France, Germany play down rift over euro crisis
French and German officials were at pains to present an united front Thursday in the face of the crisis in the eurozone, after a French minister publicly rebutted Chancellor Angela Merkel.
French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde distanced herself from Merkel's remark Wednesday that the euro was "in danger", saying she "absolutely" did not believe that to be true, prompting talk of a rift between the close allies.
But hours later, the same minister was falling over herself to make amends, telling an international conference in Berlin -- via video from Paris -- that the two countries were "on the same page" when it came to financial regulation.
Addressing her German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble as "Dear Wolfgang", she said she wanted to "celebrate the very strong alliance that ... we have forged over time.
"This has really been the continuation of a relationship that we have built over the years."
Speaking shortly afterwards, Schaeuble said for his part he was "honoured" that France had decided to enshrine in its constitution a requirement to slash deficits -- following a similar move by Berlin last year.
"We feel somewhat honoured... if we are asked for advice, then we will be more than willing to provide it," said a beaming Schaeuble.
President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday that France's constitution should be altered to require new governments to sign up to a timetable to balance their budgets.
© 2010 AFP