France economy

After Merkel, Frenchman Macron welcomes “dear Olaf”

  • Macron welcomes the new German Chancellor for a first visit abroad
  • The two are committed to working closely together
  • Potential differences from green investment rules, EU budget

PARIS, December 10 (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron and the new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday played down the differences on the reform of the EU’s budgetary rules and the place of nuclear in the financing of green investments, pledging to keep the Franco-German axis strong.

The trip to meet Macron in Paris was Scholz’s first overseas visit since he became the German leader on Wednesday, ending Angela Merkel’s 16-year reign. Diplomats say the change offers Macron an opportunity to seize a bigger role in the Franco-German relationship.

“Over the past four years, I have worked with Angela Merkel on all these topics … I know that together, dear Olaf, we will continue this close collaboration,” Macron told Scholz at a joint press conference .

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The more reserved Scholz, whose tripartite coalition is committed to further strengthening European integration, said he discussed how to work together to make Europe stronger.

Arrived at the Elysee Palace, the new chancellor was greeted with a punch by Macron, who then accompanied him up the stairs by patting him on the back.

The French president had developed a friendly relationship with Merkel, who broke with German tradition by supporting unprecedented joint efforts by the European Union to increase debt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the two remained at odds on some key issues, including Germany’s gas imports from Russia, defense, and relations with major political and economic competitors, including China.

The size of the German economy, the largest in the EU27, gives any German chancellor inordinate influence.

But Macron, who said Merkel had “taught a lot” to the “headstrong president” he was to start with, will attempt to use France’s six-month EU presidency, which begins Jan. 1, to push forward his priorities while Scholz is finding his feet.

With fiscal discipline often being a point of contention between Paris and Berlin, and Macron seeking German support for his plans to revise EU fiscal rules, Scholz – Merkel’s former finance minister – turned showed cautious on Friday.

“AMBITIOUS”

“I am convinced that together we can solve the problems that lie ahead and that we can continue to enable the growth that we have fostered with the stimulus fund – and that at the same time we can guarantee solid finances,” he said. he said, referring to the 750 billion euros that the EU will use to support the recovery in the event of a pandemic.

“It is possible to achieve both at the same time – they are not opposed. We have promised to use the flexibility offered by the (EU) Stability and Growth Pact.”

While the two leaders were united in offering verbal support to Ukraine on the constitution of Russian troops, other points of divergence emerged, notably on nuclear energy. L1N2SV0Z2

Macron wants to build new nuclear reactors in France, while Germany’s plans to phase them out are well established. The new German coalition agreement, however, makes no mention of the issue, which Paris says leaves room for compromise.

Asked Friday about the differences between Germany and France on the question of whether nuclear energy should be qualified as sustainable, which France wants, Scholz sidestepped the question.

“It is very clear that each country is pursuing its own strategy to combat man-made climate change. What unites us is that we recognize this responsibility and are ambitious,” he said.

“Germany has decided to bank on an expansion of renewable energies.”

French diplomats appear optimistic about the prospects for relations with Germany under Scholz, citing “strategic sovereignty” in the coalition agreement that brought him to power, which they say echoes Macron’s pressure to European “strategic autonomy”.

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Reporting by Michel Rose, Sabine Siebold, Maria Sheahan, Richard Lough, Michaela Cabrera; Written by Ingrid Melander and Michel Rose; Editing by Catherine Evans

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