Schröder Chirac want to push ahead with EU reforms
Schröder and Chirac want to push ahead with EU reforms
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Jacques Chirac held an informal meeting in Berlin to discuss bilateral and international issues.
Speaking after a working luncheon in the Chancellery Schröder summed up the state of Franco-German relations by saying: "We don't have any bilateral problems." As such, the main focus was on European instead of bilateral issues, in particular the future of the European Union.
With regard to the debate being conducted on reform and a constitution in the framework of the European Convention Schröder and Chirac indicated that they will support the Convention's proposals "without change", not least of all since they are in line with a Franco-German initiative. Schröder noted that there is a good chance an agreement on EU reform will be reached at the European Council scheduled to be held in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on the next to the last weekend in June. In view of impending EU enlargement a key reform issue will be the introduction of majority decision-making in foreign and security policy matters. Thus far decisions in these areas have had be made on a unanimous basis, something which promises to be very difficult after enlargement to a membership of 25 countries
Joint support for EU agricultural reforms
Schröder stated that there is agreement between Germany and France with regard to planned agricultural reforms in the European Union, adding that an important characteristic of the relationship between the two countries is that they take into account economic factors specific to each other, e.g. agricultural interests in the case of France and industrial interests in the case of Germany.
Schröder noted that the EU agricultural sector is in need of reform but also that the motives behind the founding of the European Community should not be forgotten. He said that with this in mind he and Chirac instructed their agriculture ministers "to find wordings that will ensure the success of the agricultural council". If Schröder and Chirac have their way the current agreement on reducing EU subsidies by the year 2013 will remain in place. The EU agricultural ministers are currently meeting in Luxembourg to agree on a reform package for agricultural subsidies including a maximum limit and how they will be distributed.
Common currency, joint peacekeeping efforts
Schröder and Chirac made positive reference to the British decision a day earlier not to join the common currency for the time being but to review the matter again next year. "I see that as a clearly pro-European signal," Schröder said, adding that Great Britain had expressed a basic desire to join and that the decision taken by the British government holds out hope for the coming year.
With regard to the situation in the Congo Schröder and Chirac noted how important it is to have a joint European decision on a peacekeeping mission. Like Defense Minister Struck before him, Chancellor Schröder requested understanding for the fact that Germany will not be able to provide a contingent of fighting forces for the planned EU peacekeeping mission. "We will only be able to assist," Schröder said. What this assistance will consist of has not yet been decided. The cabinet is due to decide this on Friday. Logistical support and medevac flights are under consideration.
President Chirac expressed comprehension for the German situation, praising the strong involvement of the German armed forces in Afghanistan and in the Balkans where nearly 9,000 German soldiers are currently serving. He noted that since this is the first EU peacekeeping mission outside of Europe it is important that Germany and Britain be involved in it along with France. The 1,700 man force will be under French command.
Schröder and Chirac will hold their next informal meeting in a few weeks time, most likely in France.