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Merkron? France's Macron seeks close ties with Germany to shore up EU

20 May 2017, 02:41 | Darnell Patrick

GETTYAngela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron met to discuss strengthening the EU

Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

"The elections in the Netherlands and in France have made us aware what a treasure we have with Europe", Merkel said during a press conference with Macron on Monday.

France's new President Macron urges major reforms in EU; German Chancellor Merkel says Berlin open to EU treaty change.

"We know that in the world in which we live in it's not the president who imposes foreign policy, but foreign policy that imposes itself on the president", said Francois Heisbourg, a Macron adviser and chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

In a nod to German concerns, Mr Macron said at the news conference with Mrs Merkel that he had never pushed for jointly issued eurobonds and does not favour European countries taking joint responsibility for old debts.

The visit to Germany marked Macron's first foreign trip after his inauguration on Sunday, continuing a tradition of French presidents making their first global trip to Germany.

About potential changes on the main EU treaties, Merkel said the union can not resist the transformations across the world.

Underlining the concerns over Macron's proposals, Germany's biggest selling daily Bild warned ahead of the French leader's meeting with Merkel that before seeking deeper European Union integration, "France must once again be at the same level as Germany politically and economically".

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In a move that will no doubt please Germany, Macron also announced the appointment of Édouard Philippe as his prime minister on Monday. While Germany's economy - Europe's largest - has been performing well in recent years, France's has stalled.

"We're at a turning point in Europe that requires mutual confidence", he said. He also said there would be a meeting between the two countries' cabinet ministers in the near future. He said he would make reforms "not because Europe requests it, but because France needs it", even if they are also "necessary for the restoration of Franco-German [relations]". Macron insisted that the European Union should do more to protect itself against dumping.

Macron's defeat of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in a run-off vote this month was greeted with relief by pro-EU political forces rattled by a surge in populist, Euroskeptic sentiment across the continent, including last year's Brexit referendum vote approving Britain's departure from the bloc.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, an arch conservative who has come to personify Berlin's focus on fiscal rectitude, had suggested that Macron's idea of creating a budget and finance minister for the euro zone was unrealistic because it would require politically thorny changes to the European Union treaty. But the Frenchman's calls for the eurozone to have its own budget have received a cool response from Germany, which fears it would be forced to pay the lion's share.

But Merkel papered over the differences, saying that "from the German point of view, it's possible to change the treaty if it makes sense".

Former investment banker Macron, who trounced Le Pen in the 7 May presidential run-off, aims to take votes from both the Republicans and Socialists in next month's crucial parliamentary election.



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