Thursday

13th May 2021

Merkel and Hollande to lay out EU vision in Strasbourg

German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande will address the European Parliament together for the first time on Wednesday (7 October).

They are expected to talk about the refugees crisis, the euro, and European values.

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  • Merkel and Hollande will try to demonstrate their common leadership of the EU (Photo: elysee.fr)

Leaders will speak 15 minutes each before a debate with the parliament's political group chiefs.

"This is a historic visit for historically difficult times", said the president of the parliament, Martin Schulz, who initiated the visit.

The last time German and French leaders went together to Strasbourg was in November 1989, when Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand spoke about the challenges facing Europe a few days after the fall of the Berlin wall.

Today "we expect a statement of principle on the state of the EU and its perspectives, its priorities," Schulz said.

Though Merkel and Hollande will try to show common leadership in line with Europe's old "Franco-German motor", relations are not as close as they seem.

On the refugee crisis, Germany and France have been at odds, especially over Paris' reluctance to endorse EU quotas for migrant relocations.

France has taken in just a few hundreds refugees coming from Germany.



Thee leaders also see the future of Syria in different ways. Hollande has said Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad has to go, but Merkel is more open to a political solution with Assad at the negotiating table.

Eurozone

Merkel and Hollande will also try to set out a common vision for the future of the eurozone in the wake of the Greek crisis.

In May, the German and French leaders published a joint plan for a strengthening the single currency.

They proposed regular euro summits and "specific structures" within the European Parliament. They also proposed to explore "the possibility of strengthening the Eurogroup president".

In July and September, France went further and proposed the creation of a "vanguard" of euro states, a euro commissioner with extended powers, and a special eurozone budget.



This idea, which implies financial transfers from richer to poorer eurozone countries, "breaks a German taboo", France admitted at the time.

Merkel and Hollande are expected to clarify their position on the issue, and on whether EU treaties should be changed to shore up the euro.

The discussion overlaps a debate on EU reforms demanded by British PM David Cameron ahead of the EU membership referendum in the UK.


But neuter Merkel or Hollande are willing to change the EU charter for the sake of British requests.

Analysis

Hollande's limited eurozone vision

With his proposals for a more integrated eurozone, the French president is looking beyond the Greek crisis. But does he have a plan?

Germany sets example on EU migrants

Thousands of people seeking refuge arrived in Germany over the weekend as Austria announces plans 'to end emergency migrant measures'.

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

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