German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to arrive in Paris on Friday enthusiastic about talks with French President Emmanuel Macron but at odds with him over the pace and scope of reforms to the euro zone project they both cherish.
Merkel, who finally took charge of her new “grand coalition” on Wednesday after nearly six months of talks, wants to fulfil the incoming government’s pledge to deliver a “New Start for Europe” in close cooperation with France.
Macron has waited impatiently for the Germans to form a government and is itching to press ahead with bold reforms to the euro zone, eager to make a start before Brexit and European Parliament elections in 2019 clog up the wheels of EU business.
“I am very pleased that France is coming forward very actively on the European stage again and that Emmanuel Macron is making proposals,” Merkel told broadcaster ZDF on Wednesday.
The chancellor, embarking on her fourth term in office, knows that Macron, in his first term, needs to succeed with his European reform drive, well aware that a large proportion of France’s electorate remains susceptible to far-right and far-left populists sceptical about the EU.
Merkel too wants to proof the euro zone against a repeat of the crisis that threatened the single currency project just a few years ago, but she faces a tricky balancing act at home.
Members of her conservative bloc are more reluctant than their centre-left Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners about European integration, and allergic to the idea of pooling - or mutualising - risks and debts with other countries, reports Reuters.
The differences played out earlier this week at a meeting of euro zone finance ministers, at which clear differences arose between French and German officials on completing a European banking union.
Despite the European Central Bank saying risks for banks have already been reduced enough for a European Union-wide deposit guarantee scheme, Germany wants other European countries to do more first to clean up their banks.
Merkel said on Wednesday Germany would go ahead with the banking union, even if it involved tough discussions.