German-Franco initiative in EU to revive as German coalition talks make breakthrough: expert

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The German-Franco Initiative will return and push European integration to go further as German coalition talks have achieved breakthrough, according to Prof. Frank Baasner, director of the Deutsch-Franzoesisches Institut (DFI).

The exploratory talks for government coalition between Angela Merkel’s Conservatives Union and Martin Schulz-led Social Democratic Party (SPD) on Friday made breakthrough on Friday.

According to the 28-page policy document reached by the parties, European policies were given priority, and the two parties vowed to strengthen European integration through closer cooperation with France, in a bid to help European Union withstand global challenges.

“I am glad to see that the two parties’ response to French President Macron is very astonishing, especially the stronger European common budget and Germany’s affirmation to make more contributions to EU budget,” Baasner told Xinhua in an interview.

The document is the first time that Germany responded to Macron’s ambitions in reforming EU, saying that “The renewal of the EU will only succeed if Germany and France work together with all their strength. That is why we want to further strengthen and renew German-French cooperation.”

The Germany-France special relations in EU has long served as a strong engine in European integration.

Baasner said the response by the Union Party and the SPD is a strong political moment for the European Union as both Germany and France wish to make major steps in European integration in a post-Brexit era “with a United States that Europeans don’t know how much they are reliable.”

Inside the EU, there are right-wing populist politics, and U.S. President Donald Trump has asked European allies to take on more defense responsibilities, while the Brexit brought centrifugal force to the bloc, according to Baasner.

“In this context discussion aroused in the EU on how we will go on and we wish to change the way we do in Europe,” said Baasner, “this is how we see from the Trump administration and the Brexit made Europe move.”

The two parties said common European foreign and security policy must be strengthened in the sense of a peace power Europe, and called for strengthened cooperation in security and defense policy (PESCO).

However, according to Baasner, the German-Franco Initiative in the new era will face some major obstacles, especially in immigration, defense and financial issues, as a two-speed European integration may be a solution which Germany always tries to avoid.

“We already have a split-up EU… This will be the tricky thing to be solved by Merkel and Macron,” Baasner said.

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