Germans bosses fear French fiscal slackness

German companies are concerned France will ease up on efforts to get its public finances in shape as close-run presidential elections enter a second round, the BDI industry federation said Monday.

Germans bosses fear French fiscal slackness

“We’re really sceptical and critical as concerns France,” BDI President Hans-Peter Keitel told a news conference here on the sidelines of the world’s biggest industrial fair in this northern German city.

“France is once again on the path to more interventionism in the economy, to a greater degree of economic steering by the state and to attempts to foster growth” using state measures, Keitel said.

Following a first-round vote in the French presidential elections on Sunday, polls now put Socialist Francois Hollande ahead of Nicolas Sarkozy to win the second round on May 6 by 54 percent to 46.

Hollande has said he would block the EU’s pact for greater fiscal rigour if it failed to include measures for growth.

“If the pact contains no measures for growth, I can’t recommend it for ratification by the National Assembly,” Hollande told Handelsblatt business daily last week.

“I promised that to the French, I will stick to it,” he added.

With France therefore likely to ease up on its budget consolidation efforts, German industry was “concerned that pressure will be put on the German government to abandon its path” of budgetary rigour, too, Keitel continued.

“We need consolidation and we need growth as well, but not by abandoning consolidation,” the industry chief insisted.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the driving force behind a new pact on fiscal discipline aimed at encouraging budget stability in a Europe hard-hit by the Greek debt crisis.

The pact was agreed by 25 of the 27 European Union nations in March after months of market turmoil and political wrangling to stop the debt crisis spreading.

Merkel, who has openly backed Sarkozy’s reelection bid, is a staunch defender of the debt cap since Germany introduced the measure into its own constitution and is pushing other EU countries to follow suit.

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Germany to tighten Covid controls at French border

Germany on Sunday, February 28th, classed France's Covid-battered Moselle region as a high risk area for virus variants, triggering tougher entry requirements at the border between the two neighbours.

Germany to tighten Covid controls at French border
Image: Peter H/ Pixabay

France’s eastern Moselle region is now listed as an area “at particularly high risk of infection due to widespread occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 virus variants”, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control announced.

From Tuesday, March 2nd, cross-border travellers from Moselle will need to be able to show a recent negative coronavirus test.

Germany has already introduced tough checks at its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region, ignoring calls from Brussels to keep borders within the bloc open.

At those crossings, only Germans and non-German residents are allowed to enter, as well as cross-border commuters working in certain categories of jobs.

Every vehicle is stopped and occupants must produce a negative test that is less than 48 hours old.

The checks on the German side of the Moselle crossing are expected to be less strict, a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP.

Instead of systematic checks, police would randomly stop vehicles on the German side and ask drivers to show “a negative test and their online entry registration”, he said.

Germany has grown increasingly concerned in recent weeks about the rapid spread of new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, especially those first detected in Britain and South Africa.

The coronavirus, including the more dangerous South African variant, is spreading faster in Moselle than elsewhere in France but French officials have pleaded with Berlin to avoid a full closure of the border.

The German classification “normally implies the extremely strict measure of a quasi-closure of borders”, France’s European Affairs minister Clement Beaune said Sunday.

“We don’t want that,” he said, adding that talks were ongoing with Berlin to find solutions for the roughly 16,000 commuters who cross from Moselle into Germany’s Saarland and Rhineland-Palatine states every day.

The German interior ministry spokesman said the two countries would discuss details of the border implications on Monday.

Asked why the French checks would not be as stringent as those along the Czech and Austrian frontiers, the spokesman said Saarland and Rhineland-Palatine had not requested border closures.

“And there is a good cooperation between the affected German and French regions,” he added.