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The EU is viewed by most as a democratic union of 28 members. That is what its core treaties say and that is what its key spokespeople say. However, the bloc, and its predecessor versions, have always relied upon Germany and France as its anchor tenants.
It was the French wartime hero and later President Charles de Gaulle who famously told the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in 1963 that, “Europe is France and Germany; the rest are just the trimmings”.
More than half a century later, General de Gaulle’s comment still appears relevant.
Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron met in a medieval island fortress in the Mediterranean to chart the next steps for the partnership that is the driving force behind the bloc.
Inside the walls of Fort de Brégançon, traditional summer residence of French leaders, the German Chancellor and French President attempted to tackle the most pressing issues on the global agenda.
Lebanon, anti-government protests in Belarus, the COVID-19 crisis, Mali’s coup d’état, and tensions between Greece and Turkey were discussed, according to an official in the French presidential administration.
At the same time Mrs Merkel was seeking to cement progress on some long-standing objectives.
These included, according to two senior German government sources, deciding what relationship Europe should have with a resurgent China, re-imagining the shape of the EU after Britain’s exit, and carving out a role for Europe as a defence power to match its economic might.
One of the two German government sources said: “Both Merkel and Macron are aware that the EU is in a crucial period.
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“And that France and Germany – even though they have different views on a lot of issues – have to stick together.”
Back in July, Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron worked together to persuade EU members to agree to give the bloc, for the first time in its history, debt-raising powers to finance a post-COVID recovery.
The €750billion (£677billion) coronavirus fund will be used as loans and grants to the countries hit hardest by the virus, such as Italy and Spain.
The remaining money represents the EU budget for the next seven years.
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Fresh from that achievement, attention is now turning to what else the duo can deliver in the time left before they get distracted by the German Chancellor’s succession and France’s 2022 presidential election.
The official in the French presidential administration said about their meeting: “This visit is testimony to the exceptional level of Franco-German engagement on the bilateral, European, and international level.”
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