BRUSSELS, Belgium — In a speech marking the start of his second year in office, French President Francois Hollande said that the euro zone needs to form its own “economic government” with a full-time president, a budget, the ability to borrow and a harmonized tax system.
Hollande said a euro zone government would create “more growth and less austerity” among the 17 European Union countries that use the euro as their currency, the Financial Times reported.
“If Europe does not advance, it will fall or even be wiped off the world map," Hollande said, according to the Guardian. "My duty is to bring Europe out of its lethargy, to reduce people's disenchantment with it."
Hollande's call for a euro zone government looks likely to run into a brick wall unless there's a change of heart from the German government.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has been reluctant to contemplate measures that would lead to a mutualization of debt within the euro zone, fearing it will lead to Germany picking up the tab for more spendthrift members.
Merkel is also wary of initiatives she sees as reinforcing divisions within the EU and Hollande's plan is sure to alienate non-euro zone member Britain, which rejects further European integration. German opposition to the French plan would underscore the growing difference between the two countries over Europe's economic policy.
Hollande, whose popularity is at record lows, may also have misread sentiment in his own country. A survey this week showed French support for the EU falling to just 41 percent, below the eurosceptic Brits.
Also this week, data showed that France had slid back into recession in the first quarter of 2013.
However Hollande did find some support, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino noted his comments "with satisfaction" and said they deserved consideration.
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