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Jun 03, 2020 PRINT EDITION

STRASBOURG: France's finance minister reiterated his call Friday for Germany and other eurozone states running budget surpluses to step up investments in the bloc to counter economic sluggishness "that's bad for everyone."

"Countries whose budgets offer room for manoeuvre, in particular Germany, should invest more. It's in Germany's interest," Bruno Le Maire said while attending a fair in the eastern city of Strasbourg which lies close to the German border.

"What's the point of having public accounts perfectly in order, if our growth is slowing... if your European neighbours can't benefit from your growth and economic dynamism?" Le Maire said.

French officials -- as well as the International Monetary Fund -- have for months been urging Berlin to loosen its purse strings to help foster a broad revival on the Continent.

Germany had a budget surplus of 58 billion euros ($64 billion) in 2018, according to its statistics office, its fifth straight year without a deficit.

But German officials say they are already spending heavily, and are loath to abandon a cherished fiscal discipline while other eurozone members have made little headway in tackling their deficits.

Le Maire's comments come ahead of a summit of eurozone finance ministers in Helsinki next Friday, when France will propose a "eurozone growth pact" aimed at bolstering flagging economies across the bloc.

"We need more innovation, more investment and more growth in the euro zone, to meet economic challenges but also the political challenge of populist surges across Europe," he said.

"We will keep on proposing solutions for this European economic sluggishness that's bad for everyone."

Le Maire also repeated a pledge by French President Emmanuel Macron to get France's own finances back in order, by cutting government spending, overhauling labour rules and tax reforms aimed at encouraging hiring and investment.