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Merkel to host Hollande in her voter heartland

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Merkel to host Hollande in her voter heartland
Merkel welcomes Hollande to her electoral heartland on Friday. Photo: AFP
08:52 CEST+02:00
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will welcome French President Francois Hollande to her own electoral fiefdom on Friday. It's a first for a French president and is seen as a sign of her desire to strengthen ties between the two leaders.

The pair's meeting coincides with offical Europe Day and there will be a number of issues on the agenda for the two leaders.

Initially German media said the talks, described by the French president's office as"informal", would focus on the Ukraine crisis, but they are also expected to touch on the upcoming European elections and the threat of the far right.

The two leaders will make sure they deliver the same message on the subject, a diplomatic source told AFP.

The ongoing battle to buy the energy arm of France’s Alstom group that has ended up in a bidding war between US giant General Electric and Germany’s Siemens, will also be on the agenda.

But with an island cruise on the schedule, as well as a sight-seeing stroll past the Gothic red brick churches and medieval gabled houses of Stralsund, the meeting is also intended to help the two politicians improve their initially rocky relationship.

While conservative Chancellor Merkel throughout the eurozone crisis has championed the need for fiscal discipline and austerity, Socialist Hollande has advocated stimulus measures to boost growth and ease the pain during his two years in power.

The pair have not always seen eye to eye on issues, especially when it comes to how to guide Europe out of the economic crisis.as “more a forced marriage, than love at first sight”.

The invitation to Merkel's electoral district "is certainly a sign of recognition and esteem", said Franco-German Institute vice president Henrik Uterwedde, who said relations "have clearly become more friendly" since the days when Merkel openly backed Hollande's election rival, then president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Merkel has previously invited other leaders to the northeastern city of Stralsund, including former US president George W. Bush in 2006 and then-eurogroup leader Jean-Claude Juncker in 2012.

The old town of Stralsund, located in what was formerly communist East Germany, is now a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site.

Merkel and Hollande last met in early April at a Brussels summit of the European Union and African Union.

The pair have not always seen eye to eye on issues, especially when it comes to how to guide Europe out of the economic crisis.as “more a forced marriage, than love at first sight”.

However the fact Hollande is being invited to Merkel’s backyard, suggests the pair accept they have to do their best to make their marriage work, for the sake of the European family.

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