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Macron urges greater euro zone convergence, presses Germany to act

PARIS (Reuters) - The European Union remains an incomplete project and will require changes to its treaties that bring greater convergence between euro zone member states, French President Emmanuel Macron said in comments published on Thursday.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during the press conference at the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

In an interview with French regional daily Ouest France, Macron, who favors deeper European integration, said Germany was benefiting from a “dysfunctional” euro zone.

Macron, elected in May, has called for giving the euro zone a single finance minister and a common budget - a proposal that has been met with caution by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and suspicion in Berlin that German taxpayers might be left having to shoulder common debts.

Macron reiterated that he was not in favor of turning national debts of euro zone countries into a single pool of euro zone debt.

“I have never reproached Germany for being competitive,” Macron said in the interview. “But a part of German competitiveness is due to the dysfunctionalities of the euro zone, and the weakness of other economies.”

“Germany ... has a strong economy, but it has demographic weaknesses, economic and trade imbalances with its neighbors and shared responsibilities to give the euro area the future it deserves.”

German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported on Wednesday that the finance ministers of Germany and France planned to present a roadmap for the harmonization of their countries’ corporate taxes at a joint cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Macron said Germany, which has a budget surplus, must be a part of a revival in public and private investment in Europe.

Asked if Europe could rely on U.S. President Donald Trump, the centrist president, 39, said Europe needed the United States. He said he would fight the stance taken on climate change by Trump, who arrives in France later on Thursday.

Macron said a tendency toward protectionism had been reborn in the United States but despite French and U.S. differences over free trade there was still scope to “find a common space to combat unacceptable practices such as dumping.”

Trump has threatened tariffs on steel in response to oversupply in world steel markets that is largely created by China.

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Robin Pomeroy