Germany and France have been involved in a tussle over who should be the next EU economic affairs commissioner. This very decision is widely seen as a important symbolic message about how euro rules will be implemented in the near future. France, which wants the portfolio for itself, is proposing Pierre Moscovici, a Socialist and former finance minister, for this key economic post. However, Berlin has rebuffed the idea by suggesting that it is inappropriate for a French national to hold this post while his or her native country is having difficulty adhering to basic euro rules. Paris has already had two EU deadline extensions, as it tries to bring the country’s budget deficit below the required three percent of GDP threshold.
German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble noted earlier this month that “France will present figures in autumn and the commission will examine them and if it has doubts about the figures then that’s a real problem.” A recently conducted joint interview between Schaeuble and his French counterpart Michel Sapin with newspapers Les Echoes and Handelsblatt demonstrates the depth of their differences. The French finance minister expressed the view that “it is legitimate that France has an important post in the commission. An economic post would, to my mind, correspond to France’s economic power and its ability to contribute to good working of the EU institutions.” Schaeuble, on his part, suggested that it would be difficult for a French commissioner to be strict in applying the euro rules to France. Ultimately, this very dispute comes against the backdrop of a wider division, broadly between northern and southern member states, about how the euro’s rules should be interpreted.