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Germany and France pledge new efforts to strengthen eurozone

Germany and France have pledged to help strengthen the eurozone, with the harmonisation of corporate taxes among the possible measures considered.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and new French counterpart Bruno Le Maire said they are setting up a working group to produce proposals for a planned bilateral summit in July.

Mr Le Maire said: "We've been talking for years about progress in integrating the eurozone, but things aren't advancing quickly enough or far enough. We are determined to get things moving faster and further."

He said there needs to be better co-ordination of economic policy, and that investment will also be considered.

Mr Schaeuble said Germany and France could either propose a joint corporate tax or concentrate on pushing ahead efforts for a harmonised assessment basis for European corporate tax.

Both goals are ambitious, Mr Schaeuble conceded, noting that wider tax harmonisation is difficult because it would require consensus among EU leaders.

Mr Le Maire is making his first visit to Berlin since French president Emmanuel Macron's new government was appointed last week.

Mr Le Maire's opening comments to a joint news conference were made in fluent German. He said there needs to be better coordination of economic policy, adding that investment will also be considered.

He stressed France's willingness to consider deeper reforms such as creating a finance minister for the 19-nation eurozone or a "European monetary fund", an idea which Mr Schaeuble has periodically backed.

He offered assurances that "France will respect its European obligations in terms of (budget) deficit reduction".

The latest German-French drive to strengthen the EU's economic coherence come as the UK prepares to leave the bloc.

Mr Le Maire said: "We see in Brexit an opportunity for our financial companies to be more attractive than they were before.

"Our role is to create wealth for our country, to create jobs for our country. With Brexit, there is this opportunity, and we expect to seize this opportunity."

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