French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday said recession is as great a threat to Europe as the debt crisis, in his first British newspaper interview after taking office in the Elysee Palace.
Interviewed by the Guardian and five other European newspapers from France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland, Hollande fired warning shots at German Chancellor Angela Merkel over austerity on the eve of an EU summit in Brussels scheduled on Thursday and Friday.
The French President expressed concerns over deep differences between Paris and Berlin on how to resolve the euro crisis, insisting on a climbdown by Merkel in her emphasis on austerity and the surrender of national powers in order to tighten fiscal discipline.
While the Franco-German relationship was the driving and "accelerating" force of the EU, Hollande said "it can also be the brake if it's not in step. Hence the need for Franco-German coherence."
Outlining his own recipe for tackling the crisis, Hollande called on Germany to help rebalance the eurozone economy by cutting taxes and raising wages to spur domestic demand.
He said domestic electoral considerations should not get in the way of solving the euro crisis, and put emphasis on "solidarity."
"Our common responsibility is to put Europe's interests first," Hollande said.
The French President called for monthly meetings of leaders of the 17 eurozone countries to end the cycle of "so-called 'last-chance' summits," which he said in the past had led only to "fleeting successes."
"Solidarity" had to come first followed by deeper integration, he said. "Whenever we take a step towards solidarity, the union - which means the respect of common rules around governance - should progress."
Hollande also said a banking union could play a very important role. "The banking union aimed at controlling finance would be an important step in European integration," he said.
He insisted that France would "tirelessly" promote the growth agenda, as "the time has come to offer a perspective beyond austerity."
With regards to Greece, Hollande said he will "do everything for Greece to stay in the euro and have the resources it needs by the end of the year, without it having to be necessary to inflict new conditions other than these already admitted by the Samaras government."
He added that he also felt for the Spanish and Portuguese people "who had paid dear for others' excesses."
Asked if the worst was over, Hollande said, "Yes, the worst - in the sense of the fear of the eurozone breaking up - is over. But the best isn't there yet. It's up to us to build it."