German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked to have brought French President Nicolas Sarkozy around to her “vision” for post-crisis Europe ahead of this week’s EU summit.
They also agreed after talks in Berlin that a summit of the G20 group of leading economies in Canada later this month should result in a financial transaction tax and a global banking levy.
“I think that it is important that once again Germany and France can share a common vision. This is what we have done,” Sarkozy said after talks with fellow EU heavyweight Merkel aimed at overcoming recent differences.
The French president said that he no longer wanted a new “secretariat” for the 16 EU members that use the euro that would exclude the European Union’s other 11 members.
While both leaders agree in the wake of the Greek debt crisis that the EU needs closer economic cooperation, Merkel was opposed to this not including all 27 members of the bloc.
Sarkozy also said he now supported Germany’s proposal for voting rights of EU members that are in serious breach of the bloc’s rules on deficits being withdrawn.
“Like Madame Merkel, I am convinced that the solution to Europe’s problems does not lie in the creation of new institutions,” Sarkozy told a packed news conference.
Sarkozy said however that eurozone leaders would still hold “operational, pragmatic, rapid meetings” if the need arose.
“We saw in the crisis how the markets and speculators, which are not the same thing, were able to react in a thousandth of a second.
“Our procedures need to become more operational and more pragmatic. In other words, economic government for the 27, and if necessary meetings on eurozone problems in the eurozone.”
Merkel said: “France came up with the term ‘economic government’, and I embraced it gladly — but in order to say, yes please, with all 27, so that we have no split in the common market.”
She added: “No new institutions, but if need be we must of course be flexible and solve things in a pragmatic manner, as the French president has said … It is very important to send out a signal to Europe that we do not want a split, that we don’t have first class and second class members.”
“I have the impression that our talks today were very, very helpful, and very important.”
The two countries have also differed on other issues in recent months, with Germany’s Spiegel magazine saying this week that Franco-German ties were at an “historic low.”
Paris sniped at Merkel’s more than 80-billion-euro (104-billion-dollar) austerity plan announced last week, fearing it will dampen Europe’s economic recovery. France has also attacked Germany’s trade surplus.
Nevertheless, on Saturday, Paris unveiled a saving plan of its own amounting to 45 billion euros over the next three years in a bid to get its public deficit down to more manageable levels.
Merkel and Sarkozy also said that they planned to write a joint letter to the current G20 chairman, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, ahead of a summit in Toronto on June 26-27.
“[We] will ask him to be more ambitious on financial regulation … In Toronto France and Germany wants to make things happen, and quickly,” Sarkozy said.
“We are not yet happy with what has been achieved since the last G20 summit,” Merkel said.