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German, French finance ministers vow to strengthen eurozone

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (L) and his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire attend a joint press conference in Berlin on May 22, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Germany and France, two leading economic powers in the European Union, have vowed to double their efforts to strengthen the eurozone.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire said Monday after a meeting in Berlin that they would set up a working group to pave the way for reforms in the eurozone.

Le Maire, making his first visit to Berlin since the election of Emmanuel Macron as French President, said there was a need for the eurozone members to accelerate the integration process.

"We've been talking for years about progress in the integration of the eurozone, but things aren't advancing quickly enough or far enough," he said, adding, "We are determined to get things moving faster and further, in a very concrete way."

The new French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire attends a joint press conference with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (not in picture) in Berlin on May 22, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

A joint statement issued at the end of the meeting said a panel would be set up to work out how the eurozone could coordinate economic policies and harmonize its tax regime. The statement also noted that France and Germany would seek better opportunities for joint investment projects. A joint ministerial meeting between the two countries would review ideas by the working group in July.

On the issue of corporate tax, Schaeuble and Le Maire said they would either push for a harmonized assessment basis for corporate tax at the European Union level or they would establish their own corporate tax system.

Schaeuble conceded that both plans were “ambitious” although he said that wider tax harmonization was difficult as it would require consensus among EU leaders.

During the meeting, Le Maire also proposed creating a finance minister for the 19-nation eurozone or a "European monetary fund." Schaeuble has also backed the idea several times. 

The two ministers reiterated that Germany and France should take the “leading role” in strengthening the European Union in challenging times.

The pledge to strengthen the eurozone comes as Britain, another key economic power within the EU, has started the process for leaving the bloc.

Le Maire, however, urged the EU states to capitalize on Brexit and try to reap benefits from it.

"We see in Brexit an opportunity for our financial companies to be more attractive than they were before," Le Maire said, adding, "Our role is to create wealth for our country, to create jobs for our country. With Brexit, there is this opportunity, and we expect to seize this opportunity."

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