Juncker plan needs focus and speed to boost economies – Franco-German meeting

SPD leader calls for less talk and more action as he looks to replicate post-unification plan to deliver growth for Europe

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin speaks to media after talks with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Jens Weidmann, chief of Germany’s Bundesbank, Anne Le Lorier, first deputy governor of the Banque de France, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel in Berlin. Photograph: Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin speaks to media after talks with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Jens Weidmann, chief of Germany’s Bundesbank, Anne Le Lorier, first deputy governor of the Banque de France, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel in Berlin. Photograph: Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke

 

Europe needs less talk and more action to stimulate Europe’s ailing economies, Germany’s Social Democrat leader Sigmar Gabriel said, as he proposed a plan similar to that adopted by a unified Germany 25 years ago.

After bilateral talks in Berlin, economic and finance ministers from France and Germany welcomed a €315 billion European Commission investment plan for the continent but said it would only have the desired stimulus effect by financing concrete, targeted investment projects.

“If we are honest we all need the same thing in Europe: projects of European unity and not just flash-in-the pan plans that do nothing to change structural problems or increase competitiveness,” said Mr Gabriel.

He urged leaders to agree on projects that “give people the impression we are doing something concrete for them and their children”.

Sustainably

Instead the French and German ministers urged Brussels to concentrate on investment in energy-climate projects and measure to promote a single market in energy, digital and capital markets.

Mr Gabriel and his French colleague Emmanuel Macron vowed to present within two weeks their own Franco-German investment measures. Preferred projects, they said, would boost smart digital networks and e-mobility, such as new research and production of electric car batteries in Europe.

In addition, both sides agreed to develop jointly a new generation of space carriers through the European Space Agency.

Mr Macron said that, whether at EU or Franco-German level, it was essential to present “precise investment projects” that “generate demand”.

French finance minister Michel Sapin promised to do what is needed to bring his country’s finance inside EU rules, but insisted he would do so in a way that also boosted the country’s struggling economy.

All four ministers agreed that Europe’s investment offensive would have to combine a mix of public and private investment. As an example of this, Mr Gabriel cited Germany’s public-private building renovation programme through which €6 billion public capital activated €40 billion in private investment.

The SPD economics minister said he would not back any measures that would create greater regulation for industry, or drive on further the already worrying shift of energy-intensive industry out of Europe.

Ministers also discussed Europe’s plans for a tax on financial transactions, and reiterated their promise to reach agreement on this before the end of the year.