Merkel reassures Chirac onFranco-German EU axis

19th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 19 (AFP) - The head of Germany's opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel reassured French President Jacques Chirac Tuesday that the Franco-German partnership will remain the "engine" of the European Union if she is elected chancellor later this year.

PARIS, July 19 (AFP) - The head of Germany's opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel reassured French President Jacques Chirac Tuesday that the Franco-German partnership will remain the "engine" of the European Union if she is elected chancellor later this year.

Merkel, 51, was in Paris for talks with French leaders ahead of elections in Germany -- probably in September -- in which she is widely tipped as winner.

With many German commentators predicting that the Paris-Berlin axis will be seriously weakened if Merkel replaces Social Democrat Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder -- a close ally of Chirac -- the CDU leader made clear that she regards the relationship as indispensable.

"Every initiative which is taken must be open to all the countries in Europe. But France and Germany must be the engine for these initiatives ... European construction depends very largely on Franco-German relations," she said after a 90 minute meeting at the Elysee palace.

"We want a political Europe -- but above all a Europe which solves the problems of men and women, the problems of unemployment, the economy, growth and innovation, and which makes Europe one of globalisation's winners," she said.

Chirac said that "Germany and France share an ambition for a political Europe which responds to the expectations of its citizens and asserts itself in a globalised world," his spokesman reported.

Just before receiving Merkel, Chirac held a telephone conversation with Schroeder on proposals for reform of the United Nations Security Council, the spokesman said.

Merkel went on to see Dominique de Villepin -- Chirac's nominee as prime minister who took over following the defeat of the EU constitution in May -- and then Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister and head of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) who is a strong contender to be France's next president after elections in 2007.

The CDU leader is widely seen as holding similar reformist views to those of Sarkozy -- leading to speculation about a reshaping of the EU if the two come to power.

Both politicians have made clear their admiration for the overhaul of the British economy carried out under Margaret Thatcher and sustained by Tony Blair, and the government in London is hopeful that their election could usher in moves to market-friendly reforms in Europe.

Merkel and Sarkozy also both oppose Turkish membership of the European Union -- even though accession talks with Ankara are supposed to start later this year under Blair's EU presidency -- and support a less confrontational relationship with Washington.

According to a CDU spokesman quoted in Le Figaro newspaper, Merkel -- who was brought up in Communist East Germany -- would bring to an end the Paris-Berlin-Moscow that was pushed by Chirac and Schroeder to oppose the US-led invasion of Iraq.

In recent interviews she has also said that while she believes in the importance of the Franco-German alliance, it should take greater account of the interests of smaller member states.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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