Friday

20th Jan 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.

EU should raise own taxes, says report

A group chaired by former Italian PM and EU commissioner Mario Monti says Brexit should be used to create EU-level levies to depend less on member states contributions, and to abolish member states rebates in the EU budget.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Hollande thinking of EU council bid
  2. Italy to hold 70% of Monte dei Paschi bank
  3. Nato hit by 500 cyberattacks every month
  4. Hundreds of migrants face German security review
  5. Outgoing US vice-president warns Europe on Russia
  6. German far-right party calls for end to WWII guilt
  7. First Chinese freight train arrives in Europe
  8. Europe has no vision, says Italian minister

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey

Latest News

  1. 'Be patient,' ECB chief tells Germany
  2. EU cannot copy Australia's offshore asylum model
  3. Brexit men launch anti-EU website
  4. Germany details its 'Marshall Plan' for Africa
  5. IMF predicts 'pain' for UK, as banks prepare London exit
  6. EP deal could help Tusk keep Council job
  7. UN struggles to monitor fate of readmitted Syrians in Turkey
  8. European space chief: Moon village is 'more or less a fact'