Italian minister backs Hollande’s call for economic government

Emma Bonino_Reuters photos.jpg

Italy said French President François Hollande's call for a joint European economic government should be considered, Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said on Friday (17 May).

 

"We take note with satisfaction the French position," Bonino told a news conference. She added Hollande's proposal "must be taken into consideration and must be explored."

Hollande called on Thursday for an economic government for the eurozone with its own budget, the right to borrow, a harmonised tax system and a full-time president.

At a 150-minute news conference marking his first year in office, a day after economic data showed France had slipped into recession, the Socialist leader defended his record on economic reform and budget discipline and told the French people they would have to work "a bit longer" for a full pension in future.

Rebutting criticism that France has lost its leadership role in Europe because of its dwindling economic competitiveness, Hollande said he wanted to create a fully-fledged political European Union within two years.

"It is my responsibility as the leader of a founder member of the European Union… to pull Europe out of this torpor that has gripped it, and to reduce people's disenchantment with it," Hollande said.

"If Europe stays in the state it is now, it could be the end of the project."

He acknowledged he could face resistance from Germany, Europe's dominant power, which opposes mutualising debt among member states. Berlin is also reluctant to give the eurozone its own secretariat for fear of deepening division in the EU, between the 17 members of the single currency and the 10 others.

Hollande said a future euro zone economic government would debate the main political and economic decisions to be taken by member states, harmonise national fiscal and welfare policies, and launch a battle against tax fraud.

He proposed bringing forward planned EU spending to combat record youth unemployment, pushing for an EU-wide transition to renewable energy sources, and envisaged "a budget capacity that would be granted to the euro zone along with the gradual possibility of raising debt".

He also called for a 10-year public investment plan in the digital sector, the promised energy transition, public health and in big transport infrastructure projects.

 

 

Emma Bonino, 65, became Italy's foreign minister last month under the new government formed by Enrico Letta.

Bonino is a long-time Italian politician, having served in the Chamber of Deputies and a vice president of the upper house, the Senate. She also served as a European consumer and humanitarian commissioner in the 1990s and was elected to the European Parliament in 1979, 1984, 1999 and 2004.

 

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