Macron meets Merkel, says France must reform
By Eric Maurice
France must reform itself if it wants to remain close to Germany and play a role in Europe, French presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron, said in Berlin on Thursday (16 March).
Macron, a centrist and liberal, running as an independent, is a favourite to win in May. He met with chancellor Angela Merkel for more than an hour.
Merkel had already met conservative candidate Francois Fillon in January before he was suspected of embezzlement. Merkel and Fillon are from the same European People's Party (EPP).
Merkel said she was ready to meet all French candidates, expect far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Macron said the meeting was not "a knighting" by the chancellor. However, it was the central piece of a trip to the German capital to polish his international image and European credentials.
Last month, he met British prime minister Theresa May in Downing Street.
Later in Berlin, he participated in a debate at the Hertie School of Governance, with Sigmar Gabriel, the leader of the Social-Democratic Party and foreign minister, and philosopher Juergen Habermas.
Habermas, one of Germany's most revered intellectuals, said that Macron "has dared to cross a red line that was left untouched since 1789. He has opened the frozen constellation between the political right and the political left."
Macron said that Merkel and him "agreed that Europe must go forward in a more efficient manner".
"I talked with someone who seemed very open to a stronger Franco-German couple. I found in the chancellor a real willingness to go forward," he told journalists outside the chancellery.
He presented himself as "the only true pro-European candidate" to the French presidency and said he was "proud of it".
"In the national debate, we need to promote a European agenda and take responsibility for this," he said.
"If you are a timid European, you are already a defeated European."
Macron said in Berlin that he did not want to "lecture Germans like many people in France have done before".
He said that France should first "take its responsibilities and reform itself". "It is only after that, that I expect [Germany] to move closer" to France, he told German ZDF TV.
"If you want to have the credibility, you have to take care of business at home," he said at the Hertie School debate.
"The key for me is to restore a level of trust that no longer exists."
According to the latest polls, Macron has gained on Fillon and would qualify for the second round, against Le Pen who is ahead of almost all polls. In the runoff, Macron would beat Le Pen, according to polls.
However, the level of undecided voters remains high, especially those who say they could vote for Macron.
The first TV debate between the main candidates on Monday (20 March) will be an important test for Macron's chances of winning.