PARIS (Reuters) - President Francois Hollande used his Bastille Day message to the French on Tuesday to call for a strengthening of the 19-nation euro zone in the wake of the Greece crisis, with long-term reforms such as the creation of the bloc’s own elected assembly.
Hollande defended France’s role as a mediator in Monday’s accord between Athens and its creditors, rejecting the idea that its tough terms had humiliated Greece.
He also maintained that France’s ties with Germany had weathered the fraught negotiations over whether Greece could remain within the euro and said he would be looking to Berlin to help craft reforms to boost the single currency zone.
“In the long run, I would also like for there to be a parliament for the euro zone,” he said of a list of proposals that included closer harmonization of fiscal and social policies in the bloc and its own budget to help pro-growth investment.
Hollande promised to issue proposals shortly in a paper that will be scrutinized closely in Britain, where some officials raise concerns about non-euro zone members of the wider European Union being excluded from decisions affecting the whole region.
“The eurozone is a guarantee, protection, security ... we must move forward,” Hollande said. “We need an economic government for the euro zone,” he said, using a term favored for years by backers of greater euro zone integration.
“What we want, along with Germany, is a convergence on fiscal and social policy,” he said.
Referring to the deal with Greece struck on Monday after six months of sometimes torturous negotiations between creditors and the leftist government of Alexis Tsipras, Hollande defended tough measures such as the creation of a vehicle in which assets earmarked for privatization will be sequestered.
“There was no question of humiliating a people ... I would not let any people, let alone in Europe, be humiliated. That is not my idea of Europe,” he said. “It would have been a humiliation had Greece been forced out of the euro.”
Reporting by Mark John; Editing by Matthias Blamont