Merkel offers Macron concessions on eurozone reforms

Banks Sweeping out Bad Loans       Ratio of non performing debt to total lending back below 2012               Source European Central Bank

She said she was "absolutely open to talking to the new Italian government about ways to help young people find work" given high levels of youth unemployment.

In an interview with Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Merkel said solidarity among eurozone members should not turn the single currency bloc into a "debt union".

In her first detailed response to Emmanuel Macron's euro-zone ideas, the German chancellor blends caution and compromise: Yay to a Euro-IMF and deeper common defense, nay to Italian debt relief. She also said the EMF would remain under the authority of euro-zone states, in effect giving national parliaments some say over its decisions.

The newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported Sunday that it obtained documents showing Merkel was briefed on the issue at the beginning of 2017 by the former head of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

On Italy, Ms. Merkel said while cohesion among members of the single currency bloc was important, "solidarity among euro partners should never lead to a debt [sharing] union, rather it must be about helping others to help themselves".

Merkel said Europe needed "quicker economic convergence" but stopped short of Macron's vision of a major investment budget, saying, in euros, it should be "at the lower end of the double-digit billions" and only phased in gradually.

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Italy's new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has said that Italians "aren't the slaves" of European Union powerhouses Germany and France.

Merkel also addressed plans to upgrade the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which oversees bailout loans to troubled member states, such as Greece, into a European Monetary Fund.

The official said: "It is a positive move which testifies to the European commitment of the chancellor and of her government".

"However, such an intervention force with a common military-strategic culture must fit into the structure of defense cooperation", she added.

She said she views Macron's idea of a joint intervention force "positively", but that many details would have to be worked out.

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