German leaders court migrants from Russia ahead of election

Jay Anderson
May 18, 2017

"The French agenda will be a reform agenda", Macron said at a joint press conference with Merkel in Berlin following his first high-level talks since becoming head of state.

Merkel, however, seemed keen to give Macron's proposals consideration.

The French President also called for a "less bureaucratic" European Union that "better protects" its citizens, and he categorically ruled out the so-called "eurobonds " n a proposal launched during the Eurozone crisis that would consist of combining debts among countries sharing the common currency, something to which Berlin is vehemently opposed.

Ahead of his visit, Macron's ideas on reforming the eurozone - including giving it a separate budget and minister, moves that would require treaty change - had sparked scepticism in Berlin.

"In the past, the subject of treaty change was a French taboo". "Both sides need to change in order for this relationship to be much more balanced in the future, and that is a learning process on the German side because for too long we have been very arrogant vis-à-vis France", says Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin. "Macron!" and waving European flags.

Merkel's approach underlined her view that it was crucial not only for France, but for Germany, to help Macron succeed-a point that she has repeatedly stressed.

The Christian Social Union, Merkel's allies in Bavaria, and the nationalist Alternative for Germany party have sought to tap conservative sentiment among this group with online ads and posters in Russian.

"I am not a promoter of metalizing of old debt" within the eurozone, said Macron after meeting Merkel, adding however that the joint financing of future projects should be considered. "I have never favored mutualizing existing debt".

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Macron needs a majority to push through his ambitious plans to loosen France's strict labour laws, boost entrepreneurship and reduce class sizes in tough neighbourhoods.

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.

He also tried to show solidarity with Germany on the migrant crisis - an issue on which Merkel has pressed for European Union countries to work together - by saying that a common asylum policy was one area where Paris could cooperate with Berlin.

Macron said a reconstruction of the bloc was "the only reaction" to fight populism adding: "We need more pragmatism, less bureaucracy and a Europe that protects our citizens", he said.

The German leader also said that she and Macron have an interest in moving forward with the establishment of a common asylum system within the EU and on the Defence Union.

Emmanuel Macron has won a resounding victory in the French presidential election but the focus will shift immediately to whether he can govern the country without the support of a traditional party.

The two leaders, meeting in Berlin the day after Macron's inauguration, pledged to create a new "road map" for medium-term cooperation and reviving the EU.

Other reports by BadHub

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