French President Emmanuel Macron is due in Germany on Thursday for a working meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in an attempt to hammer out a common position with Berlin on his agenda for Europe-wide reforms, amid political opposition to that agenda inside Germany.
Macron and Merkel are due to deliver press statements at 1100 GMT before holding talks on Thursday at the Berlin Palace, a historic site undergoing extensive reconstruction and thus a symbolic setting for the 40-year-old French leader’s campaign for a bold post-Brexit overhaul of the European Union (EU).
Macron’s proposals face skepticism in Germany. Members of Merkel’s own conservative bloc in parliament argue that his reforms could result in German taxpayers funding profligate euro zone peers. They have been exerting pressure on the German leader not to accept economic reforms that could vex taxpayers.
Two days earlier, Macron defended his bold ideas in a passionate speech to the European Parliament, outlining his vision for the future of the EU. He also described eurozone reforms as “indispensable” to challenging the rise of authoritarianism and nationalism on the continent.
“I don’t want to belong to a generation of sleepwalkers, I don’t want to belong to a generation that’s forgotten its own past,” he said on Tuesday. “I want to belong to a generation that will defend European sovereignty because we fought to obtain it. And I will not give in to any kind of fixation on authoritarianism.”
Much of Germany’s resistance against Macron’s reform proposals is based on deep-seated German wariness of any measures that could result in debt pooling, or the streaming of German taxpayers’ money to spendthrift neighbors.
However, officials in Berlin and Paris both express confidence that they would secure a common ground before an EU summit scheduled to be held on June 28-29.
“Let me reassure you that the silent, secret, demanding work underway will allow us to reach a true Franco-German roadmap by the time of the next European summit in June,” said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire at the lower house of the parliament on Wednesday, adding that he expected a “sensible and ambitious compromise.”
Reuters also quoted an unnamed German government spokeswoman as saying on Wednesday that both countries “have the firm desire to find a joint way forward,” echoing Merkel’s own cooperative tone at a press conference back on Tuesday.
The French president has already proposed the creation of a post for an EU finance minister, the establishment of a joint eurozone budget, and the institution of a body tasked with overseeing bloc-wide economic policy.
Merkel will have a bumpy road ahead if she intends to reach a common position with Macron: her parliamentary majority badly suffered in the general elections last year, making a rebellion at her own party unaffordable.
France and Germany, which account for around half of the eurozone’s output, are essential to the reform drive.