World Europe First Look

Macron dreams of a unified eurozone, but can he get others on board?

In a speech at the Sorbonne, French President Emmanuel Macron shares his vision for a joint finance minister, legislature, and budget. And he doesn't want to wait for the Brexit to take effect before bringing Europe closer together.

French President Emmanuel Macron (r.) and Lebanese President Michel Aoun (l.) toast during a dinner where Mr. Macron shared his plans for a unified eurozone at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Sept. 25.
Etienne Laurent/Pool Photo/AP
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Caption
  • Sylvie Corbet
    Associated Press

French President Emmanuel Macron is laying out his vision Tuesday for a more unified Europe, with a joint budget for countries sharing the euro currency and a stronger global voice despite Brexit looming.

Mr. Macron is seeking to make a lasting mark on Europe's future with his speech to students at the Sorbonne – and to send a clear message to neighboring Germany after its election Sunday.

While re-elected Chancellor Angela Merkel has signaled openness to some of Macron's ideas, one potential ally in her new government is deeply skeptical about a eurozone budget. Macron's office says he wants his Europe strategy to play a role in Germany's coalition-building talks.

Macron is expected to argue that the eurozone needs a joint finance minister, budget, and legislature to prevent future crises like those that have battered Europe in recent years.

He says that's necessary to boost Europe's legitimacy and influence on global trade, taxing internet companies, migration policy, and climate change.

The euro has fallen steadily since news that Ms. Merkel won the German national election with a weakened hand. From $1.1950 on Friday, it is now trading at $1.1814, as some investors seem to feel she will have a tougher time implementing policies to increase integration among eurozone states, as Macron is pushing for.

Macron doesn't want to wait for Britain to leave the EU in 2019 to tie European economies closer together. He's well-placed to kick start those efforts: At just 39, he came of age under the EU, and won a strong electoral mandate this year. And he's already held one-on-one meetings with 22 of the union's 27 other leaders to market his EU strategy.

His biggest challenge may be the German political calendar. The outgoing government goes into caretaker status in a few weeks and is not going to be taking any major decisions on the future of Europe, and it may take months for Merkel to form a viable coalition.

The pro-business Free Democrats, a key potential partner for Merkel, is against a joint budget because the party says that would result in automatic, uncontrolled money transfers from Germany to struggling eurozone partners.

Merkel herself said Monday she wouldn't rule anything out and that she is in touch with Macron about his plans. "What is important to me above all is that we could use more Europe, but that must lead to more competitiveness, more jobs, simply more clout for the European Union," she told reporters in Berlin.

Macron plans to discuss his proposals with all leaders of EU member states that are interested in the integration process by the end of the year.

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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