France's finance minister has called for debate about the strength of the euro, as the currency neared a seven-week peak against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday.
The euro zone currency hit $1.3944 on Tuesday, a smidgen off its year-peak of $1.3965, reached in March. Since the start of the year, the euro has risen 1.37 percent against the dollar, and it is 5.67 percent higher versus the greenback since the start of 2013.
Michel Sapin, the French finance minister, said euro zone members needed to openly discuss the strength of the euro and its potentially negative impact on the regional economy. A stronger euro makes euro zone exports more expensive in the global market, thereby hindering the euro zone's efforts to grow and regain its competitiveness.
"The debate on the level of the euro is a free debate, a debate that is a joint competency between the European Central Bank (ECB) and also the (Governing) Council. We need to be able to debate about it, to discuss it," he told CNBC from the Eurogroup meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Brussels.
Sapin said he agreed with the ECB's view that the strengthening euro was fueling disinflation—a major worry for the central bank.
"The fact that, at the moment, the ECB considers an overly strong euro is weighing too much on prices and leading to too low inflation is, in my view, a correct assessment," Sapin said.
Euro zone inflation picked up in April, according to data released last week, but remained below expectations, coming in at 0.7 percent. It marked the seventh month in a row that inflation in the 18-country currency bloc came in below 1 percent.
Sapin has previously warned that a too-strong euro was bad for growth in both France and Europe overall. This view was also espoused by French Minister Manual Valls on Saturday.
The topic will be in focus when the ECB holds its monthly policy meeting on Thursday. Further interest rate cuts are seen as unlikely after months of speculation, but the central bank's President Mario Draghi has cited euro strength as a potential trigger for easing monetary policy further.
The latest uptick in the euro materialized on Tuesday after data showed that business activity in the euro zone hit a three-year high in April. Markit's final euro zone purchasing managers' composite index came in at 54.0, up from 53.1 the previous month, with strong upturns apparent in previously struggling Spain and Ireland.