Wednesday 26 July 2017

Macron and Merkel agree to draw up 'road map' of reforms to strengthen EU

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron talk as they arrive at a ceremony at the Chancellery in Berlin yesterday. Photo: Reuters
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron talk as they arrive at a ceremony at the Chancellery in Berlin yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Sylivie Corbet

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have pledged to work closely together to draw up a "road map" of reforms for the European Union.

The pair said they are both prepared even to implement treaty changes if needed.

The two met in Berlin on Mr Macron's first full day in office, which started with him naming 46-year-old Edouard Philippe as his new prime minister.

Mrs Merkel called Mr Macron's visit an honour and a sign of the deep friendship between the two European powerhouses. "We each represent the interests of our own countries, but the interests of Germany are naturally closely tied to the interests of France," Mrs Merkel said.

She added that she hoped for a "new dynamism" in German-French relations, saying that, "Europe will only do well if there is a strong France, and I am committed to that".

Mr Macron said that he would work with Mrs Merkel on a "road map", and that they needed to work on "deep reforms that are necessary and need common work".

Both leaders suggested they were prepared to change European treaties if needed, but Mrs Merkel stressed that such measures were not immediately on the table.

"First we need to work on what we want to change, and then if it turns out it needs a treaty change, then we're prepared to do that," she said.

The visit to Berlin continued a tradition of French presidents making their first foreign trip to Germany.

A large group of onlookers, some carrying European flags, stood outside the chancellery as Mr Macron arrived.

Germany and France have traditionally been the motor of European integration, but the relationship has become increasingly lopsided over recent years as France struggled economically.

The visit signalled Mr Macron's intentions to move rapidly on campaign promises to revive support for the beleaguered EU by reforming and strengthening it.

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.

Germany, which has Europe's biggest economy, has vehemently opposed taking direct responsibility for weaker eurozone countries' debts. Mr Macron added, however, that "what I know is that we have investments to make [in Europe], and so we have to work on investment mechanisms for the future".

Earlier, the appointment of Mr Philippe to the top job in his government ticked several boxes for Mr Macron, at 39 France's youngest president, who took power on Sunday.

Mr Philippe's age reinforced the generational shift in France's corridors of power and the image of youthful vigour that Mr Macron is cultivating.

He is also relatively unknown to voters, fulfilling Mr Macron's campaign promise to repopulate French politics with new faces.

Mr Philippe is the mayor of the Normandy port of Le Havre, a trained lawyer and an author of political thrillers.

His appointment marks a milestone in the rebuilding of France's political landscape, which has been ignited by the election of Mr Macron - the first president of modern France not from the country's mainstream left or right parties.

Mr Philippe is a member of the mainstream-right Republicans party and could possibly attract other Republicans to Mr Macron's cause, as the centrist president works to piece together a majority in parliament to pass his promised economic reforms.

Irish Independent

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