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Germany welcomes Hollande's new tone

AFP · 15 Jan 2014, 08:42

Published: 15 Jan 2014 08:42 GMT+01:00

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"What the French president presented yesterday is, firstly, courageous," Steinmeier said of the measures announced on Tuesday to cut public spending and business costs.

"That seems to me to be the right way, not only for France, but it can also be a contribution that brings Europe as a whole a bit stronger" out of the region's financial crisis, he added.

He said that in the past Germany, where there has been concern about the slow pace of French reforms, had also needed "some time" to overcome hurdles to achieve an economic and jobs market programme that would spur improvement.

A senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives on Wednesday also welcomed economic reforms announced by Hollande as a marked "paradigm change".

The measures amounted to "a clear paradigm change and it will now depend how that is implemented," Andreas Schockenhoff, the conservatives' deputy parliamentary group leader, said on RBB public radio.
He noted that Hollande had acknowledged he had underestimated the weakness of French economic growth as well as the need to act for sustainable competitiveness and productivity. 
This was after he had spoken out during his election campaign against the austerity policies championed by Germany in fighting Europe's financial crisis.
Schockenhoff's comments came a day after Hollande's press conference at which he outlined a new pro-business economic policy to spur growth and jobs.
If Hollande wants to "make something out of his time in office" and get France successfully back on the economic rails, he must show "courage" with the radical change of direction, the German MP said.
However the question is whether Hollande's parliamentary majority will back him. "He must now show the authority to also implement the announcements," Schockenhoff said.
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And he said that Hollande's calls for closer cooperation with Germany on renewable energy and in defence was "a good sign" for the European Union and euro single currency's competitiveness.
Hollande also said at the press conference he wanted the top two EU economies to jointly react to global and security challenges.

"I would like a Franco-German partnership which can react on behalf of Europe on defence matters... we must demonstrate a joint responsibility for peace and stability in the world," he said.

Hollande said the idea of closer cooperation between the two countries would be raised at a meeting he would hold in Paris on February 19th with Merkel.

Berlin and Paris argue that given budget constraints, European Union countries must pool and share resources to secure Europe's ability to act on security issues.

Germany's former defence minister, Thomas de Maizière, last week took a swipe at France and Britain, accusing them of not pulling their weight in international military interventions.

"When it comes to international engagements, we have several times been more involved than France," he said in an apparent reference to the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan where Germany contributes the third most troops behind the United States and Britain.

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