Wednesday, February 20, 2019 | ePaper
France, Germany seek closer bond to tackle EU crisis
AFP, Aachen :
France's President Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel want to strengthen ties at a time of crisis in the European Union
France and Germany will on Tuesday sign a new friendship treaty to deepen their alliance at a time of crisis for the EU, drawing fire from the far right and a flurry of alarmist fake news reports.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are to sign the accord to deepen ties at a time when Britain is preparing to leave the European Union and tensions are rising with populist leaders in the bloc.
The treaty pledges stronger economic and defence ties and restates the countries' commitment to the European Union.
It has been attacked by the far right, which accuses the pair of signing away their countries' sovereignty.
The leader of France's National Rally, Marine Le Pen, accused Macron of "an act that borders on treason".
One of the leaders of German's far-right AfD party, Alexander Gauland, said Paris and Berlin were seeking to create a "super EU" within the European Union.
"We as populists insist that one first takes care of one's own country. But we don't want Macron to renovate his country with German money."
The French presidency defended the bid to build up the "bedrock" of the EU as being "in the service of reinforcing the European project".
The two leaders are to sign the treaty in the German city of Aachen, on the Dutch and Belgian borders-a place rich in European symbolism as the seat of power of Charlemagne, the 9th-century emperor who ruled over swathes of western Europe.
The ceremony comes on the anniversary of a similar treaty in 1963, signed by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer.
The new treaty aims to strengthen the so-called the "Franco-German motor" that has been seen as the driving force behind European integration.
"We're seeing an existential crisis in terms of European integration, with Brexit and the expected strengthening of nationalists at the next European elections" in May, said Claire Demesmay, a political scientist at German research institute DGAP.
"In this context, confirming this belief in Franco-German cooperation has symbolic value," she told German public radio.
Macron took office in May 2017 promising major reforms of the EU to restore faith in its institutions and quell rising populism.
But his ideas met with only lukewarm support from Merkel and other EU leaders, and Paris and Berlin have also differed on other issues including how to tax big internet firms.
The French leader's hand has also been weakened by more than two months of domestic "yellow vest" protests.
Â·Â Â Â Far-right complaints -
The treaty commits France and Germany to closer military ties, including possible joint deployments-in the event of a terror attack, for example.
The two countries could also cooperate more closely on procurement, such as the purchase or development of new tanks or fighter jets.
And it includes a "mutual defence clause" in the event of one of them being attacked, although they are already committed to this as members of NATO.
Macron sparked a row with US President Donald Trump late last year by urging Europe to reduce its military dependence on the United States, even calling for a "real European army".
Macron's critics on both the far left and far right slammed the latest accord as an erosion of French sovereignty.