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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Merkel protege warns against centralised European Union

French president's ideas for a 'European renaissance' get a mixed reaction from Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer

Christian Democrat leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is backing French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a stronger EU. AP
Christian Democrat leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is backing French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a stronger EU. AP

The leader of Germany's ruling Christian Democrats responded to French President Emmanuel Macron's ideas for a "European renaissance" by offering some overlap with his vision, while also warning against too much centralisation.

Under the title Doing Europe Right, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer echoed Mr Macron by calling for a reform of the EU's migration policy, but rejected his idea for a European minimum wage and spoke against collective debts.

Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer's response to Mr Macron fills a void left by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is under pressure from her party to engage with him more fully after leaving her spokesman to simply say Germany supports discussions about the EU's future.

"Our Europe needs to become stronger," Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer, who succeeded Merkel as party leader in December, wrote in an opinion piece for the Welt am Sonntag weekly newspaper.

But she added: "European centralism, European statism, the collectivisation of debts, a Europeanisation of social systems and the minimum wage would be the wrong way."

That appeared to counter Mr Macron's call for a European minimum wage, adapted to each country, and also highlighted the entrenched resistance in Berlin to any moves that could make Germany liable for other countries' debts.

Mr Macron's proposals, unveiled in an open letter to EU citizens published this week in newspapers across Europe, aim to protect and defend Europeans while giving the bloc new impetus in the face of global competition.

Since winning election as French president in 2017, Mr Macron has championed EU reform, but faced wariness in Berlin of increased burdens on German taxpayers.

Presenting her ideas, Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is Mrs Merkel's protege and in pole position to succeed her as chancellor, called for an internal European banking market to ensure businesses can secure financing in the EU.

She also said a joint EU innovation budget should fund new technologies, tax loopholes should be closed and a digital tax introduced based on an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development model.

Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer, like Mr Macron, called for a reform of migration policy, but said that tackling migration at its source, protecting Europe's external borders and absorbing asylum seekers were roles that should be shared fairly.

"In future, the EU should be represented with a common permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council," she said.

Updated: March 10, 2019 04:45 PM

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