Thursday

4th Mar 2021

France and Germany to unveil 10-year plan

  • The Franco-German partnership has not always run smoothly (Photo: Council of European Union)

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday (4 February) are set to unveil their own economic and political strategy document, the "Franco-German Agenda 2020," in an attempt to put some substance in the widely advertised but not always smoothly working partnership between the EU's two major economies.

The plan, including 80 separate measures, ranges from economic and fiscal initiatives to common school books and simpler rules for Franco-German marriages. It is set to be published at the end of a joint ministerial council meeting of the two countries, chaired by both Mr Sarkozy and Ms Merkel in the Elysee palace.

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The two leaders have in the past disagreed on several issues, especially on economic recovery. Mr Sarkozy supportd an EU-wide stimulus package, while Ms Merkel ibelieves this should be done at the national level.

With the Thursday meeting, marking exactly 100 days after the German chancellor's re-election and her first trip abroad – to Paris, Ms Merkel is to signal that the Franco-German partnership is up and running again.

"We want to see in the coming years how we can take joint initiative on important topics," a source from Ms Merkel's entourage told Deutsche Presse Agentur.

The idea of having a full joint ministerial session was aimed at letting the new German ministers get to know their French counterparts, after last year's elections changed Ms Merkel's coalition partner.

Mr Sarkozy, for his part, has put the Murat room at disposal for this joint session, the same room where his own ministers usually gather every Wednesday morning, Le Figaro writes.

However, Mr Sarkozy's proposal of a "Franco-German minister" was rejected by Berlin for "political and institutional reasons," the French paper notes. Instead, the respective EU affairs ministers in some cases will be able to join meetings of the other cabinet.

The plan itself is centred on six themes, with economic and fiscal policy featuring prominently. A common "observatory" of economic policies is to be set up, as well as a stronger co-operation in this field.

Nothing is foreseen, however, on how to deal with ailing economies in the euro-zone, such as in the Greek and Spanish cases.

On the research and education front, the "2020 Agenda" aims to double the number of college and doctors' degrees in Franco-German universities. Joint research teams are also planned, as well as a "science train" travelling through both countries advertising research and science to youngsters.

In foreign affairs, Paris pledges to support Berlin's efforts to gain its own permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the decision-making body of the international organisation. Currently, permanent members with veto rights remain the five victors of the Second World War: France, Great Britain, the US, China and Russia.

Meanwhile, the name "Agenda 2020" is hardly original. The European Commission has already been working since last year on the eponymous ten-year plan to replace the failed Lisbon Strategy that, according to its aims, should have managed by 2010 to make Europe the most competitive economic area in the world.

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