Germany and France have agreed to “open a new chapter” in European Union relations, after Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron met to finalise plans for sweeping reforms of the 19-member eurozone, including a new parallel budget.
Tuesday’s talks were seen as vital for ensuring the European project moves ahead after a decade of crisis, division and instability. France said ahead of the talks that if Merkel and Macron didn’t agree on strengthening the eurozone and dealing with migration, the bloc was likely to return to turbulent times.
The two leaders agreed that
- The EU will set up a single eurozone budget to boost investment and promote economic convergence among all 19 member states.
- The new budget will be put in place by 2021, but details on how it will be financed still need to be worked out.
- The current European Stability Mechanism (ESM), introduced in 2012 to deal with the eurozone crisis, will be turned into a European monetary fund, which can offer loans to struggling EU countries, and better insulate the single currency from future crises.
- Merkel said that a move towards a banking union can only happen after individual banking risks have been reduced.
- On migration, the two leaders said they would push for greater solidarity among EU states to ensure a European response to the refugee influx.
- They both restated their belief that the migrant flow to Europe needs to be reduced.
- Merkel spoke of the need to beef up staffing at the EU’s migration agency, Frontex.
- The pair agreed to reduce the number of EU commissioners from the current 28.