Germany, France paper over euro cracks in show of unity
"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, to bridge their deep differences on how to push Europe forward.
The French president swept into office in May last year vowing to reverse Merkel's focus on budget consolidation in Europe, launch new growth-boosting initiatives and end the "exclusive" relationship with Germany he accused his conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy of nurturing.
But his victories have been more symbolic than substantive. After a brief flirt with Italy and Spain in the second half of 2012 that spawned talk of a new anti-German southern bloc within Europe, Hollande has turned back to Berlin, keen not to be lumped too closely with the euro's troubled
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