France tells Germany ‘it’s now or never’ to save the EU

French Minister of Finances, Bruno Le Maire, attends the closing press conference of the meeting of the Ministers of Economy and the Presidents of the central banks of the G20 countries in the Exhibition and Convention Center of Buenos Aires, Argentina, 20 March 2018. [David Fernandez/EPA/EFE]

France called today (8 June) for more ambition from Germany in reforming the euro zone, saying Europe faced a “now or never” moment with rising external threats from the United States and China.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, speaking in German to a business conference in Berlin, offered the first official response from Paris to new European reform proposals from Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He welcomed the blueprint laid out by Merkel in a newspaper interview last weekend, highlighting her support for French President Emmanuel Macron’s idea for a euro zone budget.

Merkel offers Macron concessions on eurozone reforms

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a long-awaited answer to French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for ambitious European Union reforms on Sunday (3 June), offering olive branches on investment and help for debt-mired eurozone member states.

“But we have a way to go in order to get to a common position that is ambitious and targeted,” Le Maire said, noting that Europe needed “the means” to foster closer economic convergence and to react to crises.

“Our European future is at stake. We must act, it is now or never,” Le Maire added.

Macron has sketched out a far-reaching vision for Europe in a series of speeches over the past year. But until Sunday, Merkel had not offered a detailed response.

While supporting the idea of an investment budget for the single currency bloc, she said this should be in the low double-digit billions of euros, far smaller than what Macron wants.

She backed a strengthening of the euro zone’s ESM bailout mechanism, but her calls for it to take on economic surveillance responsibilities that currently housed in the European Commission are unlikely to be welcomed in Paris.

Commission hails similarities with Merkel’s eurozone proposals

European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposals to strengthen the euro area, noting the similarities between the Bundesrepublik’s and EU executive’s ideas on structural reform and investment support.

France and Germany have promised to present a joint reform proposal at a European Union summit on 27-28 June. Le Maire will meet with his German counterpart Olaf Scholz in Paris on Saturday in an attempt to narrow the differences.

In his Berlin speech, Le Maire said Europe could not allow the fate of the world to be shaped by China and the United States.

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