France seeks German consensus to reform the Stability Pact
President Macron has started his rotating presidency of the European Council by talking about a “turning point” and its ambassador in Berlin, Anne-Marie Descôtes, translates this expression for the Germans and explains why Paris wants to relax the Maastricht rules, forcing the launch of the campaign to reform the Stability Pact and marking the times for the “traffic light” government of the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, who, although he is in line with Macron, had not yet included this issue on his most immediate public agenda. “The rules cannot go back to what they were before”, says the French ambassador, “we are aware that we have little time ahead of us and we want to try to turn things around”.
Descôtes’ words suggest that Macron already wants visible steps in the extraordinary summit of the Council on March 10 and that, to achieve this, he cannot lose a single day. “I think that’s a turning point, because it is not just about growth and the economy, it is about the entire EU constitution. It is about defining how Europe can become stronger and more sovereign”, urges the ambassador, aware that the project is not viable without the German consensus.
“Is about the ability to produce more in Europe and to be more independent. To catch up with new technologies and become much stronger in areas that are important for the future. It means that we also have to ask ourselves how we want to finance the budget in the coming years and how we want to support long-term investments”, translates this Frenchwoman who has studied and lived intermittently in Germany since she was 12 years old and knows in depth the springs of their collective mentality. «No, I will not give numbers», he refuses to specify or give clues about the new public deficit goal that Macron is thinking about or about the design of the Eurobonds that they imagine in Paris, «what we want is that, first of all, there is an open and deep discussion in which all the arguments are taken into account. It should be recalled that at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Commission very quickly came to the conclusion that the rules should be suspended for the time being.”
Descôtes does not hide the strategic advantage that the arrival of Social Democrat Olaf Scholz in the Berlin Chancellery represents for French plans, who has already shown his willingness to reform where his predecessor, Merkel, maintained a prolonged refusal. “We believe that we should not repeat the mistakes made during the financial crisis: going back to the rules too quickly without looking at what is happening in different countries. In the ten years that the whole world has been trying to get back to the rules, the big competitors, the US and China, have invested heavily. That’s why we have this delay now.” To conservative German taxpayers, who appreciate the virtue of cost containment and saving like few other Europeans, he winks with understanding: “We don’t want to do without rules. Member States must continue to make reforms. France started it, Italy too, and we have to continue with it. But we also need to invest for the future, to create new wealth that will later allow us to pay off debt. There should be no dogmatism, we must analyze the situation thoroughly.
The German government has already adopted the language of reform, which involves mentioning “strong and sovereign Europe” in almost any European speech by Chancellor Scholz, and the ambassador also translates this word. “Not sovereign in the sense of international law, but sovereign in its ability to act. Europe should become less dependent on others in all areas. This applies to the question of supply chains, as has been seen during the pandemic. There is the issue of power supply. We are exposed to price fluctuations because we depend on third countries. And we must be more sovereign in defending our interests, both in the economic and in the security field, ”he says, sticking his finger into several of the most recognizable sores for German taxpayers. “We also have to protect ourselves by enforcing the rules, whether in the tax field, in Internet regulation, in world trade or in climate protection,” he reassures Germans who doubt the southern partners’ ability to comply. , “in all these areas, Europe should step up its game. That requires not only having ambitious goals, but also enforcing them and acting together to defend the European model.”
He even dares to mention the issue of nuclear energy, suggesting that Germany will have to conform to the French vision. “Anyone in their right mind would prefer a world without nuclear weapons, but you have to be realistic”, he says, “we know how sensitive this issue is in Germany for historical reasons. The coalition agreement states that Germany will remain in constant contact with its partners. This is very important. We have expressed our concern and drawn attention to the fact that even as an observer you have to pay a financial contribution.”