BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the victory of French President Emmanuel Macron’s party in the first round of parliamentary elections a “strong vote for reforms” and a senior official signalled Berlin’s willingness to deepen cooperation.
France is Germany’s second-biggest trading partner and the strong support for pro-European centrist reformer Macron has sparked hopes that Berlin and Paris will spearhead a broad-based economic revival in Europe and a push for more integration in the euro zone.
Projections after the first election round on Sunday showed that Macron’s fledgling party is set to trounce France’s traditional main parties and secure a huge majority to push through pro-business reforms.
“Chancellor Merkel: My heartfelt congratulations to @EmmanuelMacron to the great success of his party in the first election round. Strong vote for reforms,” the government tweeted.
Merkel and Macron agreed last month to draw up a roadmap to deeper EU integration and suggested the bloc’s treaties may change to facilitate even more ambitious reform.
The finance ministers of both countries, Wolfgang Schaeuble and Bruno Le Maire, have set up a joint working group that will present ideas by July on deepening euro zone integration.
Germany’s Deputy Finance Minister Jens Spahn said he hoped that Macron would now be able to quickly implement reforms that would boost growth in France’s economy.
“If we can help in this regard, we will certainly help,” Spahn told Deutschlandfunk broadcaster.
Spahn, a senior member of Merkel’s conservatives, said Berlin was open to discuss Macron’s proposals for a joint euro zone finance minister and a shared budget in the bloc, but said it was important to first clarify the role and responsibilities.
He repeated Berlin’s rejection of a mutualisation of debt within the currency bloc, a step many Germans fear would make Berlin pay for struggling states that resist reform.
However, he said Germany was willing to increase its role in financing investment projects in Europe. “We’re open for a lot of things in this regard,” Spahn said.
Reporting by Michael Nienaber and Gernot Heller; Editing by Louise Ireland