France's German-speaking PM tries to reassure Berlin

Thu Nov 15, 2012 2:03pm EST
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By Stephen Brown and Noah Barkin

BERLIN (Reuters) - France's German-speaking prime minister offered a worried Berlin reassurances on Thursday that his government would reduce the deficit and prevent France from becoming the next victim of the euro crisis by applying a new economic model.

Jean-Marc Ayrault, making his first visit to Berlin since Francois Hollande became president, told Chancellor Angela Merkel that France would find its own way to reduce spending and boost economic growth and jobs, rather than copying Germany.

"My challenge, the government's challenge, is to reform what isn't working, to correct what is too weak, but to keep the profound values that make France what it is," he told a joint news conference after talks with the conservative chancellor.

"The job that is under way is constructing the new French model," said Ayrault, a Socialist.

A Reuters report that Merkel's finance minister had asked the German government's economic advisers to consider preparing policy recommendations for France has stirred outrage in Paris.

But Merkel said she would never dare to evaluate the decisions of the French government and added diplomatically: "We want a strong France just as France wants a strong Germany, so that together we can become a strong Europe."

Ayrault also held a 20-minute meeting with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who emerged saying Germany and France did not "grade" each others' economic policies.

But it was clear French pride had been stung. Ayrault told a conference in Berlin organized by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that his host country Germany also had its problems.   Continued...

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and German Chancellor Angela Merkel address a joint news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay