BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron laid out their road map for the EU and the eurozone in Berlin on Monday during Macron’s first international trip as leader of France.
Several hundred members of the pro-EU group Pulse of Europe demonstrated in front of the chancellery ahead of the talks, waving EU flags and banners reading “In the name of friendship” after Macron was received with military honours.
The talks covered some surprising ground as the two leaders declared themselves prepared to rip up existing EU treaties, should the need arise.
“We can give a new dynamic to the masses,” Merkel said.
“If we can say why, what for, what the sense is behind it, Germany would definitely be ready to do that,” Merkel said.
Macron echoed Merkel’s stance on EU reforms: “There is absolutely no taboo for us here.”
Germany and France – two economic powerhouses in the 28-member European Union – have traditionally been seen as the driving force behind European integration, and Macron is keen to act on a campaign promise to reform and strengthen the bloc.
What was out of the question, Macron said, was a joint bond issued by eurozone countries to help some of its weaker members.
“I have never asked for Eurobonds,” Macron said. “I am not a promoter of the mutualizaion of past debts. That leads to a policy of irresponsibility.”
The French president instead made the case for a new investment offensive in the eurozone.
“We must bring in fresh money,” Macron said.
The newly-inaugurated French leader also pledged “far-reaching reforms” in his own country during his trip. After the talks, he stressed that the economic and social reforms he planned were also important for Europe to move forward.
Macron pledged that his new government would devote itself to tackling the problem of mass unemployment, something France has struggled with over the past 30 years.
Faced with the march of right-wing populism, France and Germany had reached a “historic moment” that required the two countries to work more closely together, Macron said.
Macron himself saw off the far-right, in the form of anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen in the recent French presidential election, while calling for a closer partnership with Germany.
Macron’s visit comes on the heels of a major weekend victory for Merkel’s conservative CDU party in the bellwether state of North Rhine Westphalia, which gave her a boost in political momentum ahead of Germany’s national poll in September.
The chancellor has said she expects “much overlap” with Macron during the visit, which comes hours after Macron named the centre-right mayor of Le Havre, Edouard Philippe, as his prime minister. – DPA