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France and Germany agree on 'full-time' Eurogroup chief


France and Germany have agreed upon appointing a full-time president to oversee Eurogroup, French President François Hollande announced at a joint press conference with Angela Merkel in Paris on Thursday.

By FRANCE 24 (video)
News Wires (text)

France and Germany have agreed to jointly push for a full-time chief to oversee economic policy in the eurozone, President Francois Hollande said on Thursday.

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"We agree that there be more eurozone summits with a full-time president of the Eurogroup," which oversees policy in the currency bloc, Hollande said at a joint press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Eurogroup, currently headed by Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, is at present run by one of the 17-nation eurozone's finance ministers. It sees the zone's finance ministers meet informally every month to set economic policy for the bloc.

The proposed new president "could be mandated by eurozone ministers to support action for jobs, research and industry," Hollande added.


Hollande calls for EU 'economic government'

Speaking at a news conference marking his first year in office, French President François Hollande called for an "economic government" for the eurozone that would have a president, its own budget and a coordinated tax system.

By Joseph TANDY (video)
FRANCE 24 (text)

French President François Hollande called Thursday for the establishment of an "economic government" for the eurozone that would have a full-time president, its own budget and a coordinated tax system.

Speaking from the Elysée presidential palace, Hollande said that France wanted to create a more politically integrated European Union within two years. He said the initiative would help put an end to the "lethargy" that was threatening Europe's future.

"If Europe does not advance, it will fall or even be wiped off the world map," Hollande said. "My duty is to bring Europe out of its lethargy."

Austerity to blame

Hollande blamed European austerity measures for the bloc’s lingering recession.

The one-year anniversary of Hollande’s inauguration on Wednesday was tarnished by fresh data from France's national statistics agency showing the economy had slipped back into recession. Official Eurostat data released the same day said the EU recession had entered a sixth quarter.

Hollande also called for new investments aimed at tackling skyrocketing unemployment among Europe's young people, including the release of €6 billion in European funds for youth-employment initiatives.

Average youth unemployment in the European Union stands at 23.5 percent and at 24 percent across the eurozone. In Spain, unemployment figures for the under-25 demographic surpassed 56 percent in March.

Hollande ‘on the offensive’

The French president vowed to reduce unemployment “by the end of the year” – but that goal might prove elusive given that Hollande has said France is likely to see zero growth in 2013.

"Year Two must be about going on the offensive," he said. "There can be no hope possible in our country as long as unemployment has not begun to decline.”

Over the past year, Hollande has seen his approval ratings plummet faster than any other president in modern French history. And with unemployment levels now hovering at 16-year highs, he seems unlikely to regain lost ground without an economic comeback.

(FRANCE 24 with wires.)

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