Sunday

22nd Oct 2017

Merkel and Hollande dream of EU 'utopia'

  • 'Angela and I, we often speak English to one another,' says Hollande (Photo: Arte)

The leaders of Germany and France encouraged young people to be "utopian" and dream of a European federal state with common taxation, on the eve of festivities on Tuesday (22 January) marking the 50th anniversary of the Elysee peace treaty.

"When the Elysee treaty was signed, 50 years ago, we were both eight years old. I was in East Germany at the time and who would of thought we will be here one day," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a townhall session with French and German students and with young soldiers on Monday evening.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

She was speaking alongside French President Francois Hollande, who travelled to the German capital with his entire government and parliament for joint festivities marking 50 years of what has become the Franco-German "engine" in EU affairs.

"The Franco-German friendship is a choice. We are not born friends, we become friends," Hollande said.

It was an allusion to his own relationship with the German chancellor, whom he casually calls "Angela" these days, despite the bad blood during his election campaign last year when Merkel openly supported his predecessor and her old ally, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Unlike the dozens of young people enrolled in Franco-German exchange programmes, neither Hollande nor Merkel speak each other's language.

"Even Angela and myself, we often speak English to one another. But don't tell anyone," Hollande joked.

Merkel added: "You are all sitting together and getting along. I envy you, as I don't speak French although I would like to, if only I wasn't so busy these days. But I think you can only understand France if you speak the language and perhaps this is true for Germany, too."

Quizzed about the state of the Erasmus exchange programme for students - which narrowly avoided closure last year because EU governments are trying to slash the Union's budget - both leaders promised the scheme is safe.

Merkel also said it should be expanded to young professionals and mentioned several times the EU job portal Eures of which few in the audience seemed to have heard about.

"Please use Eures and then write to me to tell me if it works. I didn't try it as I was not seeking for a job, and I don't know if I would have got a job in France immediately," she joked when asked by a 24-year old French woman who just finished media studies and could not find work.

Different views on economy

Despite the friendly talk, the two leaders stuck to their different views on the economy, with the Socialist government in France currently pushing for higher taxes instead of cutting wages like Germany.

"We are aware we have a competitiveness problem in France. We lost time in France while Germany pushed reforms and we need to catch up. But lowering wages or social spending is not the way, rather by giving tax exemptions to companies hiring young people, for example," Hollande said.

"We cannot simply copy the German model, in our friendship, we shouldn't mix up the countries. Each has their own specificity, their own strengths," he added.

Merkel said she has no intention of copying the French model by raising taxes for the rich.

"I won't take up one element and apply it here. What is important is to have justice in the tax system. Here in Germany, ten percent of the highest earners pay 50 percent of the entire tax income. So we think our system is fair and we don't want to change it," she explained.

Hollande noted that his recent 75-perecnt-tax on millonaires is all about fairness.

But he added: I am aware we are in an open society, where capital flows and people get away," in reference to French actor Gerard Depardieu who recently got Russian citizenship to avoid paying the tax.

They both agreed that EU taxes should be harmonised in the long run, however.

When asked if it is "utopian" to think that one day there would be a federal EU state, Hollande said that the EU as it is today seemed "utopian" 50 years ago.

"I accepted that we need to converge towards common budgetary policies. We need to have a similar discussions about taxes, for instance a common CO2 tax. It's true there are political risks, but we need to embrace our common destiny," he said.

Merkel named Ireland, Malta and Cyprus as low-corporate tax havens: "I don't want to make a statement now that my fellow EU leaders will be upset about, but step by step we'll need to establish margins and then each country will have to choose how it fits in those margins. Your utopia is totally right."

France and Germany promise joint EU plans

Germany and France will table joint proposals for deeper eurozone integration by May and are "working closely" to get a deal on the EU's seven-year budget next month.

Investigation

The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals

Klaus Mangold, a German businessman with good connections in Russia, and who provided a jet for Commission vice-president Guenther Oettinger, played a crucial role in Hungary's controversial Paks nuclear deal with Russia, Direkt36's investigation has found.

Focus

Health MEPs want to phase out glyphosate by 2020

A committee resolution said the proposal to renew the glyphosate permit for a decade "fails to ensure a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment".

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  2. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  4. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  5. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  6. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  7. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  8. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  12. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement