Monday

1st May 2017

Merkel champions adoption of 'whole' EU Constitution

  • Angela Merkel: "The EU must focus on economic reform" (Photo: CDU)

The new German chancellor Angela Merkel has said during her first foreign trip to Paris and Brussels that she "stands by the EU constitution," vowing to revive the shelved charter when Germany takes over the EU presidency in 2007.

Berlin's new leader dined with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels on Wednesday evening (23 November), after a long day of meetings that started with a kiss on the hand by French president Jacques Chirac in Paris in the morning.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Ms Merkel, who was sworn in as chancellor on Tuesday, upheld her predecessors’ tradition that the first trip goes to Paris, but she gave her own symbolically important touch to the schedule by tabling a Brussels rendezvous at NATO and the EU institutions on the same day.

Speaking at press conferences with European Parliament president Josep Borrell and Mr Barroso, Ms Merkel explained the Brussels stop-over was meant "to make clear right from the start" that Europe was "at the centre of the agenda" of her cabinet.

The 51 year-old first woman chancellor reaffirmed the new German coalition’s ambition to revive the EU Constitution, which has been put on ice by EU leaders since June when French and Dutch voters rejected the charter.

We stand by the constitution

"We stand by the constitution," she said, adding that the reflection period agreed by EU leaders after the French and Dutch "no" votes should "by no means lead to the idea of the constitution being given up."

The chancellor said that Berlin will "not be pushing too hard" to get the charter ratified, and will "wait for things to happen" first, but that the topic will be on the agenda when Germany takes over the EU presidency in the first half of 2007.

Ms Merkel also stated her government seeks adoption of the constitution "as a whole," adding "we do not want to split it up."

This remark raises doubts about Berlin's strategy to resuscitate the charter, as it appears to go against her government’s coalition agreement.

The coalition deal between Ms Merkel’s christian democrat CDU party and the social democrat SPD states that the "early warning system" clause in the constitution could already be implemented separately, as "no treaty change is necessary" for such a move.

First things first

The new German leader's insistence on the ratification of the charter is set to raise eyebrows during Ms Merkel’s visits to London on Thursday, and to The Hague next week, where governments are faced with strong popular resistance to the text.

Before the revival of the constitution, however, Ms Merkel said the EU should first demonstrate its capacity to act by tackling outstanding issues – notably the thorny issue of the bloc’s 2007-2013 budget.

Ms Merkel said a deal on the EU budget at an EU leaders' summit was "particularly important for countries of central and eastern Europe" - signalling interest in a region which she says was often forgotten by the previous Schroder government.

"The new member states … need a proper framework to plan investment," Ms Merkel said, referring to Brussels' structural fund promises to new member states under the budget.

But just one day before her meeting with UK prime minister Tony Blair on Thursday, the German leader was careful not to join voices criticising the UK presidency’s lack of effort to secure a budget deal before Christmas.

Standing next to Mr Barroso, who was visibly impatient with London’s lethargy over the issue, reminding it several times of its "special responsibility," Ms Merkel said she would be talking to Mr Blair about the "chances for progress in December," avoiding a reporter’s question on the UK rebate.

Kiss on the hand in Paris

Ms Merkel’s packed trip started with a delicate kiss on the hand by president Chirac when the German leader arrived at the Elysee palace for a lunch meeting.

The French and German leaders symbolically reaffirmed their country’s close relationship, with Ms Merkel expressing her "conviction that a good German-French relationship, a friendly, a deep relationship, is not only important for our two countries but also necessary and desirable for Europe," according to media reports.

But remarks made later by the chancellor in Brussels indicated that the Paris-Berlin relationship will probably not enjoy the same strength under the Merkel government as under former chancellor Schroder.

Mr Chirac and Mr Schroder formed a close alliance based on two main pillars – their common opposition against the Iraq war and their dislike of liberal economic reforms promoted by the Barroso commission.

By contrast, Ms Merkel during her Brussels visit signalled her policies would be more transatlantic, as well as more reform-minded.

After meeting NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, she stated that "the ties between the United States and Germany can be developed further."

In a joint press conference with Mr Barroso, she backed the Barroso commission’s pro-reform line, saying that "the EU must focus on economic reform," while adding that its "social model can only be preserved if the economy is strong."

EPP group frustrated with Orban

Orban's ruling Fidesz party is getting too much to handle for the EPP group, as they are once again forced to defend the Hungarian premier's controversial actions.

Analysis

Orban set to face down EU threats

The European Commission and Parliament are to debate Hungary's slide into illiberal democracy. But the bloc continues to think that Hungarian leader Viktor Orban is not a systemic threat.

European right divided on EU values after Brexit

A day after the UK notified its exit from the EU, leaders of the European People's Party expressed a different vision of Europe's identity, with Hungary's Orban calling for a stop to the Muslim "invasion".

France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win

Despite opinion polls that place centrist Macron well ahead of the far-right leader Le Pen in the 7 May presidential run-off, doubts are emerging about his capacity to unite the French people around his candidacy.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EU boasts unity on Brexit talks
  2. May’s election juggernaut
  3. EPP scolds Orban over university and NGO laws
  4. Oxford-Studie besorgt über 'Schrott' News in Frankreich
  5. Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin
  6. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  7. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  8. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  2. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  3. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  4. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTime to Turn the Tide and End Repression of Central Asia's Civil Society
  6. European Free AllianceAutonomia to Normalnosc - Poland Urged to Re-Grant Autonomy to Silesia
  7. UNICEFHitting Rock Bottom - How 2016 Became the Worst Year for #ChildrenofSyria
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  10. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  11. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  12. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved