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Eurozone

France and Germany agree on 'full time' eurozone boss

France and Germany have agreed on the need for a full-time president for the Eurogroup of finance eurozone ministers. Both countries' leaders met in Paris in an effort to see eye-to-eye on economic policy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande agreed on Thursday to jointly push for the eurozone to have a full-time chief overseeing economic policy.

The Eurogroup of finance ministers from each of the 17 eurozone nations is currently headed by one of those ministers, currently Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem. The group meets informally every month to decide the bloc's economic policy.

"We agree that there be more eurozone summits with a full-time president of the Eurogroup," which oversees policy in the currency bloc, Hollande said at a joint press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Hollande also added that the president should have "more powers."

Hollande added that the proposed president "could be mandated by eurozone ministers to support action for jobs, research and industry."

Merkel was supportive of the idea. "We need more economic policy coordination, especially in the Eurogroup," she said.

The two leaders have been seeking to put aside their differences on policy - with Merkel more focused on austerity and Hollande insistent that growth should be the priority - ahead of a European Union summit at the end of June. The meeting is the first time since Hollande came to power that the pair have worked so closely on policy, with Berlin and Paris keen to present a united front at the meeting.

An artistic tour

The meeting began in the Louvre Museum, with the two leaders touring an exhibition on German art between 1800 and 1939.

Speaking at the press conference that followed, Merkel said France had an obligation to press ahead with structural reforms after Paris was given more time to reduce its deficit.

"We agreed to give France two more years to cut its deficit to 3.0 percent (of gross domestic product)... and coupled with that is the expectation that reforms will be implemented. These go hand in hand," Merkel said.

Hollande also reaffirmed his determination to tackle unemployment, despite a 1.2 percent increase on the number of unemployed in France between March and April being announced on Thursday. The new data puts the number of registered job seekers at 3,264,400.

"Despite this data, despite what it means for many French people individually or for their family, I maintain the goal of reversing the unemployment trend by year-end," Hollande said.

Young people have been worst affected by the rise in unemployment, the monthly increase between March and April for under-25s being 2 percent.

rc/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)