Monday

20th Feb 2017

Obama endorses French ideas ahead of EU summit

  • Obama: 'I think about my one Congress, then I start thinking about 17 congresses and I start getting a little bit of a headache' (Photo: whitehouse.gov)

US leader Barack Obama has effectively taken France's side against Germany in the EU debate on the financial crisis.

Speaking to press in off-the-cuff remarks after a Nato summit in Chicago on Monday (21 May), he endorsed three ideas championed by France on how to stop Greek contagion and how to prevent recession from bringing down Italy or Spain: a massive EU bail-out fund; lower interest rates; and an EU-level strategy on growth.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"We've got to put in place firewalls that ensure that countries outside of Greece that are doing the right thing aren't harmed just because markets are skittish," he said.

"We've got to make sure that there is a growth strategy to go alongside the need for fiscal discipline, as well as a monetary policy that is promoting the capacity of countries like a Spain or an Italy that have put in place some very tough targets and some very tough policies, to also offer their constituencies a prospect for the economy improving."

In a fourth point, he urged the Union to recapitalise its banks "so that investors have confidence."

Without naming names, he also criticised Germany's step-by-step way of handling developments so far. "Acting forcefully rather than in small, bite-sized pieces and increments, I think, ends up being a better approach," he noted.

Looking back to the G8 summit over the weekend, which included French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama said there is "a consensus across the board" on the crisis.

But his remark masks divisions between Paris and Berlin ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday.

Hollande has threatened to block ratification of the Merkel-inspired EU fiscal discipline treaty unless she agrees to a new growth strategy alongside austerity measures.

The German Chancellor has opposed French proposals to increase the EU bail-out fund or "firewall" to a size big enough to cope with an Italian or Spanish meltdown. She has also ruled out French ideas on changing the mandate of the European Central Bank to stimulate growth with "monetary" policy on lower borrowing costs from its current remit of keeping down inflation.

With Obama himself at risk in upcoming US elections if the euro-crisis hits the US economy, he added: "What happens in Greece has an impact here in the United States. Businesses are more hesitant to invest if they see a lot of uncertainty looming across the Atlantic."

He noted that the White House has offered EU leaders "technical assistance [to] work through some of these ideas in terms of how we can stabilise the markets there."

He also highlighted an intrinsic problem in the eurozone set-up.

"Of course, they've got 17 countries that have to agree to every step they take. So I think about my one Congress, then I start thinking about 17 congresses and I start getting a little bit of a headache," he said.

Obama presses EU leaders on growth

A weekend summit of G8 leaders stressed the need for the eurozone to focus on keeping Greece inside the euro. But plans are reportedly being drafted to deal with its potential exit.

Merkel and Hollande want Greece to stay in euro

France's newly elected president and the German Chancellor have said they want Greece to remain in the eurozone. But the IMF says an "orderly exit" is a real option.

US sees ECB chief as 'Mr Euro'

The US Treasury has lobbied the ECB more than any other EU body on the eruo crisis, a new study shows.

EU ready to challenge US border tax

The EU is willing to fight any attempt by the Trump administration to impose border tax on imports, says trade commissioner Jyrki Katainen.

Opinion

Unfair EU-Canada trade deal is wrong response to Trump

The EU-Canada trade deal, which is to be voted on in the European Parliament next week, cements the inequalities, political exclusion and favours to corporations that feed far-right groups in Europe.

Visual Data

EU farming policy: The damage done by 20 years of inertia

The EU Commission will ask the public later this week how the common agricultural policy should be overhauled. Data from the past two decades reveals a catalogue of missed chances and failed reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Migrants storm Spanish enclave of Ceuta
  2. Spain's princess fined for tax fraud, husband sentenced
  3. EU to invest millions in energy infrastructure
  4. Dutch data watchdog forces online vote aides to up security
  5. EU allows Lithuania to ban Russian tv channel
  6. Finland announces increase in defence spending
  7. Ex-PM Blair says Brits should 'rise up' against Brexit
  8. Nato chief says facts to prevail over fake news

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  5. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  7. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  8. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  9. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  10. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  11. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  12. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty