PARIS (Reuters) - France’s European Affairs Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Monday he was certain Paris and Berlin could come to an agreement this month on urgent measures to resolve the euro zone’s debt crisis.
French President Francois Hollande, who took power last month, has sparked tensions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by challenging her austerity-only policies and pushing for a growth package to be tacked on to a budget discipline pact.
Speaking on LCI television, Cazeneuve said the disagreement between the two leaders should not be “overdramatized” and that divergences between European Union leaders were “normal”.
He said Hollande would use a meeting in Rome on Friday with Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to push for a consensus on growth measures ahead of a European summit on June 28 and 29.
“We want there to be an agreement at the summit ... and the meeting in Rome on June 22 will be a major opportunity to exchange opinions and try to consolidate this accord,” he said.
Cazeneuve confirmed media reports that Hollande will propose a package of investment measures worth 120 billion euros, made up of reallocated EU structural funds, new investment capital from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and project bonds.
“Our aim is to make sure growth-boosting measures are big enough to help jobs and allow budget constraints to be relaxed,” he said.
Hollande, France’s first Socialist president in 17 years, has taken power as political woes in Greece and Spain’s banking crisis have thrust the euro zone into a new round of turmoil.
A narrow victory by pro-bailout parties in Sunday’s Greek parliamentary elections raised hopes that Greece could avoid a catastrophic euro exit, prompting Germany to signal it might grant Athens more time to meet its fiscal targets.
Cazeneuve said giving Athens more time to meet certain commitments was a possibility but only in agreement with the entire euro zone following a full assessment of the situation, and only if it was clear the move could alleviate pressures in Greece.
“We don’t want to send the message that we can relax all constraints on the budget and on debt, and risk letting the situation deteriorate,” he said.
Reporting By Vicky Buffery; Editing by Kevin Liffey