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Hollande-Merkel meeting: no decisions expected

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12:20 CEST+02:00

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold talks on the eurozone crisis with French President Francois Hollande in Berlin on Tuesday after his inauguration, her spokesman said.

"It sends a very strong message that the new French president is making his first trip abroad to Germany," Steffen Seibert told a regular government news conference Friday, adding that the talks would also cover bilateral relations.

But, Seibert added, the meeting will not be aimed at "decision-making".

"It's, of course, not a decision-making meeting but a getting-to-know-you meeting, a first get-together," Steffen Seibert told a regular news conference ahead of the Tuesday evening meeting.

"The chancellor is looking forward to close and friendly cooperation with the new French president.

"She is sure that the traditionally close coordination with France will continue to be the foundation of their work together in Europe – to ensure prosperity, peace and democracy in the long run," he added.

Merkel, a conservative, will welcome Hollande, a socialist, with military honours at her chancellery at 1630 GMT and hold a joint press conference with him after the meeting, Seibert said.

Aides to Hollande had said Thursday that Hollande would fly to Berlin within hours of his swearing-in ceremony.

Hollande is to formally become president of France on Tuesday at 10:00 am (0800 GMT) replacing Merkel's defeated French ally Nicolas Sarkozy, and will name his prime minister before flying to Berlin, aides said.

The Socialist leader had previously promised that his first visit would be to the German capital, where Merkel has said he would be welcomed with "open arms".

France and Germany – Europe's biggest economies – have traditionally been seen as close allies and the motor of European integration.

But ties have come under strain during the debt crisis, with Sarkozy at first pushing for Germany to allow greater burden-sharing within the eurozone, before backing down and tacitly accepting Merkel's leadership.

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