On the 22nd of May Wolfgang Schäuble, Federal Minister of Finance of Germany, and Bruno Le Maire, Economy Minister of France, met in Berlin a week after the meeting of Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany, and Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic.
Both ministers agreed that Germany and France have to play a crucial role in strengthening the European Union in these currently challenging times. They agreed to contribute to regaining confidence in the European Union by focusing on concrete and ambitious projects with true European added-value, illustrating that the Union is part of the answer to citizens’ concerns in this increasingly globalised world.
They agreed that confidence and integration are also key to a more prosperous Monetary Union, which, despite the decisive stepstaken over the last years, still suffers from an incomplete economic architecture. Implementation of the agreed fiscal framework and, in some countries, addressing the weaknesses of banks are key to restore confidence.
The ministers discussed a broad number of subjects on which they plan to work closely together.
They agreed that the EU’s Internal Market with nearly 500 million consumers and numerous competitive, often small and medium sized, companies needs a fresh impetus to reap its full potential in terms of jobs and growth.
For the Euro area, despite the currently stable recovery, not all member states have yet fully recovered from the recent crisis and the Euro Area still experiences economic vulnerabilities with large macroeconomic imbalances, sluggish core inflation in the euro area and a significant financial fragmentation. In order to achieve true economic convergence, the ministers agreed that deeper coordination and integration of economic policies are necessary. To this end, the completion of the Banking Union as foreseen in the ECOFIN-roadmap of June 2016 is a matter of priority.
With a view to reinforcing the integration of the Euro area, a number of issues also needs to be addressed concerning economic policies: National reform policies need to be strengthened, high public and private debt levels as well as macroeconomic imbalances have to be reduced, and convergence of corporate taxes should be promoted.
The ministers agreed to set up a Franco-German working group headed by both ministers which will look into these issues and develop proposals. They also agreed to intensify the relationship between their two ministries in order to develop common positions on European challenges. The Franco-German working group will propose an ambitious roadmap, which the ministers plan to adopt when they meet again in the format of the Franco-German Economic and Financial Council, which will meet ahead of the Franco-German Council of Ministers. They also plan to develop bilateral initiatives which can pave the way for wider European policies in the future. This might include a consultation process involving national industrial companies to improve the Franco-German industrial cooperation.
Bruno Le Maire and Wolfgang Schäuble are both convinced that close cooperation between France and Germany is needed. They reaffirmed their commitment to the best relationship between both countries and to the European project. Following their meeting they travelled jointly to Brussels to attend the May Eurogroup and Ecofin Council.