European Union/Euro Area
EURO AREA/BANKING UNION/GROWTH/EMPLOYMENT/POSTING OF WORKERS
France’s future is also Europe’s future. I could say it the other way round: Europe’s future is France’s future. In 2013, important results were achieved. The Euro Area, which people said was in danger – and it was – was stabilized. No countries left it. Moreover, the ones that were in the worst shape are today in a position to be able to finance themselves on the markets. Banking union may seem complicated, but it’s simple. Its purpose is to avoid the possibility of banking crises arising and then requiring taxpayers to foot the bill. That’s over. Banking union has been put in place. It’s protecting us against crises. If a bank were to fail in Europe, nobody but the banks would have to rescue it.
Yes, there’s been progress – not enough. A growth pact which, in my eyes, could have been more wide-ranging. Youth employment was regarded as a priority, but it could have been given greater resources.
There’s been progress on the posting of workers, which was posing intolerable problems of competition, particularly in Brittany but not only in Brittany. There too, let’s welcome the victories achieved.
But 2014 can no longer simply be about closing gaps, avoiding crises or simply preventing recession. It must also be about revitalizing Europe. I spoke about it at the last press conference. These initiatives for Europe must, first of all, be between France and Germany. I’m making three proposals.
An initiative for economic and social convergence between France and Germany. From this viewpoint the German decision, in the framework of the grand coalition, to establish a minimum wage is a first step. But we, too – and this is the point of the responsibility pact I was talking about – must harmonize tax rules, particularly for companies, between France and Germany.
Second initiative: coordinating ourselves for the energy transition. That’s a big challenge for Europe. But we, France and Germany, must set the example. On developing renewable energies, Germany has got a head start. On energy storage and networks, we can also show we’re in the vanguard. And above all, on the creation of joint industrial networks for the energy transition.
We’re very proud of the exceptional outcome of Airbus, a great Franco-German company, but not just Franco-German – European. The idea is to make a big Franco-German company for the energy transition. A fine alliance.
Finally, the last initiative may come as a surprise. I’d like there to be a Franco-German partnership that can work for Defence Europe. Of course, there’s the Franco-German Brigade; Jean-Yves Le Drian could speak about it better than I. But we must create more than a brigade. We must show a shared responsibility for peace and security in the world.
A Franco-German Council of Ministers’ meeting is going to be held in Paris very soon, on 19 February. The Chancellor and I are going to lay down a principle: that our two governments should coordinate with each other in advance on all the major projects. This Franco-German dynamic will enable us – if we’re capable of it, and I think we will be – to revitalize the European idea, following the elections to the European Parliament.
EURO AREA GOVERNMENT/EU INTEGRATION
We must make progress towards Economic and Monetary Union, with a Euro Area that can have a real government, with goals – namely growth and employment, including even at industrial level – and with a financial capability that could give us the means to act. That would be a Euro Area government.
I want, here, to reassure those who are over-cautious, particularly in the run-up to the renewal of the European Parliament: you mustn’t be afraid of Europe – rather, you must be afraid of its getting weaker and finally disappearing. Building Europe doesn’t mean dismantling France. On the contrary, it’s by further strengthening Europe that we’ll protect France more.
Over the coming months, I won’t let those who want to finish off the European idea have their way. Not just in France: there are others, sometimes even among governments. I won’t let those who want to finish off the European idea or break the acquis communautaire – that is, everything that has been done for generations and generations – have their way.
Nor will I let those who want to leave the euro – who think that in so doing they’re saving the nation when they’re actually endangering it – have their way, because our future is in Europe, but a Europe whose priorities we must reorder.