BERLIN (Reuters) – German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is working on a proposal that would allow southern euro zone countries to tap into the single currency bloc’s bailout fund to boost investments during recessions, a newspaper said on Wednesday.
If the unsourced report in the mass-selling German daily Bild is confirmed, the plan would mark a major change of policy for Schaeuble who had until recently always opposed transfers from richer euro zone countries to poorer members like Greece.
The Finance Ministry was not immediately available to comment on the report.
Germany is the biggest contributor to the European Stability Mechanism, the euro zone’s bailout fund.
Bild said Schaeuble intended to make the proposal after Germany’s Sept.24 election, which his conservatives led by Chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to win.
In exchange for more flexible access to the ESM, Schaeuble wants the fund to have more say over national debt and budgets.
Bild added that the proposal was a goodwill gesture toward French President Emmanuel Macron who has vowed to work with Merkel on a roadmap for closer euro zone integration.
Schaeuble said earlier this year that he shared Macron’s view that financial transfers from richer to poorer states are necessary within the euro zone.
A joint euro zone budget and a common finance minister are among ideas for deeper European Union integration around the single currency after Britain leaves the EU in 2019. Completing a banking union has also been proposed.
Schaeuble is loathed in many southern euro zone countries and especially in Greece, for insisting on tough austerity measures in exchange for bailout funds during the bloc’s debt crisis that started seven years ago.
(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Richard Balmforth)