Monday

8th Aug 2022

Merkel signals support for Macron's EU reform

German chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed willingness to support French president Emmanuel Macron's ideas on EU reform as European leaders gathered for an informal dinner in Tallinn on Thursday (28 September).

The German chancellor, who has just emerged victorious - but bruised - from the elections last Sunday, said ahead of the dinner that EU leaders should move forwards with reforming the EU based on Macron's plans.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"There is a wide agreement between France and Germany when it comes to the proposals, although we must work on the details," Merkel told reporters before the dinner.

The 39-year-old energetic French president set out his ideas on Europe in a speech on Tuesday, urging fellow leaders to recommit to the EU project after Brexit, and deepen eurozone integration with a separate budget, and closer cooperation on migration and defence.

He laid out his plans to leaders at the three-hour dinner, with an EU source describing it as "a very constructive and positive atmosphere".

An EU official said it was a general discussion with little debate on the details.

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel, leader of a staunchly pro-European country, expressed support for Macron's ideas, saying that Europe needs to be more ambitious.

Based on the discussion, held at Tallinn's Kadriorg Palace, European Council chief Donald Tusk will continue consultations with member states in the coming two weeks and make proposals.

Merkel did not only want to focus on the future of Europe, as the situation is not "mature" enough due to the upcoming coalition talks in Germany, a diplomat told EUoberserver.

After Brexit, EU leaders are looking at ways to deepen cooperation.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had also presented his own vision for the future, where he invited all EU countries - without opt-outs - to join the euro currency by 2019.

Last September, leaders met without the UK in Bratislava to kick start a reflection on the EU's future and produced a low-key vision in March at a summit in Rome.

But some sounded cautious about grand ideas.

Lithuania's president, Dalia Grybauskaite, tweeted that "European horizons drawn. Important to avoid mirages in the desert on the way."

"Macron argues that all of Europe should be 'en marche' now," another EU source quipped, referring to the name of Macron's political movement.

Macron's proposals include: a eurozone finance minister, budget and parliament, and a willingness to go at different speeds in the EU if some countries are not able or unwilling to deepen integration.

With Macron's willingness to go for a multi-speed option, Juncker on the other hand is arguing for one speed with fewer new structures - no eurozone budget and parliament - but with all EU countries participating in them.

According to one of the sources, Macron told colleagues that no state should be able to block the other, but that the issue of multi-speed EU was "not as visible in the discussions as expected".

Some EU officials argued that the reflection period has been going on for some time, and instead of less palpable visions, leaders should focus on delivering practical solutions in the usual format of EU summits.

The informal dinner came as Merkel's party had suffered losses at last weekend's German elections, with the liberal and fiscally austere FDP and anti-EU AfD gaining ground.

The EU's German-French engine was expected to restart after the German elections - but with protracted coalition talks and FDP's possible participation in government, the boost in EU reforms might have to wait.

Merkel said Macron's reform ideas would "certainly" play a role in negotiations to form a new government.

On Friday, EU leaders will continue talks on digital issues, a priority for Estonia, which holds the EU's rotating presidency.

The leaders will discuss Macron's controversial idea of a new tax on technology giants like Facebook and Apple.

Mute on Brexit

UK prime minister Theresa May participated in the meeting, but Brexit was not on the table.

Meanwhile, the fourth round of Brexit negotiations closed on Thursday among EU and UK officials.

May spoke "in general terms and there was not much reaction to it," one of the sources said.

Leaders are expected to discuss progress in the talks at their formal summit in October, but it is unlikely that they will give a green light to move talks onto future relations and trade.

They might, however, signal to May that they are willing to explore the possibility of a transitional phase - as proposed by May in her speech last week in Florence.

Spain's prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, was the only leader not present, staying home ahead of Catalonia's independence referendum on Sunday (1 October).

Macron to sell EU plan in Tallinn

EU leaders to discuss French president's reform plan over dinner in Estonia, but German chancellor Angela Merkel's hands tied for now by coalition talks.

Macron seeks far-reaching EU overhaul

From the eurozone to defence and education, the French president presented plans to reform the EU which he said other leaders have "no choice" but to follow.

Analysis

Merkel-Macron: An EU motor in the making

Merkel's re-election is expected to revive the Franco-German EU motor, but the German leader and France's new ruler are still searching for a common vision.

Analysis

Merkel's win heralds uncertain time

On Sunday, Germans elected Angela Merkel for her fourth term in office. However, she may be facing her most difficult period yet as chancellor.

Magazine

Parliament should have 'initiation' role

As EU leaders are keen to transform the way politics is performed in the bloc, the constitutionals affairs committee will play a key role in the next five years in reforming electoral processes and initiating laws.

Column

Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.

Opinion

Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

News in Brief

  1. Rhine river on the brink of closure for shipping
  2. Moldova sees 'prelude to war' with Russia-backed forces
  3. Taliban preventing Afghan evacuations to Germany
  4. Amnesty regrets 'distress' caused by Ukraine report
  5. Energy companies warn UK gas exports to EU are contaminated
  6. EU set for clash over rules on political adverts
  7. Three grain ships due to leave Ukraine on Friday
  8. EU on track to reach gas-storage November target

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Italy poised to elect far-right rulers
  2. UN chief demands access to nuclear plant after new attack
  3. Greek PM embroiled in spyware scandal
  4. How Ukraine made the case anew for an EU army
  5. 'We must take back institutions', Orban tells US conservatives
  6. Putin must lose Ukraine war, Nato chief says
  7. Let Taiwan's democracy shine brighter
  8. Droughts prompt calls to cut water use amid harvest fears

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us