Germany, France Pledge New Effort to Strengthen Eurozone

GEIR MOULSON

BERLIN (AP) — Germany and France pledged Monday to seek ways to strengthen the eurozone, with harmonization of corporate taxes among possible measures that they will mull in the coming weeks.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and new French counterpart Bruno Le Maire said they are setting up a working group to produce proposals for a planned bilateral summit in July.

“We’ve been talking for years about progress in the integration of the eurozone, but things aren’t advancing quickly enough or far enough,” Le Maire said. “We are determined to get things moving faster and further, in a very concrete way.”

Germany and France could either propose a joint corporate tax system of their own or concentrate on pushing ahead efforts for a harmonized assessment basis for corporate tax at the European Union level, Schaeuble said.

“Both are ambitious,” he conceded, noting that wider tax harmonization is difficult because it would require consensus among EU leaders.

Le Maire was making his first visit to Berlin since French President Emmanuel Macron’s new government was appointed last week. Le Maire’s opening comments to a joint news conference were in fluent German, saying there needs to be better coordination of economic policy. He said that investment will also be considered.

He stressed France’s willingness to consider deeper reforms such as creating a finance minister for the 19-nation eurozone or a “European monetary fund,” an idea that Schaeuble has periodically backed.

He offered assurances that “France will respect its European obligations in terms of (budget) deficit reduction.”

The latest German-French drive to strengthen the EU’s economic coherence come as Britain prepares to leave the bloc.

“We see in Brexit an opportunity for our financial companies to be more attractive than they were before,” Le Maire said. “Our role is to create wealth for our country, to create jobs for our country. With Brexit, there is this opportunity, and we expect to seize this opportunity.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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