Chirac, Schroeder in chancellor’s hometown for talks

7th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, March 7 (AFP) - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder welcomes French President Jacques Chirac to his hometown of Blomberg, western Germany on Monday for informal talks on key European Union issues.

BERLIN, March 7 (AFP) - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder welcomes French President Jacques Chirac to his hometown of Blomberg, western Germany on Monday for informal talks on key European Union issues.

The two leaders will discuss the EU Stability and Growth Pact, which both countries have criticised for lacking flexibility, and the process of ratifying the bloc's proposed constitutional treaty.

Germany and France have been threatened with punitive measures for allowing their deficits to exceed EU guidelines. Under the pact, eurozone countries are not allowed to run public deficits in excess of 3.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

But Berlin has argued, as recently as last week, that the 3.0-percent criterion alone "does not reflect the complexity of economic policy".

Schroeder and Chirac's talks, their 21st informal meeting, come as the Ecofin council of finance ministers meets on Monday and Tuesday, ahead of a European Council meeting on March 22-23.

Also high on the agenda is the EU constitutional treaty, which is aimed at streamlining the bloc's decision-making processes and institutions since it enlarged to 25 member nations last May.

French people have been called to ratify the treaty in a referendum on May 29, while in Germany the text will be adopted by both house of parliament.

The German assembly began the ratification process on February 18.

The press here has reported that the government in Berlin has arranged with France to conclude the process before the referendum to give the treaty a psychological boost just as the French prepare to vote on it.

Other issues to be discussed during their working lunch, also attended by both countries' foreign ministers, are preparations for another joint sitting of their cabinets to take place in France next month.

Schroeder is also expected to give an account of his trip last week to the Gulf region, and the leaders are likely to talk about developments in the Middle East, in particular in Lebanon and Syria.

While the two have been at pains to display the strength of their ties, this meeting in the chancellor's home town is a new landmark in their relations.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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