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How France's Emmanuel Macron wants to reform the EU

16.03.2018

The French president wants to further centralize the eurozone. While Germany backs reform, Berlin is reluctant to support a "transfer union" that would see it pay more than it gets. DW examines what's on the table.

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to push through reforms of the European Union and the eurozone monetary union. Since assuming office in 2017, he has consistently emphasized his desire to partner with Germany to jointly lead these reforms.

The French president wants:

Macron envisions a two-speed Europe which would allow countries that want to work towards further integration to go forward with such measures while others can choose to maintain the status quo.

In terms of monetary union reforms, Macron believes a separate parliament comprising elected members from eurozone countries would allow them to decide on matters that do not concern EU member states that have yet to adopt the euro.

Read more: Is Emmanuel Macron Europe's new Angela Merkel?

Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel has backed calls for reforms, she has cautiously stated that both countries need to find a "common position," especially when it comes to reforming the 19-member eurozone.

Infografik Karte Eurozone ENG

View from Germany

Berlin has been notably reluctant to support Macron's proposal of pooling financial resources for the eurozone, in what many in Germany's parliament believe would create a "transfer union" that would likely see Germany provide more financial resources than it would receive from a collective fund. Berlin has also emphasized that such a fund should be linked to economic reforms.

Read more: Germany's new government: What does it mean for the EU?

One proposal from the German side would see the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the eurozone's bailout fund, turn into a European Monetary Fund that would redistribute resources to countries in need. That proposal was put forward by former Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

Under a coalition agreement, Germany's new government has backed bloc-wide reforms, stipulating that it will pay more into the EU's budget while stressing the need for budgetary discipline.

Without Germany's support, it would be practically impossible for Macron to implement his EU and eurozone reforms

Roadmap

Merkel and Macron agreed last year to a tentative deadline of March to establish a framework for the reforms. Both leaders have suggested a June deadline for other eurozone members to agree on a roadmap to implement the reforms.

Germany and France will have to overcome their contradicting beliefs on the concept of centralization in the eurozone. For Macron, the monetary union needs more centralization, while Merkel believes current issues are pegged to an over-reliance on centralized structures.

Meanwhile, the European Commission, the EU's executive body, proposed in December similar reforms, including creating a finance ministerial post and a "rainy-day" budget for member states hit by economic hardship.

From cotton to cash: how to (actually) make a euro
From fluffy cotton to cold hard cash

Cotton is the euro banknote's base material. It handles stress better than the traditionally-used paper, which allows the bills to survive an accidental trip through the laundry machine. The textile industry sorts the cotton out into short threads before sending it off.

From cotton to cash: how to (actually) make a euro
Secret recipe

The cotton is then bleached, washed and prepared into a pulp - whose exact formula is kept secret. A cylinder mould paper machine then turns the pulp into long strips of paper. By this point, the bills-to-be already contain a number of security features, such as watermarks and security threads.

From cotton to cash: how to (actually) make a euro
Taking on the forgers...

The developers of the euro banknotes thought up more than ten different security features to make life tough for forgers. One involves a foil application, which is pressed onto the bill here in Germany at the private printers Giesecke & Devrient.

From cotton to cash: how to (actually) make a euro
The artist (whose work you may own)

Reinhold Gerstetter is responsible for the design of the euro banknotes. Fans of the old Deutsche Mark may recognize his work - he drew the faces on their last edition, before Germany switched to the euro. Each bills is assigned an architectural epoch in European history, according to value, from an ancient archway on the five-euro-note to a steel bridge on the five-hundred-euro bill.

From cotton to cash: how to (actually) make a euro
Each and every note is unique

Each bill gets stamped with a unique number, which shows at which of the dozen high-security printers in Europe it was printed. The notes are then distributed among the different euro member states according to a determined ratio.

From cotton to cash: how to (actually) make a euro
Cutting costs

Earlier, nations automatically commissioned their own domestic banknote producers. Now, Germany's Bundesbank for instance is open to giving assignments beyond its own borders. The competition creates cost pressure. Last year, the German printer Giesecke Devrient closed their location in Munich and laid off around 700 employees, as production is cheaper at its Leipzig and Malaysia shops.

From cotton to cash: how to (actually) make a euro
The true cost of 500 euros

The stacks of cash are bundled, shrink-wrapped and then sent to the central banks of member nations. A banknote costs between seven and 16 cents to produce, increasing with the value of the bill as they grow larger and more packed with more security features.

From cotton to cash: how to (actually) make a euro
...while still geting took

Despite the elaborate printing procedure, counterfeiters still manage to bring hundreds of thousands of fake bills into circulation. Last year, more counterfeit euros were seized than in any year since the common currency's introduction in 2002. The ECB counts about 900,000 faked euro banknotes worldwide.

From cotton to cash: how to (actually) make a euro
In with the new!

In 2013, the five-euro-bill became the first of the newer, safer banknotes to be introduced. The 10-euro-note then entered circulation in 2015, followed by the 20-euro-note the year after. The new 50-year note is expected to make its appearance next year, with the 100- and 200-euro-notes coming in 2018. A new 500-euro-note is planned for 2019, but is expected to get nixed before then.

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Lewis Sanders IV