French and German leaders meet to discuss ‘more united’ approach

By David McHugh, Associated Press

France’s President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have consulted on migration, fixing the euro currency, Europe’s defence, taxing digital companies and other issues as the two leaders looked to preserve their influence abroad while their authority flags at home.

Mr Macron, who came to Berlin to take part in Germany’s national remembrance day for the victims of war and dictatorship, urged European government to seize more responsibility for their own fate, especially regarding defence.

Mr Macron said that the French-German alliance “is invested with this obligation not to allow the world to slide into chaos, and to accompany it on the road of peace”.

(Screenshot/@EmmanuelMacron)

He said that Europe cannot play its role “if it doesn’t take more responsibility for its defence and security and is content to play a secondary role on the international scene”.

Mr Macron looked ahead to the European Parliament elections in May, which will give populist and anti-EU parties another chance to test their appeal with voters.

“We must do a great deal by May next year to achieve a more united, more sovereign and more efficient Europe, which we so urgently need,” he said.

The two biggest countries in Europe can be a powerful force, but their leaders at the moment are hampered by falling domestic support.

Mr Macron has seen his poll ratings sag at home, where more than a quarter-million people protested Saturday over proposed petrol tax hikes.

Mrs Merkel has been a lame duck since saying she would not seek another term.

Mrs Merkel has offered support for Mr Macron’s proposal for a European army some day.

Both leaders have said Europe needs to depend less on others, such as the US, for its defence.

US President Donald Trump has unsettled Nato allies by demanding member countries either pay more for defence or “protect themselves”, as he put it in a recent tweet.