Germany, France paper over euro cracks in show of unity

Jan 22 2013, 09:08 IST
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Germany, France paper over euro cracks in show of unity. (Reuters) Germany, France paper over euro cracks in show of unity. (Reuters)
SummaryBoth sides say little of substance will come out of the meetings in Berlin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosts French President Francois Hollande and his government on Tuesday for a celebration marking half a century of post-war partnership, even as their countries struggle to forge a common vision for crisis-hit Europe.

Fifty years after Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle signed the Elysee Treaty that sealed a reconciliation between the former adversaries, Berlin and Paris are determined to put on a rousing display of unity.

A meeting of both cabinets will be followed by a joint session of parliament in the Reichstag building where Adolf Hitler gave some of his most famous World War Two speeches. In the evening, the German and French leaders will attend a concert at the Berlin Philharmonic.

Merkel and Hollande, born less than a month apart in the summer of 1954, have overcome an awkward start to their relationship, complicated by her vocal support for the French president's rival in the 2012 election and his condemnation of the German chancellor's austerity policies during the campaign.

After six months of earnest handshakes, the two now kiss each other on the cheek when they meet. In recent months, Berlin and Paris have forged complex compromises on European bank supervision and reform of a politically-sensitive shareholder pact governing EADS, the parent of planemaker Airbus.

But on perhaps the biggest policy issue hanging over Europe as it struggles to emerge from its three-year old debt crisis - the drive for closer economic integration - the Franco-German motor is barely revving.

And at a time when Europe can ill afford it, both leaders are turning there attention elsewhere - Merkel to her re-election bid and Hollande to France's ailing economy and risky military intervention in Mali.

"The Franco-German conflict which has been looming for months is over closer integration," said Daniela Schwarzer, an expert on Franco-German relations at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

"But the closer we get to the election, the less likely it is that the Germans push for something big. And Hollande has still not said how much he is willing to do, how much sovereignty he might be ready to cede. The integration push is already losing momentum in my view."

As long as the euro crisis remains under control and markets stay calm, the two can afford not to engage on the issue. But another flare-up would raise pressure on Merkel, who preaches tighter central controls over European budgets, and Hollande, who favours more risk-sharing,

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