Sunday

21st Jul 2019

Merkel and Hollande call for full-time euro President

One day after he rejected EU "dictates" on economic policy, French leader Francois Hollande and Germany's Angela Merkel have called for the creation of a full-time euro "President."

The idea came in a joint text published on Thursday (30 May) during Merkel's visit to Paris.

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  • Hollande and Merkel greet each other at the Elysee palace (Photo: elysee.fr)

The paper says "a full-time President for the Eurogroup of finance ministers relying on wider resources" should be created after the EU elections in 2014.

It calls for: more frequent eurozone summits; a "specific fund for the euro area" alongside the general EU budget; and new "structures" in the European Parliament to oversee euro-level economic governance.

It says eurozone countries should sign binding contracts with EU institutions on economic reform.

It also makes a number of concessions to France.

It says that a new resolution mechanism for failed banks "should be established on the basis of the current [EU] treaties."

It calls for €6 billion of EU spending on youth unemployment in 2014 and 2015 and it says the EU should co-ordinate "minimum wage floors."

Meanwhile, a 50-minute-long Merkel-Hollande press briefing at the Elysee palace was interrupted by a moment of hilarity.

At one point, the German Chancellor said "the issues on which we are working have been discussed by [former French leader] Francois Mitterand," before correcting herself to say: "Francois Hollande, not Francois Mitterand. Francois Hollande."

The meeting tried to make a show of good Franco-German relations.

Hollande said: "Everyone says we don't agree. Most of the time we do agree. There are nuances, but you [the media] emphasise those nuances."

Merkel highlighted some grievances, however.

Alluding to job security laws in France, she said: "We reformed our labour markets … We put flexibility into labour law. Is it better for a young person to have a job with a certain flexibility? Or no job at all?"

She also said the European Commission's recent decision to give France more time to cut its deficit comes with strings attached: "It is tied to the fact that reforms will be undertaken … I cannot put in place a system of solidarity in Europe and then everyone does their own budgets."

Just one day before the Paris event, Hollande had attacked the commission for recommending that France reforms its pensions system.

He said Brussels has no right to "dictate" economic reforms.

He said on Thursday with Merkel that "nothing is taboo. All the reforms that have to be undertaken will be done."

But he added: "The details, procedures and way of going about this are the responsibility of the government and the state, otherwise there would be no national sovereignty."

Some top people in Merkel's CDU party were less gentle than the Chancellor.

CDU deputy chairman Andreas Schockenhoff told German media that Hollande's rejection of EU pension recommendations: "contradicts the spirit and letter of European agreements and treaties. Someone who talks like that is shaking the foundations of the EU."

Referring to the commission's recent decision to give France extra time to meet deficit targets, the CDU's budgets spokesman, Norbert Barthle, said: "France won't be able to bank on such indulgence again."

Hollande and Merkel on Thursday also visited the Louvre museum to see an exhibition marking 50 years of Franco-German unity.

Merkel said the paintings are "very beautiful."

But the display itself has become a minor irritant.

Some of the pictures - such as the Hell of Birds by Max Beckmann, which depicts a female monster doing a Nazi salute - have prompted anger in German newspapers.

Die Zeit in April called the exhibition a "cultural-political scandal."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said it "confirms all the cliches of the estranged, romantic, dangerous and dark neighbour."

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