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POLITICS

Angela Merkel on Macron: ‘We wrestle with each other’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that she and French President Emmanuel Macron "wrestle" on policy and have different outlooks, but tend to cooperate and find compromises in the end.

Angela Merkel on Macron: 'We wrestle with each other'
“Of course, we wrestle with each other,” Merkel said about relations between the core EU leaders who have disagreed recently on issues from how the bloc should handle Brexit to arms exports and climate policy.
   
“There are differences in mentality between us and differences in our understanding of our roles,” she added, speaking to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung and other European newspapers.
   
Asked whether her relationship with Macron had deteriorated in recent months, Merkel replied: “No. Not at all.”
   
Instead, Merkel insisted that Berlin and Paris agreed “naturally on the big issues”, adding that “this is how we accomplish much for Europe, even today”.
 
France and Germany 'not on same page' over Brexit, admits Macron
Photo: AFP
 
In Paris, Macron reacted by acknowledging “fruitful confrontations” with Merkel but said they result in compromises which allow the two nations to move forward together.
   
“I don't want to believe in sterile confrontations or relations,” Macron said at a press conference.
   
“I believe in fruitful confrontations, which means you propose something, you see how your partner responds, and together you try to find a compromise.”
   
He added: “What is expected of France in Europe … is to reach a compromise with Germany in order to be able to move forward. That's our history, it's the heart of our relationship.” 
 
'Find middle way'
 
France and Germany have traditionally been the duo at the heart of the European project and in January signed a new cooperation pact 53 years after the post-war Elysee Treaty.
 
However, Paris has voiced frustration that the reformist drive of Macron has been stalled by resistance from Germany, where veteran leader Merkel has been in power since 2005.
   
Merkel in the interview rejected the charge that she had been a brake on change in European policy.
   
“We always find a middle way,” the chancellor said, adding that Germany too had “launched a whole series of initiatives”, including in African development projects.
   
She said that “in the core questions — where is Europe going, the economy, what responsibility do we have for the climate and for Africa — we are on a very similar wavelength”.
   
The German leader cited as an example of Franco-German cooperation the “enormous progress” in defence policy, where “we decided to develop a fighter plane and a tank together”.
   
Merkel also said there had been cases of bad timing, pointing out that while Macron was pushing for major European reforms, she was engaged in half a year of coalition building after 2017 elections.
   
She did, however, point to different political cultures, saying: “I am the chancellor of a coalition government and much more committed to parliament than the French president, who is not even allowed to enter the National Assembly.”

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ECONOMY

French economy minister ‘worried’ by British ‘disaster’

France's economy minister said Friday that he was worried by the financial turbulence in Britain, criticising Prime Minister Liz Truss's economic policies for causing a "disaster" of high borrowing rates for her country.

French economy minister 'worried' by British 'disaster'

“I’m not worried about the situation in the eurozone,” Bruno Le Maire told Europe 1 radio when asked about the risk of the crisis spreading. “On the other hand, I am worried about the British situation.”

“What does it show? It shows firstly that there are costs for financial and economic policies,” he said.

Truss’s “mini-budget” announced last Friday included major tax cuts that would need to be financed by extra borrowing, spooking investors who immediately questioned the credibility of the policies and Britain’s financial standing.

“When you take on major costs like that, with spectacular announcements, as some opposition parties want to do in France, it perturbs the markets. It perturbs financial balances,” Le Maire said.

“And it leads to a real disaster with interest rates which are 4.5 percent or even higher in Great Britain. We have interest rates which are reasonable, which are quite close to Germany’s because there is consistency in our economic and financial policymaking,” he said.

“The second thing is that leaving Europe comes with a considerable cost because Europe is a protection,” he added, referring to Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The pound fell to an all-time low against the dollar and the yield on 10-year British government bonds — which sets the cost of borrowing for the government — briefly rose to above 4.5 percent on Wednesday.

That led the Bank of England to intervene with a £65 billion emergency bond-buying programme to stabilise the market.

Le Maire has been under pressure this week to explain his own budget choices, with the government planning to borrow a record €270 billion next year and a run a deficit of 5.0 percent of GDP.

Some analysts see the deficit as likely to be higher because of Le Maire’s optimistic growth forecast for the economy and assumptions about savings from a controversial pensions reform that has not been passed by parliament.

French-British relations have been rocky for years, particularly under former prime minister Boris Johnson, with a host of issues souring ties from Brexit and fishing rights to migrants.

French ministers had been reluctant to comment on Truss since she came to power despite deep concerns about her Brexit policies and her statement while campaigning that she did not know if French President Emmanuel Macron was a “friend or foe.”

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