French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, speaking in German to a business conference in Berlin, offered the first official response from Paris to new European reform proposals from Chancellor Angela Merkel.
He welcomed the blueprint laid out by Merkel in a newspaper interview last weekend, highlighting her support for French President Emmanuel Macron’s idea for a euro zone budget.
“But we have a way to go in order to get to a common position that is ambitious and targeted,” Le Maire said, noting that Europe needed “the means” to foster closer economic convergence and to react to crises.
“Our European future is at stake. We must act, it is now or never,” Le Maire added.
Macron has sketched out a far-reaching vision for Europe in a series of speeches over the past year. But until Sunday, Merkel had not offered a detailed response.
While supporting the idea of an investment budget for the single currency bloc, she said this should be in the low double-digit billions of euros, far smaller than what Macron wants.
She backed a strengthening of the euro zone’s ESM bailout mechanism, but her calls for it to take on economic surveillance responsibilities that currently housed in the European Commission are unlikely to be welcomed in Paris.
France and Germany have promised to present a joint reform proposal at a European Union summit on June 27-28. Le Maire will meet with his German counterpart Olaf Scholz in Paris on Saturday in an attempt to narrow the differences.
In his Berlin speech, Le Maire said Europe could not allow the fate of the world to be shaped by China and the United States.
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