World Bulletin / News Desk
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday, two days before she is to launch a new government, that she would quickly visit French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss EU reform proposals.
Macron this month welcomed the prospect of Merkel launching her fourth-term coalition government as "good news for Europe" and said both countries would quickly start to jointly "develop new initiatives for advancing the European project".
Merkel said talks would cover topics such as defence and migration policy, where Germany saw the need to better protect the EU's outside borders and fight the causes of mass migration.
"We certainly will not have clarified every last question, but we will be able to say more than we did in December," Merkel said, speaking after half a year of post-election coalition haggling and political paralysis in Berlin.
Merkel's designated new finance minister, Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats, would also soon visit France, she said.
Scholz, speaking at the same Berlin press conference, said he would stick to Berlin's cherished fiscal policy of avoiding new public debt, labelled the "black zero" in German politics.
Merkel also said Berlin remained opposed to any mutualisation of debt in Europe, adding that the main goal was, in the aftermath of the eurozone crisis, to push a "sustainable stabilisation" to create growth and jobs.
Macron in a landmark speech last year urged a major reform drive to reinvigorate the EU at a time of rising populist challenges and proposed sweeping reforms including a common eurozone finance minister and budget.
Merkel's new left-right "grand coalition" says in its joint policy paper that it welcomes and generally supports reform proposals made by Macron and the European Commission, but stays vague on some of the details.
The coalition blueprint starts with the topic of Europe and includes pledges to strengthen common EU foreign and defence policy as well as to reform the eurozone.
The plan supports the creation of a European Monetary Fund that could lend to countries in economic crisis, but only pledges to study some of Macron's other ideas, including a common eurozone budget and finance minister.
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