THE HAGUE (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Monday he endorsed the modest plans put forward by Chancellor Angela Merkel for a European investment fund that could invest in financially weaker euro zone member states.
Merkel outlined her plan for funding that could be up to the low tens of billions of euros in a German newspaper on Sunday, responding to more far-reaching plans proposed by France’s President Emmanuel Macron.
Merkel’s plan appeared mostly in line with her conservative base, which opposes making German taxpayers liable for debt incurred by other euro zone states.
“Yes I do agree with the suggestions Chancellor Merkel made,” said Scholz, of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party, the junior partner in Merkel’s coalition.
“This is one government, and we have discussed (these) questions for a very long time.”
Asked whether Germany might be willing to go further toward Macron’s plan for a 200 billion euro (£175.7 billion) fund, he said “this is the time for making suggestions.”
Scholz was speaking after a meeting with his Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra in the run-up to a European Union summit this month at which Merkel and Macron have promised to present a joint plan for overhauling Europe.
Hoekstra said the Netherlands, which backed the pro-austerity German line throughout the Greek debt crisis, was not convinced by Merkel’s plan for an investment fund.
“We are not quite sure how that would actually enhance the stability of the Eurozone,” Hoekstra said.
The Netherlands, one of the largest per-capita contributors to the European Union budget, opposes any increase in European spending.
Reporting by Toby Sterling and Bart Meijer; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Hugh Lawson