BERLIN – A senior lawmaker with Chancellor Angela Merkel's party said Tuesday that Germany is willing to discuss growth-promoting measures with France — so long as a European budget-discipline pact stands.
Peter Altmaier, chief parliamentary whip of Merkel's conservative bloc, spoke shortly after new French President Francois Hollande took office. Hollande, who has criticized Germany's austerity-led crisis management, is to meet Merkel in Berlin later in the day.
Altmaier stressed the importance of sticking to the so-called fiscal compact championed by Merkel. But, he said, "we have an interest in the economy everywhere in the eurozone picking up and growing as it did in Germany in the first quarter."
The German economy, Europe's biggest, grew by 0.5 percent in the first quarter compared with the previous three-month period. The French economy was flat, while seven other countries — including Italy and Spain — were in recession.
"Within the limits that the stability pact and the fiscal compact set us, we are prepared to take initiatives for stronger growth," Altmaier told reporters. "We will take note with interest of ideas and proposals from the French side and examine them in the coming days and weeks."
While Merkel's government waits to see exactly what Hollande proposes, the German opposition is angling for concessions from Merkel — such as a commitment to introduce a tax on financial transactions whose proceeds could be used to stimulate growth.
Merkel needs opposition support to get the fiscal compact ratified in Germany, where it needs a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
Sigmar Gabriel, the leader of the main opposition Social Democrats, asserted Tuesday that "the policies of Angela Merkel as well as (former French President) Nicolas Sarkozy have failed all along the way." His party argued that Merkel needs to make funds available for investment and growth.
Merkel's center-right government wants to ratify the fiscal compact in Germany by the end of June and says it will hold talks with the opposition.
"I can only warn the Social Democrats and the opposition against making a link between any demands and agreeing to ratification," Altmaier said. He argued that it has been "counterproductive" in the past to link European projects with domestic political demands.
David Rising contributed to this story