Macron DITCHING Merkel? French president forges alliance with Austria amid Germany crisis | World | News

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Mr Kurz was in Paris on Friday, in his first bilateral foreign visit since taking office in December.

At a joint press conference, he and Mr Macron hailed their common views on a variety of European issues and vowed to work together to reform the bloc.

Ordinarily the French president would turn to Germany for this support, however Angela Merkel has had her mind on coalition negotiations since September, and had less time for Europe.

In particular, Mr Macron made significant overtures to Austria on the subject of immigration. 

Mr Kurz leads a right-wing coalition government in partnership with the far-right anti-immigration FPÖ, which has heavily resisted accepting refugees into the country.

Mr Macron acknowledged the difficulties Austria had faced when thousands of refugees entered the country via the Balkan route in 2015, and vowed the European Union would do more to respond to the problems posed by large numbers of arrivals.

Both leaders also agree on the need for greater taxation on internet companies making large profits in Europe.

Crucially for the French president, Austria is prepared to work with him on European Union reforms, which have been a cornerstone of his presidency thus far.

Mr Macon hailed their shared desire for a “more democratic, united and sovereign Europe”, which would “establish a reformed Europe consistent with the ideas I expressed a few months ago”.

While Mr Kurz emphasised: “We have a pro-European government that wants to play an active and constructive role to build a better Europe.”

Meanwhile, Mrs Merkel today unveiled plans for a new ‘grand coalition’ between her CDU and the left-wing SPD.

A 28-page programme of government explicitly mentions working closely with Mr Macron to push through his sweeping Euro reforms, including plans for the creation of a European finance minister and a European Monetary Fund.

However the German chancellor, often jokingly referred to as the ‘Queen of Europe’, has been noticeably absent from European politics for months amid difficult coalition negotiations, resulting in political instability.

Approaches to work with other EU nations – even ones as eurosceptic as Austria – could be a sign France is no longer prepared to worship at the court of Queen Angela.

Mr Macron may have hailed the initial coalition agreement as “good news” for France and for Europe.

But he did not wholeheartedly embrace Mrs Merkel’s new pro-European programme of government, crucially disagreeing on the question of the European Monetary Fund, which he does not believe is needed.

He instead advocates smaller reforms to the existing European Stability Mechanism, which bails out struggling economies.



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