Merkel, Sarkozy resolve dispute over car emissions
Breakthrough in emission limits comes as a surprise as both parties had seemed unwilling to back down their stands as recent as last week.10 June 2008
STRAUBING - France and Germany reached a deal Monday resolving their months-long dispute on EU-wide plans to reduce car emissions, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
"We have made an important breakthrough on this subject where initially our positions were very, very far apart," Merkel said at a Franco-German summit in the southern German town of Straubing.
"I am very happy to be able to say that we both support the EU goal of 120 grams per kilometre on all new EU cars by 2012."
The agreement came as a surprise after Berlin warned late last week that no settlement was expected in Straubing and described talks on the emissions limit as "difficult and complicated in detail."
The German government had strongly opposed the plans as vehicles made by cornerstone German firms like BMW, Daimler and Porsche tend to be larger, luxury vehicles with greater emissions.
France however backs the legislation as leading French carmakers such as Peugeot and Renault tend to build smaller cars that pollute less.
Merkel said she had agreed with Sarkozy here that the EU proposal would apply from 2012 to all new cars produced, but stressed that it would only gradually be enforced with regard to existing models.
She added however that the German and French delegations were considering proposing to fellow European states that they should be more ambitious still and eventually aim to limit emissions to between 95 and 110 grams per kilometre.
"The details will still have to be worked out by our environmental ministers but we believe that this is giant step forward."
Merkel and Sarkozy hailed the agreement as proof that Germany and France can cooperate for the good of Europe, despite frequent disagreements.
"We have proven again that France and Germany can work together. We have agreed to work together," the chancellor said.
She had earlier pledged to give France her fulsome backing France when it takes over the rotating EU presidency in July.
"We are going to support France during its presidency of the EU."
In keeping with that pledge, French and German ministers said here they have agreed to cooperate on immigration - an issue on which France plans to propose a sweeping new EU pact once it takes over the presidency.
The two sides said they would work together more closely to fight illegal immigration and lobby other EU members to refrain from giving residency status collectively to large groups of illegal immigrants.
The summit also focused on energy and defence issues.
In May, Merkel reacted coolly to a proposal by Sarkozy to cap value-added tax on oil across the European Union to help countries deal with the soaring oil price.
"I support the proposal that we act together," she had said. "But it of course depends on the exact measures being mooted."
The two leaders have had a stormy relationship since Sarkozy took office in 2007 and notably clashed over his proposal for a union of Mediterranean nations.
Merkel saw it as a bid to sideline Berlin and Sarkozy finally promised to open it to all European nations. But observers say a summit on the project in July will show whether the compromise is holding.
On Monday, they made a show of unity at their last summit before France assumes the EU presidency on 1 July.
"France has come to tell you that we need Germany," Sarkozy said.
He praised Merkel as the woman who pulled the European Union out of its constitutional crisis and helped to deliver the Lisbon Treaty on a new organisational framework for the 27-nation bloc.
"When Europe was deadlocked, it was Germany and Madame Merkel that unblocked the situation."
[AFP / Expatica]