"Very strong convergence of views" in Franco-German talks

Franco-German Council of Ministers – European Union/migration/Alliance for the Sahel/climate – Statements by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, at his joint press conference with Mrs Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany (excerpts)

Paris, 13 July 2017

Chancellor, chère Angela,

Ministers,

Franco-German Council of Ministers

I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to have another Franco-German Council of Ministers this morning, and once again I really want to thank the Chancellor for deciding to organize this Council in Paris because of the date, when the plan had initially been to hold it in Berlin. I very much appreciate this gesture.

This morning we were able to go to the 18th arrondissement together to see an initiative conducted by the OFAJ [Franco-German Youth Office] in several districts in both France and Germany. We then had a defence and security council meeting, which hadn’t been done at this level for a very long time. It was an opportunity for us to look in detail at the issues of defence, security and migration, which I’ll come back to in a few moments.

So after a restricted meeting, we’ve just brought together all the ministers who worked together this morning and whose teams have been working for several weeks to prepare this Council of Ministers, and I want to thank them for it.

I think the Council not only endorsed a very strong convergence of views between our two countries in the face of major international risks and our global and European agenda, it also enabled us to shed light on several concrete initiatives we’ve taken in recent weeks, which we endorsed today or are going to take in the coming weeks.

Chancellor Merkel and I champion a common agenda of a Europe that protects and can protect more. On the first visit to Berlin we shared this agenda, which enabled us to move forward in harmony, in coordination with our ministers, at both the European Council and the G20, which you chaired. (…)

Labour and trade

This agenda of a Europe that protects was what enabled us to work together on the posting of workers; we talked about it again today; the ministers are still working on this and therefore not agreeing to a compromise that was insufficient, but working to ensure we can build a solution between France and Germany that enables us to regulate this social Europe more effectively and have the same remuneration for the same work throughout our two countries.

It was also this same vision of things that led us to have the same vision, at both European and international level – our economy and finance ministers are working on this especially – of free and fair trade, which led us to uphold the principle of reciprocity, on the one hand, and the defence of our strategic interests, while continuing to open our borders and combat all protectionism and all temptations towards dumping that may occur today in the international arena.

Migration

In the face of migration, a Europe that protects also means the reforms and initiatives we can take. Yesterday the government presented an ambitious plan to enable us to respond by taking in asylum seekers and refugees. I’d like France to have a much more proactive and humane policy, reduce processing times when it comes to taking in migrants and have a more effective policy.

It’s also what led us – I talked to the Chancellor about this yesterday, and we reviewed it again today – to take joint action in terms of preventing this migration, which, again, is an essential point if we want to be both more effective and more humane. It’s what led us today to convene a Franco-German integration council, an initiative you launched with my predecessor that was finalized today with the establishment of this structure.

Foreign and defence policy

A Europe that protects and our shared agenda on the subject are also about the initiatives we’re taking as regards defence policy and development policy. I believe that thanks to the work done by our foreign and defence ministers, this Council was an important moment in our seeing eye to eye on this. We gave content to what the last European Council enabled us to do together, through ongoing, structured cooperation whose criteria we specified. We have a common Franco-German strategy to do more, a strategy our defence ministers will share this afternoon with several of their colleagues and also with the EU’s High Representative, Ms Federica Mogherini, who was with us a few moments ago.

This new cooperation framework will bring together those member states that wish to get more involved in terms of finance, capabilities and defence missions, and I think it’s therefore very important that we were able to establish our joint criteria.

We also established the criteria and practicalities of the European Defence Fund, as well as a series of initiatives: military studies and programmes that will commit us, our armed forces and our industries over the long term to programmes that we defined very clearly, future tank and artillery systems, aviation, drones, helicopters and future disruptive technologies, particularly in the digital sphere.

These are all concrete initiatives where we decided to invest together, coordinate our R&D and procurement policies and also really coordinate in terms of exports.

Alliance for the Sahel

The third important point in this regard is the Alliance for the Sahel. A few weeks ago, after discussing the subject at length with the Chancellor, I visited Bamako. I had announced this initiative. Our ministers have just signed this Alliance for the Sahel to support the development of the countries in that region, where part of our common future is being played out, and the Chancellor and I share a wish: to take swift and effective action by funding projects directly, pooling our finance and taking resolute action for health, education and democratic stability in the Sahel countries, among others.

Because it’s this twofold strategy we’re going to continue conducting: security and development. We’d like to take effective action in the region in this complementary way, with the European Union, and this, again, is a way of not only protecting our fellow citizens but preventing waves of migration which we can’t control and which, today, are very profoundly destabilizing our region.

Security

We also discussed security, border control and counter-terrorism, introducing more of this cooperation. In this regard, our interior ministers presented to us ongoing and future cooperation, the joint reinforcement of the Frontex agency and initiatives to combat cyber crime, which we’re going to speed up in the coming weeks, in direct alignment with the European timetable we’ve set ourselves.

Economy and digital technology

The second major aspect after this Europe that protects is a Europe that moves forward, an ambitious Europe, and there too we launched a series of initiatives with our ministers. Firstly, by endorsing joint research and finance on micro- and nanoelectronics, with a joint digital fund between KfW [German development bank] and the BPI [French Public Investment Bank] that will enable us to fund – also jointly – digital start-ups and businesses on both sides of the border; with a plan for corporation tax harmonization – our economy and finance ministers are promoting the strategy that will enable us to give our companies an even more stable business framework; and with a proactive road map of common initiatives that we’ll be taking between now and the end of the year in terms of greater integration in the Euro Area and Europe.

Our ministers reported to us on the joint work that has been done, be it on issues of finance, regulation or collective organization, to prepare our economies for digital technology. The Chancellor and I will have another meeting at the end of August to prepare, together, the European summit in Tallinn, which will have a digital agenda to promote our shared vision on issues of copyright, digital regulation and finance, because we need this Franco-German framework.

I also welcome the fact that our labour ministers had the opportunity to bring together all sides of industry in our two countries to share the challenges posed to us by the digital transformation, among other things, which is leading us to carry out adaptations, reforms and adjustments to protect everyone’s rights in a world of profound change.

Education and culture

We also both want this ambitious Europe and this advancing Europe when it comes to apprenticeships, and on this we set ourselves a goal: by the end of the year, to create content for and the first achievements of this Erasmus+, which must include apprenticeships – we discussed it this morning at the OFAJ – and which is an initiative the Chancellor and I are very committed to.

I also want to stress here the importance of culture, education and higher education, which we discussed at length both this morning and during this Council of Ministers’ meeting – first of all, because we made clear commitments with swift implementation. France has restored bilingual classes: 1,200 bilingual classes will be reopened this autumn; this means that around 540,000 pupils in collèges [schools for pupils aged between approximately 11 and 15 years] will learn German. It means a level never achieved in our collèges. Likewise, a 50% increase in German teaching in primary school classes will be endorsed in the autumn thanks to the Minister’s resolute action on this.

We also endorsed a series of joint developments in terms of higher education and research, artificial intelligence, exchanges and cooperation, especially on the issues of climate and the digital and energy transition, with a shared desire to have programmes for training and attracting the best researchers.

Lastly, on cultural projects, too, several initiatives have been carried out, and this morning we had the opportunity to see the importance of cultural issues, particularly in the framework of the digital transformation, with a desire to have a Franco-German agenda to uphold our common system for protecting authors and artistic creation from visions of society that are not, I believe, always ours, where the commodification of everything can end up meaning the disappearance of many things. And so we both want cultural excellence and creativity in our two countries, which led us to decide on a common agenda and strong coordination on the issue, given the future European reforms.

Climate

Finally, we discussed the climate, again with an ambitious shared agenda. In Bonn in November, the Chancellor will be hosting the new COP, which will be chaired by Fiji. I’ll be going to Bonn personally to support the initiatives taken on combating global warming, and in Paris on 12 December we’ll be hosting a follow-up conference to the Paris Agreement that will concentrate especially on the issue of the funding that must be implemented together; we’re going to work on preparing this agenda.

The Minister reported on the initiatives already taken with his colleagues in terms of regulatory convergence and common decisions. As we know, we in Europe still have a very ambitious agenda to fulfil on the climate, and we’ll work together to ensure, on the issues of standards, regulation, taxation and carbon pricing, that we can decide together and take regular, concrete decisions over the coming months. (…)./.

Published on 27/07/2017

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