Hollande to meet Merkel next week

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold talks on the eurozone crisis and Syria with French President Francois Hollande in Berlin next week, her spokesman said Friday.

The leaders of the the eurozone's top two economies will meet at Merkel's office at 1700 GMT Thursday, with press statements scheduled after Hollande's

arrival, the spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement.

"The main issues of their talks will be the situation in the eurozone and developments in Syria," Seibert said.

The planned meeting, which sources had revealed Thursday, comes amid growing concerns as to whether debt-mired Greece will crash out of the eurozone, as international creditors prepare a report on its progress implementing reforms.

Merkel is to confer with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras Friday in Berlin before he travels to Paris to meet Hollande Saturday.

The German leader last held one-on-one talks with the French president in Paris in late June as part of regular consultations between the two countries
seen as crucial to any solution to the turmoil rocking the single currency.

Greece will meanwhile host the head of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, Wednesday amid reports that Samaras will seek wiggle room on spending cuts with his French and German counterparts.

Seibert indicated Wednesday there would be little flexibility, noting that for the German government "the agreed memorandum of understanding which states
what the Greek obligations are remains the basis of all aid decisions."

Greece's government is currently trying to find spending cuts amounting to 11.5 billion euros ($14.2 billion) which are to be implemented in 2013 and
2014 as part of the country's EU-IMF loan agreements.

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Germany to tighten Covid controls at French border

Germany on Sunday, February 28th, classed France's Covid-battered Moselle region as a high risk area for virus variants, triggering tougher entry requirements at the border between the two neighbours.

Germany to tighten Covid controls at French border
Image: Peter H/ Pixabay

France’s eastern Moselle region is now listed as an area “at particularly high risk of infection due to widespread occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 virus variants”, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control announced.

From Tuesday, March 2nd, cross-border travellers from Moselle will need to be able to show a recent negative coronavirus test.

Germany has already introduced tough checks at its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region, ignoring calls from Brussels to keep borders within the bloc open.

At those crossings, only Germans and non-German residents are allowed to enter, as well as cross-border commuters working in certain categories of jobs.

Every vehicle is stopped and occupants must produce a negative test that is less than 48 hours old.

The checks on the German side of the Moselle crossing are expected to be less strict, a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP.

Instead of systematic checks, police would randomly stop vehicles on the German side and ask drivers to show “a negative test and their online entry registration”, he said.

Germany has grown increasingly concerned in recent weeks about the rapid spread of new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, especially those first detected in Britain and South Africa.

The coronavirus, including the more dangerous South African variant, is spreading faster in Moselle than elsewhere in France but French officials have pleaded with Berlin to avoid a full closure of the border.

The German classification “normally implies the extremely strict measure of a quasi-closure of borders”, France’s European Affairs minister Clement Beaune said Sunday.

“We don’t want that,” he said, adding that talks were ongoing with Berlin to find solutions for the roughly 16,000 commuters who cross from Moselle into Germany’s Saarland and Rhineland-Palatine states every day.

The German interior ministry spokesman said the two countries would discuss details of the border implications on Monday.

Asked why the French checks would not be as stringent as those along the Czech and Austrian frontiers, the spokesman said Saarland and Rhineland-Palatine had not requested border closures.

“And there is a good cooperation between the affected German and French regions,” he added.