TALLINN (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron won backing from Angela Merkel for plans to reform the European Union after Brexit, founded on what the German chancellor called “intense” cooperation between Paris and Berlin.
But during an EU dinner in Estonia that lasted till midnight ahead of a formal summit on Friday, some leaders sounded wary of the youthful new French leader’s ambitious ideas, set out in a speech at the Sorbonne on Tuesday, for deepening EU integration.
Merkel, re-elected for a fourth term on Sunday but weakened by the rise of an insurgent eurosceptic opposition, met Macron for half an hour before dinner and, according to a French aide, welcomed his speech as “visionary” and a return of co-founder France as a driving force in the European Union project.
But she also noted differences. Some of her potential new coalition partners, along with northern governments like the Dutch and Finns, are very dubious about his suggestions for pooling budgets with less fiscally austere states in the south.
“As far as the proposals were concerned, there was a high level of agreement between German and France. We must still discuss the details, but I am of the firm conviction that Europe can’t just stay still but must continue to develop,” she said.
French officials said Macron, who they said spoke again with Merkel at length after the late-night dinner, was not trying to impose his ideas but to show others that they were in their common interest and recognized that some needed time to reflect.
“The idea is not about forcing people to give a binary response. France cannot force things,” one said, adding that Paris hoped leaders could agree on a way to work on the ideas in the coming weeks before an October summit in Brussels.
“The dinner,” a Macron aide said, “Was a chance to share further the Sorbonne project … Things are on the move.”