March 10, 2018 / 11:30 AM / in 3 months

Merkel, Macron delay plan to present euro zone reforms: Spiegel

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have postponed a plan to propose euro zone reforms at a summit of European leaders this month, Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.

France's President Emmanuel Macron (R) speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as they gather for a family photo during a High Level Conference on the Sahel at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, February 23, 2018. REUTERS/John Thys/Pool

“The thing has been canceled,” an EU official with direct knowledge of the summit preparations told the German magazine. “There’s simply nothing that could be announced.”

Merkel and Macron held out the prospect in December of presenting Franco-German proposals to strengthen the 19-member single currency bloc at a European Union summit in March.

But German officials said Berlin needed more time to coordinate its euro zone plans with Paris due to the unusually long coalition negotiations after September’s federal election, the magazine reported.

A German government spokesman said he could neither confirm nor deny the report, adding that Merkel was determined to work closely with Macron on euro zone reforms.

“I could imagine that some things may be postponed since the formation of our government took a bit longer. But it’s still too early to confirm this,” spokesman Georg Streiter said.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday EU leaders would discuss global trade and the threat of a “serious trade dispute” at their summit on March 22-23.

Merkel and Macron have repeatedly vowed to deepen Franco-German cooperation and give the European Union a fresh push towards closer integration.

Without agreement between the two leaders, whose economies account for 50 percent of euro zone output, any ambition to upgrade Europe’s economic and monetary union and help the bloc withstand future crises is unlikely to get off the ground.

This year is seen as a critical but narrow window, with the European Parliament holding elections and Britain’s exit from the EU reaching its deadline in 2019.

The French government has singled out as priorities the completion of the euro zone’s banking and capital markets union, and agreeing common rules in France and Germany for calculating corporate tax - ideally with an agreement by June.

Macron has in the past been even more ambitious, talking about a need for the euro zone to have its own budget and finance minister, and for the currency bloc’s rescue fund, the ESM, to be turned into a mechanism for helping member states pre-empt threats of financial instability.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Dale Hudson

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