Thursday

21st Feb 2019

Franco-German summit postponed amidst speculation of rift

A planned meeting between the leaders of France and Germany for 3 March has been postponed until June amid speculation that disagreement over Paris' proposed Mediterranean Union is the cause.

According to a report in German daily Die Welt on Friday, the mini-summit between President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel will now take place three months later, on 9 June, as the two sides are unable to find a common position on the proposed union.

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  • Mr Sarkozy and Ms Merkel - at odds over the Mediterranean Union (Photo: © Council of the European Union, 2000-2005)

Paris has denied the accusation, with the Elysee Palace telling the AFP news agency: "This meeting has been postponed due to the busy agenda of the head of the French state."

Mr Sarkozy's proposal for a Mediterranean Union, involving a union of EU and non-EU Mediterranean states - including Turkey - has caused concern in Brussels and particular criticism in Germany, both of which fear that existing EU policies towards the area will be undermined.

The proposed union is also widely been seen as a way of having Turkey join an alternative political set-up and keeping it off the EU membership track.

At the end of last year, Ms Merkel said the union could threaten the "core" of the European Union and if EU funds were used for the idea it could release "explosive forces" within the bloc.

Mr Sarkozy has reportedly also raised hackles by planning a meeting on the issue on 13 July where only relevant EU states would be invited. The rest of the EU states are then set to be invited on 14 July to sign off the deal.

The union group would tie southern Europe with Northern Africa as well as Israel and its Arab neighbours and tackle topical issues such as counter-terrorism, immigration, energy, trade, water and sustainable development.

It would also involve seven of the 27 EU member states - Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.

However, a recent report by the European Policy Centre suggests France has been scaling down the plans following the strong reactions in some EU quarters.

"Given these tepid or even negative reactions, France has been gradually scaling down its grand vision," says a paper by Rosa Balfour and Dorothee Schmid analysing the proposal.

German secretary of state for European affairs Guenter Gloeser last week repeated Berlin's line on the issue, saying that cooperation between the countries around the Mediterranean must take place "within the framework of the existing European institutions."

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