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Germany's Gabriel urges Merkel to soften fiscal stance with France

BERLIN, May 7 (Reuters) - Germany’s foreign minister has urged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives to adopt a less rigid stance in fiscal policy towards France’s next president, Emmanuel Macron.

“We must stop confronting the French constantly with the raised index finger, blocking everything and letting them beg, so to speak, for every inch of flexibility in politics,” Sigmar Gabriel, a leading member of the centre-left Social Democrats, told ARD broadcaster on Sunday.

The German government should support Macron to counter an increased populist sentiment and euro-scepticism in the neighbouring country, Gabriel said.

Gabriel pointed to France’s military engagement to fight militant groups in Africa as an important contribution to defending the European Union.

“Then the French president asks that the related costs should not be counted when calculating the country’s deficit - and he fails because of the resistance of the German finance minister,” he said. “Things like this have to stop.”

Instead, the German government should actively support Macron’s vision of giving the euro zone its own fiscal budget and providing more money to support growth and innovation.

“We must stop pretending as if we were the packhorse of the European Union. We’re the big winners in fiscal and economic terms, we’re the world’s exports champion because they all are buying our products.” (Reporting by Michael Nienaber, Editing by Angus MacSwan)