November 20, 2017 / 7:03 PM / a year ago

Don't wait to see French reforms to strengthen euro zone - ECB's Villeroy

FILE PHOTO -- Governor of the Bank of France Francois Villeroy de Galhau attends a press conference after the Franco-German Financial Council meeting in Berlin, Germany, September 23, 2016. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - The euro area can ill afford to wait and see if France’s reforms bear fruit before deepening the bloc’s economic integration, ECB policymaker Francois Villeroy de Galhau said in an interview published on Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron is eager to move ahead with his reform agenda at home while also pushing for big steps towards closer euro zone integration.

However, some northern European countries like the Netherlands and Germany have been cautious about his grander ideas for a shared euro zone budget or finance minister without first seeing that Macron is making progress at home.

“It would be a dangerous bet to wait another two to three years to see all the results,” Villeroy, who is also governor of the Bank of France, told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

“Then the present opportunity and momentum would have vanished, and we would run the risk of facing a (new) recession without having strengthened the euro area,” Villeroy added.

He said the euro zone should focus on how to tap into the bloc’s abundant private savings to better fund investment and savings and also better coordinating national economic policies.

After that, Villeroy recommended that the euro zone look into a joint budget for common goods like, defence or dealing with refugees or climate change, and not the sort of transfer union Germany is deeply wary of.

Lastly, he recommended a euro area finance minister and parliament, but added: “let us not focus our discussion on institutions, before having made progress on the substance.”

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by Michel Rose

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