France/Germany Bilateral Relations
THE PRESIDENT – Ladies and gentlemen,
I wanted to come to Berlin to meet the Chancellor on the same day as my investiture as President of the French Republic. I wanted to do so for two reasons: first of all because I didn’t know her – even though for a long time her reputation has stretched far and wide – and secondly because I wanted to show that the Franco-German relationship is an unchanging part of the French President’s responsibilities. I wanted to come here to Berlin, too, to put across the meaning I attach to the word “friendship” between our two countries. Through our history, our commitments and our contribution to the European enterprise, we have strong ties and an important responsibility. I see the relationship between France and Germany as a balanced and respectful relationship: balanced between our two countries, respectful of our political sensitivities and also respectful of Europe’s partners and the Community institutions. We want to work together for the good of Europe, but while mobilizing all the other EU countries.
I also wanted to come and identify with the Chancellor our work over the coming weeks and even months. First of all, there’s the 50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty. The Chancellor wanted to recall what a symbol that treaty – signed by Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle – is in itself. On the 50th anniversary, after preparation that we’ll begin shortly, I’d like us to be able to add other provisions to ensure that youth, culture – in short, whatever can marshall support from new generations for the Franco-German relationship – can be integrated into this new treaty.
Then there are the subjects in the news: Greece. We talked about that country, and we had to talk about it. I, like Mrs Merkel, hope Greece will remain in the Euro Area. Efforts have been under way on both sides: both the EU side and the Greek side. So we must allow the Greeks to find solutions. They’re going to be consulted through a new ballot to be organized on 17 June; I hope in this election the Greeks can affirm their commitment to the Euro Area, and I’m in favour of telling the Greeks that Europe is ready to add measures to boost growth and support for [economic] activity – so that growth can return to Greece at a time when she’s experiencing a recession – but that at the same time the commitments made must be honoured.
On the subject of the fiscal compact and the growth pact, I said I wanted growth to be not just a word that is uttered but also tangible actions translated into reality. The method that strikes us as best is to put everything on the table at the informal summit of 23 May – I also thank Mrs Merkel for agreeing to postpone it so that I can prepare for it as effectively as possible – and above all the European Council at the end of June. Everything must be put on the table by the different sides, everything that can contribute to growth: improving competitiveness, future investments, the use of funds, Eurobonds – in short, everything must be put on the table. And then we’ll draw conclusions in terms of the necessary legal instruments.
That’s what I wanted to say, and I’m grateful for the welcome I’ve been given, because beyond our differences I wanted to get a picture across: a picture of confidence in the work we can undertake, a picture of coherence in the Franco-German relationship, of continuity, too, in the very history of our two countries in the European Union.
And this meeting – which was eagerly awaited: a lot of you seem to have turned up for it – this meeting allows me, without hiding the things which may sometimes divide us, to persuade Europeans that France and Germany are determined, through the Chancellor and the new French President, to work together for our two countries, for the Franco-German relationship, and for the whole of Europe.
Q. – A question for the French President. I’d like to know – because there were different statements on this subject during the election campaign – whether you want to ratify the fiscal compact as it stands or, on the contrary, you’re keen to see its content altered.
THE PRESIDENT – I said during the campaign, and I’m repeating today as President of the Republic, that I want to renegotiate what was established at one point, to incorporate a growth dimension into it. The method we agreed on consists in putting all ideas, all proposals [on the table] and then seeing how they can be translated into law in order to be implemented. And once that work’s been done, I’ll be able to answer your question.
Q. – Mrs Merkel, you said in Leipzig in November 2011: “We are all now part of European domestic politics.” Must we conclude from this that M. Hollande and you are political opponents? M. Hollande, the growth figure in France in the first quarter was bad, and the European Commission’s forecasts for 2012 and 2013 are worse than you’d predicted; will France quickly have to adopt an austerity plan?
THE PRESIDENT – It’s not the first time relations between France and Germany have been conducted by heads of state and government who don’t share the same political views. It happened with Helmut Schmidt and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl, and then Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder. In short, it’s even the exception for heads of state and government to share the same political views. But I’m not going to get into that debate. What I know is that we have a common duty. Countries give themselves the leaders they choose, and we have to work together to carry through the missions entrusted to us, and above all the duty of moving Europe forward, as well as addressing the great challenges of the world. And we’ll also be meeting again soon at G8 and NATO summits, and we’ll have to work together.
On the subject of growth, admittedly the word was included in the fiscal compact, but it wasn’t really developed. I’m glad the presidential campaign in France enabled us – the situation in Europe also helped with this – to put the subject of growth back at the centre of our discussions. I know that behind the word “growth” there may be different approaches, but I’m in favour of both more productive supply-side economics and support for demand, which can no longer be provided by national governments, given the budgetary situations, given the indebtedness. So Europe will have to shoulder its responsibility, and this is what we’re going to discuss together over the coming weeks.
As regards France’s economic situation, M. Lemaître [the journalist who asked the question] kindly drew attention to the legacy I have inherited today, i.e. practically zero growth for the first quarter, and an outlook – which the Commission talked about – that would suggest we won’t achieve 1.7% in 2013, even though INSEE [National Institute of Statistics and Information about the Economy] has confirmed this objective today. In order to find out more about this – not economic forecasts, because we’ve got to create growth at national, European and even global levels, and we’ll no doubt be discussing this at the G8 and G20 –, in order to take account of the effects of a growth slowdown, perhaps also any spending embarked on, the government I’m going to form tomorrow is very soon going to be asking the Cour des Comptes [Auditor-General’s Department or Audit Court] to compile a report to assess how the 2012 budget is being implemented.
Because I’m in favour of genuine budgetary discipline. I’m in favour of us achieving our objectives. But because I’m in favour of genuine budgetary discipline, I’m in favour of growth: if there isn’t growth, whatever efforts we make, we won’t achieve the debt- and deficit-reduction targets we set ourselves.
Q. – You’ve said you’d like Greece to remain in the Euro Area. Do you believe a new election can help achieve this goal or not? And a second, short question: what language did you speak to each other in?
THE PRESIDENT – My answer is no different from the Chancellor’s. The Greeks are being asked to come to a decision about political parties, of which some are in favour of Greece remaining in the Euro Area, and others aren’t, and so whatever happens I’ll respect the Greek vote. On the other hand, it is my responsibility, too, to send the Greeks a sign. I’m conscious of the ordeals, the suffering that some Greek people are enduring today, and their doubts, their questions about the future. The Greeks have got to know that we will move, through measures to boost growth, through support for economic activity, towards them to enable them to stay in the Euro Area. This is why, in the election, the Greeks alone have their say, and we must always have the utmost respect for universal suffrage, in whichever country.
But I’m going to send a number of signs: those of growth, economic activity and support.
As regards how Mrs Merkel and I spoke, we spoke a universal language – that of common interests, mutual understanding, the desire to find solutions, and I assure you that, even speaking in French, you can make a German chancellor understand you, and vice versa: a French president can be made to understand a German chancellor speaking German. Basically the aim of this meeting wasn’t to resolve all the current issues; its main object was for us to get to know each other better, establish a relationship, set a course of action, begin a way of working to find solutions together. That was the purpose of our meeting this evening, and I’m very pleased with it. Thank you./.