The French leaders obviously think that would be easier to do under pressure from the euro area debt and budget rules that are directly enforced by a common finance ministry.
Now, this is where Germany comes in. Looking at all that from outside, it seems that Berlin has used the French fiscal difficulties to inflict a real complex of inferiority on a country that, for a long time in the postwar history, showed statesmanship and generosity in bringing a defeated and humiliated Germany back into the European community of nations.
Things have gone so far that the new metrics of the French-German relations are being determined by the French budget deficit (3.4 percent of GDP) versus the German surplus of 0.8 percent of GDP, and the French public debt of 96 percent of GDP compared with 68.3 percent in Germany.
Incredible, isn't it? But that's the way it is. And to rub it in, Merkel gave a quasi dismissive response to the French proposal of the institutional changes by saying that she would first have to see whether any changes were needed, and what that would mean for future euro area policy forums.
In other words, Germany will decide. Undaunted by driving rain and looking in an imperious form, a beaming Merkel, a shoe-in for another term of office next September, was mingling last Tuesday with royalty and the great and the good at a black-tie opening night performance of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.
What a contrast to the mood in Paris, where the French President Emmanuel Macron was being sharply knocked down in opinion polls from his Jupiter (Greek mythology's king of all gods) status. He sounded exasperated last week as he was calling to order his unruly and disoriented parliamentary majority, upbraiding his infighting cabinet members and asking his prime minister to operate with a "greater sense of direction." As Macron's newest BFF would say: "That's yuge."
You know now who will be the winner of "the friendly French-German debate" about the proposed watershed changes in Europe's institutional architecture.
Macron will also needlessly aggravate his case by caving in to calls from Germany and French business leaders for radical hiring and firing labor market reforms. Somebody should explain to the president that there is no evidence that such a disorderly flexibility is needed to break labor market cost rigidities. Over the last five years, average French unit labor costs grew at an annual rate of 0.8 percent, compared with 2.3 percent in Germany. Last year, those labor costs rose only 0.6 percent in France, nearly three times less than 1.7 percent in Germany. That was reflected in corporate profits that drive equity values. The French CAC40 shot up 19.2 percent in the year to last Friday, beating the German DAX and matching the Euro Stoxx 50.
The captains of French industry, urging unnecessarily disruptive radical reforms (they say they don't want small "reformettes"), should be reminded to run a tighter ship. At the moment, 25 percent of all goods and services consumed in France are supplied by their foreign competitors, a sharp and steady increase from about one-fifth at the beginning of this decade.