Hollande, Merkel seek closer partnership during Berlin summit

During a joint meeting on Tuesday, politicians from the German and French governments focused on growth and innovation. [Présidence de la République - C.Chavan]

Berlin and Paris pledged to work more closely together, during government consultations on Tuesday (31 March) in Berlin, with ministers from both countries aiming for deeper cooperation on numerous issues such as energy policy, TTIP and drone development. EURACTIV Germany reports.

During a joint session on Tuesday, German and French government representatives focused on discussing growth and innovation. Parallel to meetings with President François Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel, mministers from both countries attended joint consultations in the Chancellory.

Merkel and Hollande swore to the close relationship between the two countries in the wake of the Germanwings crash in southern France that killed 150 people.

Since the start of the year, Germany and France have “shifted closer together amid several trials”, Merkel pointed out at a press conference with Hollande.

The population in southern France, near the site of the plane crash, Merkel said, live “in unbelievable and inimitable Franco-German friendship” and are acting as “hosts in a terrible situation”. But the January attack on Charlie Hebdo, and the unified European reaction, demonstrated “how we deal with the challenges of our time”, she indicated.

Hollande said Franco-German friendship has “turned into rather more of a Franco-German brotherhood in recent weeks”. In times of crisis such as these, “both of our countries become only one country”, he chimed.

Germany and France are “two large countries, that want to play their own role on the world stage”, said the French President. Berlin and Paris want “to influence Europe and the fate of the world” as well as “improve the lives of our fellow citizens”.

Greece: “No time to lose”

Both politicians discussed the crises in Greece and in Ukraine as well as the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Preparation for the EU summit in June was also on the agenda, focusing on common security and defence policy.

In the debt quarrel with Greece, Merkel emphasised that there is “no time to lose”. Hollande said, “we have lost too much time and must try to make up for that time.” In the Ukraine crisis both called for upholding the peace agreement.

On Iran, Merkel said there was a shared hope “that we can come to an acceptable agreement”. Hollande emphasised that the goal is for “Iran to definitively give up nuclear weapons”.

Numerous agreements

Meanwhile ministers from Berlin and Paris concluded agreements on simplifying mutual recognition of higher education degrees and taxation of pensioners. Both sides also agreed to promote the planned EU-US free trade agreement, TTIP, stick together on integration policy, push ahead in the fight against tax evasion and strengthen efforts toward a European energy union and toward digitalisation.

Merkel identified the digital economy as being particularly significant. The issue is planned to be in the spotlight of a large digital conference in Paris, which both Merkel and Hollande will attend.

On energy policy, both countries agreed to to work together toward an “ambitious and effective climate and energy policy” in the EU. Signatories of the two bilateral declarations were Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks on the German side and their respective French counterparts Emmanuel Macron and Segolene Royal.

New generation of European drones

Along with Italy, France and Germany jointly confirmed their intention to cooperate on developing a new generation of European drones between 2020 and 2025. After a technical agreement is signed, an initial study is planned for 2015 to sort out the details of the system.

Merkel said acceptance for drones also resulted “from the discussion” that Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen “conducted with the Parliament”. Hollande said the decision to develop drones is a “very important decision”.

At the same time, he praised Germany’s planned participation in the French observation satellite system, Composante Spatiale Optique (CSO), and spoke of “very nice cooperation between industry and politics”.

In the Franco-German minister councils, the two countries' governments held discussions, including either all members or the leaders of individual departments depending on the topic. Regular consultations of this kind demonstrate the intensive and trusting relationship between Paris and Berlin.

Since the last meeting in Paris in February 2014, Germany and France have cooperated more intensively on difficult questions such as defining economic and financial policy or on a common approach to the Ukraine crisis.

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