Germany and France aim to come up with joint investment projects focused on the digital economy by the time a European Union summit takes place in mid-December, ministers Sigmar Gabriel and Emmanuel Macron said at a meeting in Berlin yesterday (2 December).
In a joint statement, the euro zone’s two largest economies welcomed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s €315 billion plan to boost investment in Europe and said they were “fully committed to its rapid implementation and to make it as strong as possible”.
On 23 November Juncker presented his €315 billion investment plan to MEPs. Leaders will discuss the plan at their 18-19 December summit.
They said they would partner up to provide digital networks in areas like education, health, transport, energy and public administration, and work to improve broadband along the Franco-German border. They also want to get stakeholders together to look at battery cell technologies.
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said the two countries planned to sketch out joint projects over the next fortnight so leaders could then discuss them in Brussels.
“Our goal is to use the time we have until the European Council in mid-December, to define some important Franco-German projects, to flesh out the Juncker plan, to go further in the coming weeks,” he said.
Germany has recently come under pressure from countries like France and Italy to step up investment to boost weak euro zone growth, but Berlin is reluctant to forfeit its 2015 goal to balance the federal budget for the first time in almost 50 years.
Nonetheless, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said the planned Franco-German investment projects would be in addition to the €10 billion of extra public investment he announced in early November.
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said France and Germany believed the best way to support Juncker’s plan was to develop “flagship projects” that helped both countries while at the same time boosting European competitiveness.
He said planned investment projects needed to do more than just boost growth in the short term: “What we need in Europe now are projects that one may, rather dramatically, call ‘European Unity’ projects that don’t simply lead to straw fire effects or employ a few construction workers for two years.”