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Merkel, Macron back UK on spy death, plan EU's future

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Friends reunited: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron during their meeting on Friday REUTERS/Charles Platiau

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor on Friday condemned "Russian interference" over a nerve gas attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK nearly two weeks ago. They were speaking after meeting to plan a "clear, ambitious" roadmap for the future of the European Union and the eurozone.


The pair expressed the "solidarity of allies" with the British government, which is locked in diplomatic confrontation with the Kremlin over the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the British city of Salisbury.

"We condemn this Russian interference as everything leads us to believe that it was indeed Russia" that was behind, Macron said at a press conference with Merkel on Friday evening.

Merkel added that it was still necessary to work out the most appropriate reaction.

EU reform plan

The main purpose of their meeting was to agree on a plan to "refound" the European Union and the eurozone, a project that has been on hold for nearly six months while Merkel struggled to convince Germany's Social Democrats to join a coalition that would keep her in power.

The Paris visit was her first foreign trip since she sealed that deal.

"We do not always have the same opinions at first but France and Germany have accomplished a lot together in the past," she said on Friday evening, adding that "It is more necessary than ever that Europe be united in a geopolitical situation in which multilateralism is under pressure."

The pair hope to have a common plan ready for the 28-29 June European Council meeting and, with four years before both leaders face new national elections, they believe they can work in a "more fruitful atmosphere" than in the last few months.

The plan should cover "the eurozone, migration policy, defence, trade, research, education and large areas that we have been able to define", Macron said.

Merkel, who lost some support in last year's election because of her migration policy, stressed the need for a common asylum policy and called for the "durable stabilisation of the euro and improvement of international competitivity".

EU agreement uncertain

But there are no guarantees that Germany will back all his proposals, which include a eurozone finance minister and investment fund.

The two leaders are to meet again in April.

And, although Macron asserted that "for many years Europe has expected the Franco-German couple advances and makes proposals", noses already appear to be out of joint over the EU's two strongest economies appearing to take the future of the bloc into their own hands.

"Of course the German government can meet the French government without us being there," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Germany's Spiegel magazine. "But that doesn't mean that we and other EU countries agree with everything the Germans and French agree on. We won't just nod through everything."