Strasbourg, November 24, 2011
THE PRESIDENT – Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for coming to Strasbourg. The purpose of this meeting, for both Chancellor Merkel and me, is first of all to signal Germany and France’s desire to support and help the Italian government led by Mario Monti.
We, Germany and France, wanted to signal our confidence in the Italian government. And we were very happy to be able to discuss with Mario Monti every subject which concerns Europe and Italy; he’ll tell you so himself, but he’s invited us to Rome very shortly to continue this three-way discussion, and both the Chancellor and I replied that we’d be extremely happy to go to Rome.
The second reason for this meeting was the determination of the three main economies in the Euro Area to do everything to support and guarantee the euro’s long-term survival. All three of us, the three main economies in the area, are determined to work towards the same goals in support of the euro.
The third remark I wanted to make is that all three of us are perfectly conscious of the gravity of the situation, and we envisage the same remedies in the face of the gravity of this situation. We told Prime Minister Monti that in the coming days France and Germany would make common proposals to modify the treaties in order to improve the Euro Area’s governance and ensure there’s more integration and convergence of economic policies. We will of course inform Mario Monti of these proposals and we hope, of course, that Italy will agree to share them.
Finally, all three of us, by common agreement, signalled our confidence in the European Central Bank and its leaders. We said that, out of respect for the independence of this crucial institution, we must refrain from making positive or negative demands. That’s a position we reached together which seems to us to be adapted to the situation.
Lastly, I’d like to thank the Chancellor once again for coming to France, and say how essential the strength of our understanding is to the stability of Europe and the euro during this extremely complex period.
I’d like to tell Mario Monti how happy I was to meet him again after working together for a few years, tell him we appreciate the scale of his task – but, knowing him well, we know he’ll be equal to that task – and tell him how much confidence we have in him and also, if he’ll allow me, how much personal friendship we have for him. (…)
Q. – (…) You mentioned proposals to modify the European treaties in the coming days; does that mean you’ve agreed on a broadening of the role of the ECB, the European Central Bank? If so, what type of role could the ECB play, with what scope, and what would be the timescale for modifying that treaty?
THE PRESIDENT – I’ve told you that we’re working on proposals which have made a lot of progress, that we’ll present them before the Brussels meeting on 9 December and that I have nothing about the ECB to add to what I said at the beginning, on which Prime Minister Monti, Chancellor Merkel and I agree. (…)
Q. – At the Bundestag yesterday you rejected the idea of eurobonds, stability bonds. If those opportunities you were putting forward existed on 9 December, then you’d have a green light for the rest; could you then backtrack a little and say it might possibly be a good idea? In view of the risk of France losing her Triple-A rating – the agency Fitch talked about it today – could you envisage that possibility? (…)
THE PRESIDENT – On the basis of what reasoning, what principle? The current situation isn’t satisfactory, because it’s led to the situation we’re aware of. So we must change, and in order to change we must propose modifications to the treaty so that everyone can be associated with it. If there were refusals, then we’d have a strategy other than modifying the treaties. That may be an intergovernmental agreement, and we’re working on that. I notice that our German [journalist] friends may not have got the right translation of what Fitch said about the Triple-A. Fitch said: “France’s Triple-A: stable outlook”.
That translation may not have crossed the Rhine, but I’m giving it to you because you yourself, by coming to Strasbourg, have just given me that opportunity. But of course, if the sovereign debt crisis continued to get worse, that would pose a problem for everyone. But not just for France, and that’s precisely why we’re currently working on it. (…)
Mrs Merkel explains her concerns to me, sometimes at length. I explain mine to her and then, given the weight of our two countries’ shared history, we converge. I try to understand Germany’s red lines; she understands France’s red lines. For example, on institutions like the ECB we don’t have the same history. It’s a fact; there’s no point in denying it; we must try to understand and find common ground. (…)
Convergence isn’t something spontaneous. It requires an effort from everyone. (…)
On the French Triple-A rating I can’t resist saying this: you know that joke people tell in France about the hypochondriac and the epitaph on his grave? “I told you so.” Don’t follow that reasoning, predicting disasters in order to say, “Well, yes, I was right, I predicted it.”
When you’re in charge of governments, you don’t follow such reasoning, you try to do a serious job, put in place policies and strategies, stick to them and get back onto the path of growth, as the Chancellor said, and trust, as the Prime Minister said, not follow what different people are saying minute after minute, or the variations and fluctuations in the markets. We’re in charge of protecting our fellow citizens – a much more difficult, long-term job. (…)
It’s not useful – it’s even dangerous – for people here and there to propose eurobonds without talking about governance, or to talk about governance and sanctions without talking about the flip side. We’re going to present a whole package in the coming days, and that package will restore confidence. (…)./.