Germany, France Present United Front on Ukraine, Covid Fight
(Bloomberg) -- Germany and France outlined overlapping positions on issues ranging from tensions in Ukraine to European Union budget rules and fighting Covid-19, indicating continued close cooperation under Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
The new German leader was on his first foreign trip after being sworn in on Wednesday, following tradition by flying to Paris to reinforce the Franco-German ties at the heart of Europe. He then planned to travel to Brussels for talks with leaders of the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“This visit was an important moment to establish a solid basis of cooperation between our two countries,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday, thanking Scholz for traveling to Paris. It was important “for the bilateral relationship itself” and to raise areas for coordination.
The meeting featured a new German leader eager to promote his government’s pro-European stance as cracks emerge in the 27-member bloc, while Macron has placed EU ambitions at the center of his campaign to be re-elected next year.
During the meeting, the French president said he saw “a solid convergence of views” with Scholz and a firm and determined European conviction.
The two leaders closed ranks as Russia builds up troops on Ukraine’s borders. Both promoted dialog, with Macron saying France is very attentive to the situation and doesn’t want it to escalate.
“We’re all observing the situation at the Ukraine border with concern,” Scholz said. “It’s obvious that you can see many soldiers there.”
The Kremlin has amassed about 100,000 troops on the border to Ukraine, and U.S. intelligence has concluded that Moscow may be readying an attack as soon as early next year.
Earlier Friday, French Defense Minister Florence Parly cautioned that the interpretation of data gathered by Western intelligence is not conclusive and open for discussion.
“It’s good that the U.S. president has sought talks with the Russian president on this, and we will also look to make sure that the outlook for Ukraine is a positive one,” the German chancellor said.
The Kremlin has rejected a high-level meeting of the so-called Normandy group -- Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France -- even as former Chancellor Angela Merkel urgently sought a meeting at the end of her tenure. Macron said the format remains relevant.
The two leaders also vowed to cooperate on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, even as Europe’s latest outbreak shows initial signs of easing.
“We’ll continue to cooperate closely to ensure that there’s a European response to this challenge,” Scholz said. “It’s in any case a global crisis that doesn’t stop at any border, not that of the European Union nor any individual country. That’s why we need to work together to defeat the virus.”
With regard to the EU’s future budget policy, Scholz said the EU needed to keep economies growing while not letting spending get out of control.
“We will have to sustain the growth which we have initiated with the recovery fund and at the same moment ensure solid finances,” he said. “It’s possible to reach both goals at the same time and not a contradiction. This is a view which, if I understand correctly, we both share.”
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