April 14, 2018 / 5:03 PM / 9 days ago

Not all Macron's EU reforms possible, German finance minister says

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said EU reforms proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron should be addressed before European elections next year, but added that some of the proposals were not feasible.

Germany's Finance Minister Olaf Scholz leaves a news conference during the 2018 G20 Conference entitled "The G20 Agenda Under the Argentine Presidency", in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian - RC111B766D80

Scholz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper Germany would work closely with France over the coming months to assess which reforms should be advanced.

France has been pressing Germany and other European countries to stop holding up tough decisions about the euro zone’s banking and capital market regulations.

EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger also criticised Berlin on Saturday for dragging its feet on Macron’s proposals and said initial decisions should be made at the EU summit in June.

“Macron deserves quicker answers from Germany,” he told the same newspaper in a separate interview.

Scholz agreed that the issue needed to be addressed.

“We will examine what is possible without overloading the ability of individual members to act,” he said in the interview, to be published on Sunday.

Scholz’s comments come days before Macron is due to visit Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Scholz said it was clear that Germany would have to increase its funding of the European Union after Britain leaves the bloc.

But he said Germany would not cover the resulting financial gap on its own, echoing comments by his predecessor, conservative hardliner Wolfgang Schaeuble.

“A German finance minister stays a German finance minister. And I will put on my most miserly face,” he said.

Regarding reforms proposed by Macron, he said Germany wanted to expand the European Stability Mechanism into a monetary union while also ensuring continued parliamentary control.

He said there were “hard nuts to crack” with regard to a proposed banking union, including the high level of non-performing loans in some countries.

Asked about Macron’s proposal for a European budget and a European finance minister, Scholz said: “These ideas are bringing new momentum into the European project that we need. But the French president also knows that not all of his ideas can be realised.”

Merkel is due to discuss the EU reforms with senior members of her conservative bloc in parliament on Monday after Ralph Brinkhaus, deputy leader of the conservative parliamentary group, raised serious concerns about the eurozone reform drive.

Oettinger, who is also a conservative, said those comments threatened to derail the reform efforts and were “not acceptable.”

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Helen Popper

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