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Macron meets Austria's new leader Sebastian Kurz

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at the Elysee Palace in Paris on 12 January, 2018. Reuters/BenoƮt Tessier

French President Emmanuel Macron is holding talks Friday with the Austrian Chancellor. Kurz's visit to Paris is one of his first abroad since becoming the world's youngest leader at 31. After elections in December, Kurz formed a coalition with far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ).

Macron's plans for strenghtening the European Union (EU) received a boost in Berlin on Friday where conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel sealed a breakthrough deal with the Social Democrats (SPD) and promised a "fresh start in Europe".

The agreement could open the door for changes to the eurozone which the French president has been pushing for since his election in May. Progress however will also depend on sceptics like Kurz.

"Europe should concentrate on the essential questions, such as defence and security policy, and reinforce its action on those fronts," Kurz told the Figaro newspaper on Friday.

Underlining his mistrust of further federalism in the eurozone or the wider 28-member EU bloc, Kurz added that subjects "of lesser importance" should be left to national and regional governments.

He agreed on the need to reform the eurozone, but told the right-wing newspaper that the most important thing was "to respect existing rules" on fiscal discipline -- which France has consistently broken over the last decade.

That view contrasts with the line taken by pro-EU Macron, who is pushing for a common budget for the eurozone and a common finance minister.

Austria's centrist Der Standard newspaper said that by visiting France before Germany Kurz aimed to cast himself as a "constructive co-builder of a stronger Europe" alongside Macron.

The Austrian Chancellor is also preparing his country for the presidency of the European Council next July.

- with AFP