December 3, 2018 / 1:27 PM / 16 days ago

France finance minister sees 'widening' consensus for euro zone budget

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire attends the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday he saw broadening support in favor of a proposed joint euro zone budget, though tough details remained to be hammered out.

France and Germany made a proposal last month for a joint budget that would help finance economic convergence among euro zone countries and could possibly be used to stabilize their economies when facing shocks not due to bad policies.

“I think there is a widening consensus about the necessity of having that euro zone budget,” Le Maire said as he arrived for a meeting with his euro zone counterparts in Brussels expected to run into the night.

Eager to get a deal before the end of the year, Le Maire said that there was broadening support for a budget to finance convergence, but he acknowledged that there was opposition to a stabilization role.

The Dutch in particular have dug in against any joint fund that could be used to stabilize troubled economies, saying that the see no need for it.

The budget proposal is one of the main planks of President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to deepen integration among countries sharing the euro. Failure to get other countries on board would be a big setback for his European agenda.

“There won’t be a strong euro zone without a euro zone budget, and the euro will not play an international role as a strong international currency without a euro zone budget,” Le Maire said.

France is also struggling to make progress on winning support among European Union countries for a digital tax on Internet giants, which is also a key part of Macron’s European agenda.

EU ministers were due to discuss the tax on Tuesday, but Le Maire said first he and his German counterpart Olaf Scholz had to overcome differences to pave the way for a broader agreement among other EU countries.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by John Irish

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