Macron, Merkel unite on eurozone reforms and migration
French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday won German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s support for reforms aimed at bolstering the eurozone against crises, and backed the under-pressure German leader on EU migration policy.
The leaders released a joint statement after holding Cabinet discussions in Germany to find common ground on key issues ahead of an EU summit scheduled for June 28-29.
Merkel accepted Macron’s call for a budget for the bloc, though its size remains vague and its creation could still face resistance from other members.
The eurozone budget will have its own governance structure, and be a “real budget with annual revenues and spending,” Macron said, adding that Paris and Berlin hoped to have it in place by 2021. It will fund investments in the bloc and go towards helping poorer members.
The French president would not be drawn into giving a figure for the budget, saying its size would be discussed with other members of the 19-member eurozone. How it would be funded was also up for discussion, said Merkel, suggesting that it could involve regular transfers made by individual countries, a tax on financial transactions or funds from the EU.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron welcome European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to the European Round Table of Industrialists, June 19, 2018, near Gransee, Germany. /VCG Photo
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called the plans “very well balanced.”
Macron has an uphill struggle to convince the other members to sign off on the budget, however. In Brussels, a high-ranking official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP: “Some countries won’t be happy” about the plan.
Berlin and Paris are also seeking to expand the remit of European Stability Mechanism, aiming to turn it into a European version of the International Monetary Fund that could provide emergency loans to countries that fall victim to crises not linked to their debt levels.
Other reform proposals include a plan to harmonize corporate taxes within the bloc, as well as a target of reaching an EU agreement on a digital tax by the end of 2018.
Merkel and migration
Merkel, under pressure from her coalition partners the Christian Social Union over migration, was given the support of France in her bid to find an EU solution that would answer the concerns of interior minister Horst Seehofer.
Seehofer on Monday gave Merkel a two-week ultimatum to strike a deal, threatening he would otherwise defy her and shutter German borders to some migrants, a move that would likely end their coalition.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel address the media during German-French consultations, June 19, 2018, near Gransee, Germany. /VCG Photo
Backing Merkel on the make-or-break migrant issue, Macron said France and Germany would seek agreements to ensure newcomers whose details were already in EU databases “can be taken back as quickly as possible to the country where they were registered.”
Merkel and Macron both face harsh opposition from nationalist and rightwing populist forces at home, and from the governments of Italy, Austria and several eastern European countries.
Both vowed steps to better protect the EU’s external borders by boosting the Frontex agency, fighting human traffickers and creating a fairer system of burden-sharing within the bloc.
‘Moment of truth’
Merkel and Macron have stressed that, as US President Donald Trump challenges the EU with a trade war as well as on security, immigration and climate policy, the bloc must learn to stand its ground on the world stage.
Macron said Europe, with its rise in populist right-wing forces, faces “a moment of truth” and must seek common ground on migration as well as economic, political, financial, environmental and defense issues.
He said the EU now faced a “civilizational choice” between those who would allow Europe to “unravel” and “those who believe, as we do, that we can move Europe forward by making it both more sovereign and united.”