Emmanuel Macron

Macron calls on Merkel to join forces to revive Europe through reforms

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 October, 2017, 3:45am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 October, 2017, 3:45am

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday pleaded his case for ambitious European reforms, appealing to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to join forces with him and enter the debate.

Speaking in Frankfurt, where he opened the German city’s annual book fair alongside Merkel, Macron also stressed the importance of culture in the “redefining” of Europe.

“There is no Europe without culture,” he told the audience, highlighting the crucial role language, educational exchanges and the arts have to play in combating “the languor” gripping the continent.

Merkel for her part praised the “close friendship and solidarity” between the neighbours.

“History shows that in order to further develop Europe, we need impulses from Germany and France,” she said.

But she stayed vague on how far she backed her French counterpart’s plans for an overhaul of the European project.

In an earlier address to university students in the western German city, Macron reiterated his desire for deeper euro zone integration, including his more contentious calls for a common budget and finance minister.

“If we are ready for common policies on security, digital infrastructure, energy, migration, the fight against terrorism, then who can explain to me why we can’t have a common euro zone budget?” Macron said.

He added that he believed European leaders had “one year” to lay out their vision of the bloc’s future in the run-up to the 2019 European Parliament elections.

“I think we need to start the debate, we have a year to clarify and draw up a common road map.

“This is what I would like to come and do in Germany on several occasions and what I invite the chancellor to come to France and do as well,” Macron said.

Macron offers vision for European renewal and wants euro zone to have its own budget

Merkel has so far responded cautiously to Macron’s grand vision for a more closely integrated Europe, which he first outlined in a landmark speech last month at the Sorbonne university in Paris.

The issue of a common euro zone budget is especially controversial in Germany, the biggest EU economy, which fears it will lead to a pooling of national debt with Berlin picking up the tab for poorer member states.

In an interview set to appear in German media on Wednesday, Merkel said again she needed more time to study his proposals and reiterated Germany’s stance on the debt issue.

“With me, there will be no pooling of national debt,” she told the RND regional media group.

Macron was in Germany to formally inaugurate the October 11-15 Frankfurt Book Fair, where more than 7,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries are expected and France is this year’s guest of honour.

Merkel praised her French counterpart’s emphasis on the long-standing bonds between their countries, saying European leaders “have to do more” to teach young people about the value of culture and literature.

Merkel’s non-committal stance on Macron’s pitch for closer euro zone cooperation comes as the chancellor is heading into thorny coalition talks with two smaller parties after winning a difficult victory in elections last month.

One of the potential partners is the liberal and pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), which views Macron’s proposals sceptically and opposes any idea of German taxpayers’ money flowing to weaker EU economies.