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Germany/European Union/economic policy

Published on September 26, 2014
Speech by M. Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, to the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (excerpts)
Berlin, September 23, 2014

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Thank you for your welcome and for this opportunity I’m being given to meet you here in Germany. The BDI, I know, works regularly with France, with its counterpart, the MEDEF, where I spoke a few weeks ago…

My presence at the MEDEF was the subject of a great deal of comment in France… because for some people, used to stereotypes and clichés, left-wing prime ministers have no business speaking to an association of company directors… On the contrary, I think it’s my role, my responsibility to meet the lifeblood of our nation, all lifeblood which makes a country progress. And so meet its entrepreneurs.

My presence was also commented on because during my speech I declared something which must have spread… as far as Germany.
Yes, I love business! Ich mag die Unternehmen!

And I stand by these words. They don’t change with the audience: be it company directors, members of the Parliament or my political family. I love businesses because through innovation and risk-taking, thanks to the involvement of their employees, they create wealth, value and jobs. They contribute to economic progress, without which there’s no social progress.

Businesses – this isn’t said enough – don’t consist only of directors and shareholders. They consist of employees – manual workers, technicians, engineers, managers – who share the same project, who pool their energies, their skills, their talents.

I told your French counterparts of my confidence in business. I also said what I firmly believe: it’s with businesses that we’ll win the battle for growth and jobs in France, Germany and Europe.

As you probably know, we talk a lot in France about Germany. We sing its praises, especially when it comes to its industry.

We praise the reforms it was able to implement at the beginning of the last decade. That period when your country was referred to, by some, as “the sick man of Europe”. Gerhard Schröder was able to carry out courageous reforms at the time to create an employment-friendly environment.

Many people also consider this proactive approach a source of inspiration for France.

I know, too, that nowadays people in Germany talk a lot about France. I listen carefully to the comments. I read your press. I know it’s said in your country that France “refuses to reform itself”. And there’s also the idea that, in turn, France is thought to be sick.

I look at my country with a clear perspective. I’m familiar with its obstacles and conservatism. But if Germany was able to carry out reforms successfully, why couldn’t France succeed as well? Of course, time is needed. But when the will exists, when the policies are clear, when the whole country is mobilized, there’s no reason for things not to progress.

Yes, France is making progress. It’s getting itself going. And I want to seize the opportunity I’ve been given to demonstrate this to you.


I’m in Germany for two days to talk to Chancellor Merkel and a number of political leaders and to get a better understanding of German society and the image it has of France.

I’m also here to visit businesses – yesterday, for example, I visited the Airbus site in Hamburg.

But I’m also in Germany to reaffirm the strength of the Franco-German tandem and repeat everything we must, everything we can do, together, to boost the European project, which people are turning away from and which is threatened by the rise in populism. (…)./.

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