July 18, 2014 / 12:02 PM / 3 years ago

Schaeuble says EU must focus on competitiveness, not exchange rate

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble presents the 2015 federal budget draft during a news conference in Berlin July 2, 2014.Thomas Peter

PARIS (Reuters) - Europe must focus on improving the competitiveness of its economy rather than the exchange rate, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Friday, brushing aside French calls for EU action to weaken the euro.

French policymakers and businesses have complained about the strength of the euro and asked for the EU and the European Central Bank to do more to weaken it, while Germany has insisted on the independence of the ECB.

A strong euro has its advantages, Schaeuble said, adding: "We have to concentrate on whether the European economy is competitive and then we will have an appropriate exchange rate."

Schaeuble said that monetary policy could give governments time to put reforms in place but could not achieve everything.

"Countries that have tried to manipulate the exchange rate in the past haven't had a lot of success," he told a conference in the French capital.

Earlier on Friday, Schaeuble urged an end to a debate about giving Paris a further extension to a deadline for cutting its public deficit to the EU limit of 3 percent of GDP, saying that debate created uncertainty.

In an interview with French daily Le Monde, he stressed the need for structural reforms and urged labor unions to do their bit to reform the euro zone's second-largest economy.

"Europe cannot go well without a strong France," he said.

Also on Friday, Schaeuble told German radio he had nothing against his former French colleague Pierre Moscovici for the top economic job at the European Commission but believed France must get its finances in order without further delay.

Schaeuble had appeared to question Moscovici's suitability to be the new commissioner for monetary and economic affairs last week, when he linked this to France's persistent failure to reduce its deficit to within the EU limits.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Writing by Ingrid Melander, editing by John Stonestreet

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