Italy and France hit back at Merkel over economic reforms call
In an interview, Merkel had called on Italy and France to enact additional measures. REUTERS PhotoItaly and France have expressed irritation with a call from Chancellor Angela Merkel for them to do more to bring their budgets into line with EU rules, telling the German leader to focus on her own economic woes instead of lecturing others.
In an interview with German daily Die Welt, Merkel had called on Italy and France to enact additional measures ahead of a March ruling by the European Commission on whether their budgets conform with the bloc’s deficit and debt rules.
Unless further steps are taken by the new deadline, the Commission could fine France for falling short of its deficit-cutting obligations and put Italy under a disciplinary process because of its debt levels.
A senior Italian official reacted strongly to the comments, saying it was “regrettable” that Merkel viewed the reforms introduced by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi as lacking.
“The Italian government has never permitted itself to hand out marks to a European Union member country and we ask Germany for the same respect,” Sandro Gozi, Italian undersecretary for EU affairs, said in a statement.
“Maybe Chancellor Merkel should focus on Germany’s domestic demand, on its lack of investments, or on its balance-of-payments imbalances. It would be an important contribution that Europe has been waiting on Berlin to make for a long time and which so far has not happened.”
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said Merkel’s remarks were probably aimed at members of her own party, the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), who are holding their annual congress this week in Cologne.
“We are making reforms in France not to please one European leader or another, but because they are necessary for France,” Sapin said in response to questions on French television.
He said Germany had its own problems, from crumbling roads to a low birth rate.
“In Germany the population is decreasing every year,” Sapin said. “In 10 or 20 years because of this we will be in a better position. Germany is in a better position now because of the reforms it did a decade ago.”