Segolene Royal to meet Angela Merkel

6th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, March 6, 2007 (AFP) - French Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal was to hold talks here on Tuesday with Angela Merkel, Germany's first woman chancellor, which are expected to focus on efforts to revive the ailing European constitution.

BERLIN, March 6, 2007 (AFP) - French Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal was to hold talks here on Tuesday with Angela Merkel, Germany's first woman chancellor, which are expected to focus on efforts to revive the ailing European constitution.

As Royal, who is bidding to become France's first woman president, and the conservative Merkel meet for the first time just weeks before the elections, they are likely to find they differ on a number of issues.

They are at odds over the constitution, which was rejected by French voters in a referendum in 2005 but passed with a clear majority by the German parliament.

Royal said in France's Le Monde newspaper on Monday that she would call for a rewrite to make the treaty acceptable to French voters and suggested it be put to a referendum before elections for the European parliament in June 2009.

"Rather than talk of a constitution, let's call it a treaty," she suggested, calling for a "review" of the draft's contested Part III, which was attacked in France for appearing to set in stone the rules of free market economics.

Instead, Royal called for a chapter on "new policies, social progress, public services and the environment" that could pave the way for new European rights, such as to healthcare or a decent income.

In contrast, Merkel has said that Germany, the current head of the European Union, wants to retain as much of the existing constitution as possible, despite its rejection by French and Dutch voters.

The chancellor has said Europe would be making a "historic mistake" if the constitution were not adopted by all 27 members of the EU by the 2009 elections.

Royal, who would lose to the right-leaning Nicolas Sarkozy in a run-off according to the latest polls, will be hoping to find some common ground with Merkel over the crisis at European aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

France and Germany are the two biggest shareholders in Airbus, which announced last week it was cutting 10,000 jobs -- including 4,300 in France and 3,700 in Germany -- as part of a rescue plan.

In the wake of the announcement, Royal has called for France to raise its stake in Airbus and to enable French regions to acquire a holding in the crisis-hit plane manufacturer.

Royal held a meeting with German Vice-Chancellor Franz Muentefering on Tuesday before going on to the chancellery.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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