Germany’s Angela Merkel has opened the door to having a Eurozone finance minister. She made the comment during a joint press conference on Thursday with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris after a joint Franco-German cabinet meeting.
“I have nothing against a Eurozone budget,” said Merkel. “A European finance minister – we can talk about that.” The idea of having such a minister and a Eurozone budget are part of Macron’s proposals for reforming the European Union which have met with some resistance in Berlin.
The German leader said she wanted to breathe new life into Franco-German relations, promising closer cooperation between the two European Union heavyweights with the aim of reforming the bloc. Merkel added that Europe must take its fate into its own hands.
“I believe that we have shown shortly after the new government here was installed that we are ready to activate Franco-German relations with a new impetus,” Merkel said.
A Franco-German warplane
The two leaders announced plans to build a joint fighter jet, with a roadmap planned for mid-2018, as part of a drive to cement their countries’ cooperation and strengthen the European Union.
“The aim of this fighter jet for a new generation is first to launch a common research and development programme to be able to plan it together, and then for our two armies to be able to use it together. I confirm to you, it’s a profound revolution, but we are not afraid of revolutions,” Macron said.
Singling out cyber-security the two leaders vowed to deepen European integration on defence, counter-terrorism and immigration.
The German Chancellor was questioned about Macron’s ideas for greater integration in the eurozone that have brought suspicion in Berlin. On his proposal for a single finance minister, parliament and budget, Merkel said she agreed in principle.
“Personally I was always in favour, it’s about how (to create a European finance minister). In general I’m not against a euro budget. In 2012 I proposed a small eurozone budget but I failed big time back then but I’m very glad this idea is now back on the table,” she said.
Klaus Regling, who heads up the EU’s rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism, appeared to back Macron’s reforms in an interview with the German business daily Handelsblatt. He said the Eurozone should have a “limited joint fiscal capability” to support individual states in case of a sudden crisis.
Earlier, in a newspaper interview President Macron called on Germany to take action to help put right a “dysfunctional” eurozone, by accepting more public and private investment in Europe. Macron said he had nothing against German competitiveness: “But a part of German competitiveness is due to the dysfunctionalities of the eurozone, and the weakness of other economies,” he added.
Re-starting the Franco-German ‘engine’
The French and German leaders also visited a youth centre in northern Paris which provides German language lessons, and held a meeting with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. Together with EU representatives they pledged support for a G5 Sahel alliance – a joint military force (from Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger) to fight Islamist extremists.
Both leaders showed they were keen to revive the traditional German “engine” within the EU. They talked about working closely in many areas, however it will be difficult for both countries to act on key projects until after the German elections in September.
Merkel’s visit to Paris coincided with that of Donald Trump but there were no plans for the German leader to meet the US president.
Referring to criticism of France’s invitation, Macron said he was surprised it had aroused so much debate and protest. “It’s the 100th anniversary of the intervention alongside us of US forces in the First World War. We must never forget that our history is bigger than us,” he said.