France and Germany have vowed to push forward with plans to curb national sovereignty on financial matters in the eurozone, with ministers from the 19 countries set to enter talks in the coming days on creating a common budget.
Bruno Le Maire, the economy minister of France, said discussions were “moving in the right direction” to see a common eurozone budget, to help “promote greater convergence” across the currency bloc, in place by 2021.
The former diplomat, whose résumé includes positions in the governorship of several international banks as well as membership of the George Soros-backed European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), hailed a “major political breakthrough” following a meeting with European ministers on Monday.
“Everyone is aware of the necessity of reinforcing the eurozone,” Le Maire told reporters, asserting that “the lack of convergence between national economies is not sustainable over the long term for a single monetary union”.
Speaking at a joint press conference alongside his German counterpart, Olaf Scholz, the French minister added: “One year ago we could not even use the word eurozone budget. And now, there is a Franco-German operational proposal. This is, to us, a major political breakthrough.”
However the Franco-German proposals, which were presented at the meeting of all 27 EU finance ministers as a package of measures to stabilise the euro and strengthen the currency’s resilience against crises, met with some concern from other member states “including the Nordic and Baltic states as well as Austria and Finland”, according to a report in the Financial Times.
Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra described the plans as “less than convincing”, telling journalists it was “unclear why this would help and why this would be in the interest of Dutch citizens”, before adding: “If this is not in the interest of the Netherlands or the Dutch taxpayer then we are out.”
While admitting there was “some work that needs still to be done” in convincing some member states of the need for a common eurozone budget, Scholtz insisted that the proposals would “help us to support the convergence of the eurozone and all the other things that are important to our common future”.
The move would be a key step towards the “profound transformation” of the eurozone demanded by Emmanuel Macron and his domestic economy team, who have been “ramping up the pressure” to see its 19 members locked together irreversibly by further convergence fearing the rise of pro-sovereignty movements in Europe are a threat to plans for a federal EU superstate.
The French president and his German counterpart Angela Merkel, who recently gave her enthusiastic backing for an EU army, appeared together at the weekend to hail an alliance in which the two leaders will push to kill nationalism in Europe and wrest more power from the governments of member states so as to hand them over to Brussels.
Despite facing a massive crisis of popularity on the domestic stage, backed by only a quarter of voters in France — while hundreds of thousands of people recently took to the streets to protest huge fuel tax hikes — Macron claimed “the Franco-German couple [has] the obligation not to let the world slip into chaos and to guide it on the road to peace”.
“That’s why Europe must be stronger… and win more sovereignty,” he told the German Parliament, declaring that Brussels must be given power over “policies on foreign affairs, migration, and development, an increasing part of our budgets and even fiscal resources”.