France, Germany, call off finance talks amid row reports

27th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

France and Germany called off a second top-level meeting in less than a week, fuelling suggestions of a diplomatic spat over French plans for a new Mediterranean Union

   PARIS, Feb 27, 2008 - France and Germany called off a second
top-level meeting in less than a week Tuesday, fuelling suggestions of a
diplomatic spat over French plans for a new Mediterranean Union that would
exclude Berlin.
   Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and her German counterpart Peer
Steinbrueck cancelled a twice-yearly meeting planned for Tuesday in Paris with
the heads of both central banks, with Lagarde's staff citing scheduling
reasons.
   Both Paris and Berlin gave the same reason for the decision last week to
postpone a March 3 summit between President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor
Angela Merkel, now pushed back to June 9.
   Sarkozy's office has denied any link to disagreements over his plans for a
Mediterranean Union, stressing that both leaders would still meet for working
talks on March 3 in the north German city of Hanover.
   But German newspaper Die Welt claimed the talks were called off after
Merkel refused to write a joint op-ed piece with Sarkozy about the
Mediterranean Union, a project Berlin fears could divide the European Union.
   French foreign ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani admitted on Tuesday
the decision to push back the summit had sparked "controversy."
   "It's true there is a certain amount of controversy brewing over the March
3 meeting," she said, adding that "there are still some subjects in need of
clarification."
   She said Merkel and Sarkozy would "talk, in full confidence, of all
subjects" on March 3, adding that "the Franco-German relationship is the
pillar of what is happening in the European Union, partly because we are not
always in agreement about everything."
   But she also repeated that the Mediterranean Union would be "a priority for
our presidency."
   "We have no reason to apologise. I have no doubt that we will reach an
agreement on the matter."
   Sarkozy's proposal for the union grouping countries of the Mediterranean
rim that is to be set in motion at a Paris summit in July, when France takes
over the rotating presidency of the European Union.
   Presented as a bridge between Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the
Mediterranean Union has also been seen as an alternative to full Turkish
membership of the European Union -- opposed by both Merkel and Sarkozy.

AFP 

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