Macron hails 'convergence of views' in first meeting with Scholz

AFP , Friday 10 Dec 2021

French President Emmanuel Macron hailed Friday a "convergence of views" with the new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during their first meeting as leaders in Paris.

Macron   Scholz
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) speaks with President Emmanuel Macron (R) after their meeting at the Elysee Palace, in Paris on December 10, 2021. AFP

Addressing Scholz as "dear Olaf" and using the informal "tu" pronoun in French, Macron said he had seen "a convergence of views, a desire to have our countries work together, and a firm and determined belief in Europe, which I knew already, which we will need in the months and years ahead."

Macron said the visit was "a very important moment to build solid foundations for cooperation between our countries."

The two men discussed their vision for the future of the European Union, as well as tensions between Ukraine and Russia, EU-bound migrants in Belarus, and ties with China and the African continent, Macron said.

Scholz, who will also stop in Brussels at the headquarters of the EU and NATO on Friday, took over from Angela Merkel on Wednesday at the end of her 16 years in power.

The centrist Social Democrat heads a disparate new coalition of ecologist Greens and business-friendly Free Democrats, but their joint commitment to strengthening Europe's "strategic sovereignty" has raised hopes in Paris.

He gave a cautious answer when asked if he was prepared to rethink EU budget rules that restrict the deficits that governments are allowed to run in normal economic times, something that Macron has proposed.

Germany has historically been a fiscal conservative and in favour of EU members trying to balance their books.

"We are talking about maintaining this growth which has been spurred by the recovery fund," Scholz said, referring to a historic rescue fund agreed by the EU last year to help stave off a Covid-related recession.

"We need to at the same time work on the solidity of our finances. There is not a contradiction," he said.

Macron laid out an ambitious agenda Thursday for a "Europe that is powerful in the world" during France's time as the rotating president of the 27-member Council of the European Union in the first half of next year.

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