The president accuses both countries of not doing enough for a fair burden-sharing within Europe. Macron fears that this will endanger the cohesion of the EU and the euro and could make populists in Italy, Spain and France victorious.
He finds the harshest words about Germany. Macron formulates the impression that must be created in the south of the EU: “They are only for Europe when it comes to exporting their goods, finding workers for the auto parts that they no longer manufacture themselves, but no more, when it comes to sharing the burden. “The danger for Europe is” obvious, because people will say: What kind of trip are you taking us with you? “said the President.
These are words that are no longer reminiscent of the appreciative statements that Macron’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire found three days ago: He praised the good Franco-German cooperation that had enabled a compromise by the European finance ministers.
In the interview, Macron once again advertises the European “Fund for Reconstruction”, which he himself proposed. The fund, which is worth several hundred billion euros, is intended to award grants to the countries most affected by the corona crisis. Currently, that would be Italy, Spain and France. With almost 18,000 corona deaths, France has almost as many victims as Spain, which after Italy suffered the most from the epidemic.
France wants to do more itself
The crisis is also having an economic impact. France submitted a supplementary budget on Wednesday, which envisages a shrinking GDP of eight percent and a government budget deficit of nine percent this year.
How does France see solidarity itself – does it want to be one of the beneficiaries of the fund? When asked about the Handelsblatt, the Elysée is somewhat irritated: “Everyone should be aware that France is a net contributor not only for the EU budget, but for all financial instruments.”
Right, but if, as requested by Paris, the degree of Covid concern determines how much money a country receives from the fund, but the repayments depend on its share of the EU’s economic power (GDP) – then France would not be automatic a transfer recipient? And wouldn’t even the much poorer Eastern Member States pay for the richer ones?
The Elysée does not accept that. The criteria are not yet clear. Belgium and the Netherlands also suffered severely from the crisis, with the eastern countries having only a small share of GDP. Finally, the key phrase is clear: “France is working on the fund with the prospect of being a net contributor.” This suggests that Macron not only calls on Germany and the Netherlands to show more solidarity, but is also willing to do more .
But another statement by the president could cause upset in Berlin and The Hague. Macron indirectly accuses the northern states of breaking the aid rules of the EU treaty. Competition within the internal market is distorted.
The state guarantees currently promised by the individual countries for their companies would have a far greater effect in the north of the EU than in the south: “Does the guarantee of the Spanish state have the same weight as that of the German one? Of course not! ”Says Macron. This is equivalent to a subsidy in favor of companies from the richer member states, which is prohibited in the EU treaty.
Elysée: No allegations to other countries
In addition, the states financed themselves on very different terms. “I’m not exempting France, I have a few percentage points advantage over spreads (differences in interest rates) compared to Spain.” All of this is a compelling argument for achieving a fair burden sharing within the EU.
Upon request, the Elysée tries to take the edge off the words of the President. He had made no accusation against other countries, but only wanted to point out a problem.
The EU Commission currently allows state subsidies and has overridden the strict state aid bans. That is good, but it does not solve the difficulty that the “financial firepower” is very different between the states. Care should be taken not to create new economic imbalances.
It will be interesting to see how Berlin will react to the Macron statements. On April 23, the heads of state and government will once again speak at a video conference about a common strategy against the crisis.
More: “The future of the EU as a political continent, as an economic power, is at stake,” said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.