Ahead of their meeting on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron's "European passion," but said it's too early to evaluate his ideas. Macron offered an ambitious agenda to remake the EU, financially, technologically and militarily.
Merkel's spokesman said on Wednesday that the chancellor would consider Macron's proposals for the EU "with an open mind," but added that she could not yet comment on the details of the French president's speech. Steffen Seibert said Merkel, who won a fourth term in Sunday's elections, looked forward to discussing ways to improve the workings of the bloc with Macron and other EU partners at Thursday's EU summit.
"The chancellor welcomes the fact that the French president spoke with so much verve, with so much European passion, and that he presented a lot of substance for the upcoming and essential debate about the future of Europe," Seibert said. However, it remains "too early for a detailed assessment."
Merkel's endorsement would give a boost to Macron's agenda, which includes appointing a eurozone finance minister and giving the currency union a budget and parliament independent of the EU's legislature.
But Macron's plans received a blow after the shock result of Germany's elections on Sunday, when the anti-immigration, euroskeptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) emerged as the parliament's third-largest party. Merkel must now try to form a government likely to include the laissez-faire Free Democrats, whose leader, Christian Lindner, considers Macron's call for a eurozone budget a "red line."
'Our guiding principle'
Ahead of his speech, Macron spoke twice with Merkel and conversed with other EU leaders and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker — who opposes a separate eurozone budget and parliament.
Merkel has not ruled out appointing a eurozone finance minister, but Seibert told reporters on Wednesday, "The question remains: What would he do, what can he do, what is he responsible for?"
Seibert said Macron, Merkel and 26 other leaders would have a chance to exchange views this week at an EU summit on the digital age, starting Thursday in Estonia. He said Merkel maintained her "absolutely pro-European orientation" and "this fundamental conviction will not change."
Macron, a former economy minister, took power as France's president in May, promising to strengthen the eurozone and deepen EU integration as the bloc prepares for Britain's departure. He has already begun to undertake far-reaching reforms in France.
mkg/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)