Merkel: British EU immigration cap would have price


Russian President Vladimir Putin and new French leader Emmanuel Macron discussed boosting poor ties between Paris and Moscow in their first phone conversation, the Kremlin said yesterday.

France's new President Emmanuel Macron has secured backing from key ally Chancellor Angela Merkel for his bid to shake up Europe, despite scepticism in Berlin over his proposed reforms.

The day after his inauguration on Monday, the new French president traveled to Berlin to meet Chancellor Merkel for his first foreign visit.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned that such deep-reaching reforms would require treaty changes, which were "not realistic" at a time when Europe is hit by a surge of anti-euro populism.

In the weeks since, however, some analysts and media have focused on how Macron's plans could be costly for Germany, with Der Spiegel running the headline "Our dear friend" - using the term "dear" to mean expensive. Merkel said that she would be "ready" to the change the European Union treaties "if it is useful", and insisted that the European Union would be "vulnerable" if it refused to amend its existing rules. If we can say why, what for, what the point is, then Germany will be ready. According to the most recent statistics from the European Commission, France could in fact be the only country of the 19 in the eurozone to show a public deficit in 2018 of more than 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the limit set by European rules, against a surplus of only 0.3 percent in Germany. But some in Germany are anxious Macron's ideas about the economy could hurt Merkel in this year's election.

Macron said France and Germany had come "at a historic moment in their history" and both have a responsibility to fight against populism and restore faith in the European project.

Macron sought to bat away German fears on debt, saying he was opposed to mutualising "old debt" between eurozone countries.

More news: Donald Trump interviews four candidates for post of FBI Director

However, he signaled readiness to look at sharing future burdens.

The grandson of a Maltese jew, Gérald Darmanin, has today been named Minister of Public Affairs and Public Accounts in French President Emmanuel Macron's first government.

To be able to assure leadership in the European Union with Merkel, the French president, confronted with the thorny issue of labor market reform and the question of public deficits, is obliged to succeed if he wants to restore confidence, a term which he also hammered out during the press conference.

The priority for France must be to "loosen the jobs market, to simplify the highly complicated pensions system, to trim the civil service", it said, placing any investment from Germany secondary. Any reforms would likely still have to wait until after September, when the German leader faces re-election.

Having already made conservative Edouard Philippe his prime minister earlier in the week, Macron's pick for economy minister was Bruno Le Maire a pro-European, German-speaking rightist from Philippe's The Republicans (LR) party. "On the other hand, Macron's style suits the Chancellor".

The pope's telegram urged Macron to "always take care to build a more just and more fraternal society, with respect to differences and attention to people who are in situations of precariousness or exclusion".