French President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted at a joint press conference with Britain's PM David Cameron on Thursday that he had no "disagreements" with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over eurozone reform to tackle Europe's debt crisis.
AFP - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday he had no "disagreements" with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and backed her call for tougher penalties against eurozone countries that break deficit rules.
Sarkozy's show of unity came after a perceived spat between Paris and Berlin and the day before a crucial meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels on reforming the eurozone to tackle Europe's debt crisis.
"In terms of our relations with Angela Merkel, we're doing everything to ensure that they are in harmony, that they are complementary, that they are full and that they show a common ambition," Sarkozy said.
"We have no disagreements together. That's why we talk together," he told reporters at a joint press conference with Britain's new Prime Minister David Cameron, adding that he had been in touch with Merkel earlier in the day.
"We work together almost every day," he said.
The French leader was apparently trying to smooth over comments made by French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde, who earlier rebutted in public a statement by Merkel that the euro was "in danger".
Sarkozy said that he was also "in agreement (with Merkel) on the principle of new penalties" against eurozone countries which run public deficits above permitted levels.
"There is total agreement between myself and the chancellor on the principle of thinking about new sanctions," Sarkozy said.
Berlin says new sanctions should include witholding EU funds and withdrawing voting rights.
Sarkozy said that he himself had proposed stripping countries that breach eurozone rules of their voting rights in some EU meetings, and that he would work with Merkel and other leaders on her ideas for other punishments.
Merkel's spokesman said earlier that Sarkozy and the German chancellor had an "extensive" telephone call and agreed to coordinate closely at Friday's meeting of finance ministers in Brussels with EU president Herman van Rompuy.
The two leaders also agreed on "joint preparation" for a meeting of EU heads of state on June 17 as well as the forthcoming meeting of the Group of 20 major economies at the end of June, Merkel's spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said.
Sarkozy had further accepted an invitation to come to Berlin on June 7 to flesh out their common position, Wilhelm said.
At an international conference on financial market regulation Thursday in Berlin, officials were at pains to smooth over differences, with Lagarde saluting the "very strong alliance" between the two close allies.
Germany is poised to present proposals at Friday's Brussels meeting that would firm up the fiscal rules governing Europe -- the Stability and Growth Pact.
The pact states that countries may not run public deficits above three percent of gross domestic product (GDP) or have debts above 60 percent of GDP.
In theory, countries can be fined for transgressing these laws, but this has never happened in practice. Berlin wants to withhold EU funds from fiscal sinners and take away voting rights if a country is in breach of the pact.
The French president said at the press conference that France and Germany agreed that the pact had to "evolve. Perhaps with fewer rules, more transparency, more efficiency."
Earlier Thursday, Sarkozy also took a step towards tighter budgetary controls, saying that France's constitution should be altered to require new governments to sign up to a timetable to balance their budgets.
Date created : 2010-05-20