November 9, 2018 / 9:17 AM / 8 days ago

France presses Germany on proposals for euro zone's future

FILE PHOTO: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire speaks on tax issues at a joint hearing with lawmakers of the economic affairs committee and the special committee on financial crime at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

PARIS (Reuters) - Germany must decide in the coming weeks on French proposals to advance the integration of the euro zone, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday.

Germany and France agreed in June on the broad outlines for closer euro zone integration based on proposals from French President Emmanuel Macron, including plans for a joint euro zone budget.

The aim was to thrash out details by the end of the year, but Berlin has grown hesitant on key parts such as plans for a tax on internet giants.

“It’s time for Germany to respond to Emmanuel Macron’s proposals, it is time that Germany decides on the issues concerning the future of Europe,” Le Maire said at a Franco-German business conference in Paris.

“There is now only one challenge for the generations to come, which is building Europe’s sovereignty between the United States of Donald Trump and the China of Xi Jinping,” he added.

Le Maire said that in particular, an agreement was needed on a backstop for bad bank loans, on further strengthening the euro zone’s banking and capital markets union while also making progress on plans for the joint budget.

“These decisions must not be taken in six months, they have to be taken in six weeks,” Le Maire said.

He also said that a December meeting of EU finance ministers would be the last chance to decide on the tax for internet giants and that France would offer no further concessions.

Eager to convince Germany to back the tax, Le Maire suggested earlier this week that tax could take effect as late as 2020 in case a broader levy among OECD countries is not hammered by then as planned.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas and Myriam Rivet; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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