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Merkel, Macron to discuss EU reforms push

A file picture of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The two will meet in Paris on Friday to discuss key eurozone reforms. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel will be in Paris on Friday to hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is eager to push ahead with overhauls of EU institutions.

Macron has called for a major reform drive to reinvigorate the European Union with proposals that include a common eurozone finance minister and budget.

Merkel’s decision to make a quick visit to Paris after securing her fourth term as Chancellor, signals that both leaders are anxious to get the “Franco-German motor” back up and running, analysts say.

Ahead of their meeting, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire will host a working lunch with his German counterpart Olaf Scholz, aimed at laying the groundwork for a eurozone summit next week.

“Merkel is fully aware that Macron has been waiting for a response on his reform projects for the EU, and more specifically the eurozone,” said Sabine von Oppeln, a political scientist at the Free University of Berlin.

“Going immediately to France is a sign that she takes his proposals very seriously,” she said.

But finding common ground is likely to prove elusive on several key issues, even though the two want to project a sense that EU reform is moving forward.

Sebastien Maillard of the Jacques Delors Institute said a new push to confront the migrant crisis that has rocked the continent, and more effective taxation of digital giants  are among the issues where France and Germany can reach a shared position.

They are also likely to voice a spirited defence of the rule of law, a response to the populist governments in Poland, Hungary and others in Eastern Europe which have repeatedly clashed with Brussels.

The two leaders must also contend with spiralling tensions with Moscow, which Britain and its allies have blamed for a poison attack on a former Russian double agent in southwest England.

Dutch PM warns against dictating EU reforms

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has cautioned Berlin and Paris not to try to push through their ambitious EU reform plans against the will of other member states.

Rutte, told German news weekly Der Spiegel that countries would not just “nod along” to French-German proposals to shake up the bloc, particularly the eurozone.

“We have freedom of movement in the EU, and of course the German government can meet the French government without us being there,” Rutte told Spiegel in an interview.

“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 along to everything.”

Macron has called for a major reform drive to reinvigorate the European Union and deepen eurozone cooperation to respond to rising populist challenges on the continent.

While Merkel has cautiously welcomed his ideas, Rutte is firmly opposed to many of Macron's plans – especially his proposal of a common eurozone finance minister and budget.

Rutte also objects to raising his country's contributions to the EU's budget from 2020 to plug a multi-billion-euro hole left by Brexit Britain and has called for spending cuts instead.

- with AFP