Germany, France pledge new effort to strengthen eurozone

Posted May 24, 2017

He said the finalization of an agreement on Greece would have to wait for a report on whether the country has implemented all the agreed reforms, the so-called compliance report, which euro zone officials said was positive.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the working group would look at issues such as promoting fiscal convergence, coordinating economic policy and exploring investment projects aimed at boosting growth and lowering unemployment.

Germany and France have pledged to help strengthen the eurozone, with the harmonisation of corporate taxes among the possible measures considered. "We have now made a decision to get things going more quickly and further in a very concrete manner", he said in Berlin after talks with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble.

"In general we are so far that we have, in line with what we agreed in May of previous year, a political conclusion to create the conditions to pay the second tranche on time", Schaeuble said.

"Both are ambitious", he conceded, noting that wider tax harmonization is hard because it would require consensus among European Union leaders.

Protesters wave Greek and EU flags during a pro Euro rally in front of the parliament building in Athens Greece
French Economy Minister Hopes Greek Debt Deal Will Be Reached in June REUTERS Alkis Konstantinidis REUTERS Yannis Behrakis

"We are both convinced that France and Germany hold a special responsibility for leadership" when it comes to strengthening the eurozone, Schäuble told reporters during a press conference before heading to Brussels for a Eurogroup finance ministers' meeting.

"France will respect its European commitment to reduce deficits and we are not doing it to please the European Commission".

"Not only our compatriots in France and Germany but also others in the eurozone are expecting concrete proposals and concrete investments that can generate economic activity and jobs", said Le Maire.

"We see in Brexit the possibility for our financial sectors to be more attractive than they were in the past".

New French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, also making his first trip to Berlin since President Emmanuel Macron's new government was appointed last week, met separately with his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel. "Brexit gives us this opportunity and we intend on seizing this opportunity".