Amid domestic scuffles over European policy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande have set aside their differences to present a united front to revive the EU’s flagging economy.
Though the pair may have got off to a rocky start after Hollande’s election last year, he set out their joint wish list, which includes a job opening for a full-time Eurogroup President, at a press conference in Paris.
“We want Europe to do more on unemployment particularly among the young. Also we want to speed up the creation of a banking union, and to be more effective in economic governance and to bring fiscal systems in line with one another and put policies of growth and competition into motion,” said Hollande.
Asked by a journalist whether she felt forced to renege on her austerity policies as European countries begin to question them, Merkel responded:
“If you have a look at the programmes, which we see in Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland you’ll notice that they don’t merely focus on budget consolidation. They are massive structural reforms, that profoundly change the countries; most of all in Greece, where it is all about the creation of a new tax-system, a new health-system and a completely new administration.”
They will submit their plan to the EU leaders at the June summit. Merkel has also given Hollande a Berlin rendez-vous to discuss youth unemployment in July.
Euronews correspondent Giovanni Magi, reporting from outside the Élysée Palace, said:
“The plan aims to stimulate employment, especially for young people in Europe. It comes on the same day that France announced record unemployment figures. Employment could turn out to be the testing ground for the Franco-German friendship.”