establishment of a euro area budget.
“Such a tax would be detrimental to our business and competitiveness,” Gattaz said.
The idea for a financial transactions tax had long been rejected by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, but seems to be back on the agenda in Berlin since the establishment of a grand coalition with the Socialists. It will also be a central issue to the Franco-German Council on 19 February.
On energy policy, the two presidents tempered the idea of creating a Franco-German energy champion modelled on EADS, the owner of planemaker Airbus.
Pushed by French president Hollande, the idea does not seem to please the two business leaders.
“Do we need a cross-border entreprise like EADS? It should be discussed but there are many other possibilities to examine,” Grillo said.
For the German employer organisation, EADS is more of a “symbol”. For the French, energy policies in both countries are very different and even divergent, since Germany opted to phase out nuclear power.
“We want to achieve a true internal energy market, curb the rise in energy prices and ensure supply guarantee,” Grillo said.
The Medef leader also called for fiscal convergence by 2020, as promised by the French president at the last elections.
“We have €116 billion of tax difference between France and Germany. François Hollande said we need to reduce this differential by 2020. We expect actions,” Gattaz concluded.