Merkel and Blair warm to each other at first talks

25th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

25 November 2005, LONDON - Germany's new Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday pledged to strengthen relations with Britain and said that only a united Europe could face the challenges of a globalized world.

25 November 2005

LONDON - Germany's new Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday pledged to strengthen relations with Britain and said that only a united Europe could face the challenges of a globalized world.

Merkel, speaking after her first meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair since she was sworn in as Chancellor on Tuesday, said her government, while maintaining traditionally close relations with France, also wanted to have "close and friendly" ties with Britain.

Traditionally good relations with France were "not directed against" Britain, Merkel stressed. She did not believe that only the larger countries should "call the tune" in Europe, she added.

"We must defend our interests together, this does not happen without Britain, at least not with me", Merkel said.

As a sign of their mutual desire to deepen relations, Merkel and Blair said they would revive regular six-monthly bilateral British-German consultations, which were suspended in 1998.

The two leaders, who are both in their early 50's, clearly warmed to each other during their one-and-a-half hour talks, which followed visits by Merkel to Paris and Brussels Wednesday.

"I believe that over time we can come to a good and close working relationship", said Blair, who showed himself to be in a relaxed mood after the talks, and seemed to be constantly beaming at his new female German counterpart.

Merkel said she and Blair were determined to "get Europe to work again" and to overcome the present crisis over the European Union (E.U.) budget.

She had found Blair "determined" to overcome the crisis, said Merkel, adding that she would make her contribution to solving the problem as best she could.

Merkel, revealing a diplomatic side, avoided committing herself on where she stood over the vexed question of the British budget rebate of close to 5 billion euros (5.9 billion dollars).

These were "complex and difficult" issues, she said, adding: "I have learnt from my talks in Paris and London that no one government must ask too much from another."

Both leaders stressed the need for a 25-nation Europe to face together the challenges posed by globalization.

They agreed that only by keeping their economies strong could Britain and Germany, as well as other industrialised nations, continue to provide a social welfare network for their citizens.

Blair, whose relations with Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, had soured considerably over the Iraq war, was clearly relieved at having a new partner in government in Berlin.

He told Merkel: "You have taken on a tremendous responsibility. I wish you great success for your country".

DPA

Subject: German news

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