The French finance minister argued on Thursday that Berlin should not sacrifice a historic window of opportunity to reform Europe for short-term political balance.
“We are of the view that there is a unique window of opportunity to improve the situation and make the eurozone stronger,” Le Maire told Reuters.
Bruno Le Maire was visiting Berlin amidst ongoing government negotiations between the Christian Democrats (CDU) with the Free Democrats (FDP), and the Greens. Significantly, Bruno Le Maire met with Christian Leader, the FDP’s liberal Eurosceptic leader.
The FDP has adopted a Eurosceptic stance that is not in line with Emmanuel Macron’s vision of Europe. Days before the Germans went to the polls in September, FDP’s leader Christian Lidner told Welt am Sonntag that he objected to any form of social transfer or debt mutualization on a European level.
After his meeting with Linder, Le Maire said he “found a man who is conscious of his political responsibilities.”
President Macron is proposing a leap forward in European integration that will include the completion of a banking union, defense, migration, but also a common budget and a Eurozone finance minister.
Moreover, it has been suggested that the European Stability Mechanism should formally assume the role of a lender of last resort for the Eurozone, comparable to the International Monetary Fund.
Addressing a Franco-German business forum on Thursday, Le Maire said that the choice was between closer integration or disintegration into national economies. “The status quo is not an option,” Le Maire said.
The French finance a minister reiterated there was a need for pan-European investment in infrastructure—such as energy and transport – and strategic technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence. Alternatively, Le Maire warned, Europe may not be able to deal with US and Chinese competition.
Entering her fourth terms, Chancellor Angela Merkel has broadly endorsed President Macron’s objectives. However, the CDU came out weaker in September and the FDP has significant leverage over the negotiating agenda.