UPDATE 1-Merkel takes swipe at France as tensions grow

Fri Jun 15, 2012 6:59am EDT

BERLIN, June 15 (Reuters) - Germany's Angela Merkel criticised France's economic performance on Friday in a growing war of words with its new Socialist President Francois Hollande over how to tackle Europe's deepening debt crisis.

Describing her own country as Europe's "stabilising anchor and growth engine", the centre-right chancellor told German business leaders that Europe should talk about the growing gap between the bloc's two biggest economies and traditional allies.

Tension has risen so much that French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault felt moved to deny that his country was trying to form a united front with Italy and Spain against Merkel and her drive for austerity in the single currency zone.

But Merkel, possibly irritated by Hollande's meeting with German centre-left opposition leaders earlier this week on euro zone policy, took what looked like a swipe at his expansive policy ideas such as a new decree partially lowering the pension age, which was part of his election campaign.

"If you look for instance at the development of unit labour costs between Germany and France in the past 10 years, then you see that at the start of the millennium Germany looked rather worse or at best as good as our neighbour in a lot of factors, while the differences have now been growing a lot more strongly, also a topic that must be discussed in Europe, naturally," she said.

Hollande, elected last month, has also announced plans to increase the cost for companies of laying off workers after a jump in French unemployment - a move German officials and many economists believe will only exacerbate France's economic woes.

On Friday, Merkel reiterated her view that issuing new debt to finance economic growth is not sustainable and she again ruled out a mutualisation of debt, or euro bonds, to tackle the crisis - a position directly opposite to that taken by Hollande.

Hollande has spoken out in favour of euro bonds and also insists that Europe needs to do more to revive growth to offset its German-inspired focus on tackling budget deficits and public debt.

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
Bludde wrote:
It is so simple that it eludes Merkel and her advisors… Just ask France’s Hollande to put his country’s wallet where his mouth is.. issue a trillion in French guaranteed French Bonds and BUY (load up the boat with) Spanish and Italian bonds.. THEN.. if there is a step haircut .. the French and French alone will bear the pain..

Jun 15, 2012 8:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.