Hollande and Merkel plan EU 'revival' this WEEK
The French and German leaders will in Paris on Wednesday (19 February) discuss what France is calling “the revival of Europe.”
French President Francois Hollande has announced that his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ministers will launch three projects: harmonisation of French and German corporate tax; the creation of a joint company, on the model of aeronautic firm Airbus, specialising in renewable energy; and “a Franco-German partnership for European defence.”
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He said in a speech last month the initiatives will open a new chapter in European politics after the economic crisis.
Harking back to the idea of France and Germany as the engine of EU policy-making, he added that Wednesday’s summit will also “establish a basic principle: namely, that our governments are to collaborate from an early stage on all large projects.”
“Initiatives for Europe must first be agreed between France and Germany,” he said. “This Franco-German momentum will enable us … to revitalise the European ideal.”
Despite Hollande’s rhetoric, the balance of power between France and Germany has shifted in recent years.
France has lost its triple-A rating and is struggling with high unemployment and low growth, while the German economy is relatively strong. Hollande’s personal authority is also at an all-time low. His approval rating is just 16 percent, the worst in history for a French leader, while Merkel was re-elected for a third term last year.
Meanwhile, new items have crept onto Wednesday’s agenda.
French diplomats say Hollande is to complain about European Commission plans to authorise cultivation of genetically-modified maize and to ask about extra German personnel for an EU military operation in Mali.
For her part, Merkel wants to talk about creating new data safeguards for European internet users in the wake of the US spy scandal.
The two leaders, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, will on Wednesday also meet with the CEOs of major European firms in the so-called European Round Table club.
Airports and cities
Back in Brussels, the commission will on Thursday unveil draft rules for state aid to airports and, on Monday and Tuesday, meet with mayors of 16 leading cities to discuss better funding for urban projects.
Eurozone and EU finance ministers will on Monday and Tuesday discuss the future of the Greek bailout and plans for a common EU fund to wind up failed banks.
In the European Parliament, MEPs and administrative affairs commissioner Marios Sefcovic are on Monday meeting the organisers of the first-ever citizens’ petition to hit the 1 million signatures mark, prompting consideration of a new EU initiative, which, in this case, concerns regulation of water resources.
The economic affairs and civil liberties committees will on Thursday vote on a bill to curb money-laundering in EU banks.
Civil liberties MEPs will the same day vote on how the EU border control agency, Frontex, should treat migrants rescued at sea.
Brussels will this week also host new Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who has promised to end an era of euroscepticism in Czech politics, and Israeli economy minister Naftali Bennet.
Israeli hard man
The hard-right Bennet last week attacked the head of the European Parliament for his remarks criticising Palestinians’ lack of access to water. He will be meeting the commissioner in charge of industry, Antonio Tajani, on Wednesday amid recent EU restrictions on grants for projects in occupied territories.
Further afield, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton will on Tuesday in Vienna chair a round of talks with world powers and Iran in search of a permanent accord on Iran’s nuclear programme.
Her colleague, EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele, goes to Bosnia on Monday following violent protests against the post-war country’s economic and political stagnation.