Berlin – Europe is at a crossroads with its joint sovereignty being put to the test by the current world order, French President Emmanuel Macron said on meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday.
Future of the EU at the focus
“We are living in a moment during the European adventure that is really unique,” he said, pointing to trade challenges and upheavals in technology and the climate.
The future direction of the EU was at the focus of the talks between bloc’s two remaining heavyweights, with Britain on the way out.
Macron’s aim in to bring the bloc’s largest economy on board with his economic reform plans.
Germany and France have pledged to deliver a reform road map in time for an EU summit in June set to tackle key problems. But there are divisions within Merkel’s recently formed government over Macron’s ideas.
Merkel said that despite differences between Berlin and Paris in a few areas of proposed reforms to the European Union, the two sides would be able to work out a compromise by the middle of the year.
Financial solidarity within the eurozone
“We need an open debate and at the end of the day an ability to compromise,” she said.
Answering the central questions of the citizens of Europe regarding global challenges was essential, the veteran German leader said in apparent allusion to the rise of populist politicians.
The French president is seeking more financial solidarity within the eurozone, including a joint budget, a fund to protect against economic shocks and a eurozone finance minister, although the latter has proven particularly controversial.
Paris is also pressing for completion of the eurozone’s banking union. Merkel has agreed that this is a priority, while stressing that risk must be reduced in the banking sector before taking further steps towards collective deposit insurance.
Agreement between Paris and Berlin is more likely on plans to tax multinational internet giants and the establishment of an EU-wide office for asylum seekers. However, these issues could run into opposition from other European capitals.
Looming over the EU reform efforts are pending negotiations on the bloc’s next long-term budget. The traditionally fraught process will be further complicated this time around by the need to fill the hole in finances after major contributor Britain leaves the bloc.