Fri, 22 Oct 2021

French President Emmanuel Macron met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris Thursday to discuss international crises and European issues, days before elections that will determine who succeeds her after 16 years in office.

In 16 years in power, Merkel has known four French presidents and has built close relationships with all of them, despite a slightly rocky start with Macron.

Despite that relationship, exemplified by a €750 billion aid deal agreed last year to help EU member states weather the pandemic, Macron has been concerned about political paralysis after the election, aides say.

A usually protracted coalition-building period in Germany could make it difficult for France to push for its ambitious EU reform agenda when it holds the rotating EU presidency in the first half of next year.

Under the German constitution, Merkel will remain chancellor until a majority of Bundestag lawmakers elect a successor.

"Until the formation of the government, Mrs Chancellor, dear Angela Merkel, and myself will continue to work hand in hand on major issues, on which we seek to bring Franco-German solutions, as we have done from day one," Macron said on the steps of the Elysee before a working dinner.

Merkel, in turn, said: "We have also discussed that we want to make everything possible, from the German side, so that there is no standstill in the necessary decisions that have to be made."

'Lessons' from Afghanistan

On Afghanistan, Macron and Merkel said they would discuss how to extract remaining European citizens and Afghans who are under threat, and how to support neighbouring nations hosting Afghan refugees.

"We will of course also have to consider what the end of the NATO deployment in Afghanistan means for us and our future missions in connection with the fight against terrorism, and what lessons we draw from its unsuccessful end, if you look at the aims we had imagined," Merkel said.

Macron pushed for greater European "autonomy" regarding the world's crises, citing the "fight against terrorism" in Libya and in Africa's Sahel region.

French authorities announced overnight the death of the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, killed in southern Mali in a French-led operation.

France has over 5,000 troops deployed in the Sahel to fight Islamic extremists. Paris announced plans to nearly halve that force in the coming years. Germany has several hundred soldiers in United Nations stabilization and European Union training missions in Mali.

Both governments expressed concern this week at reports on the possible deployment of Russian mercenaries in Mali.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer tweeted on Wednesday that, if confirmed, "that puts into question the basis of the mandate" for German soldiers in Mali.

A French top official, speaking anonymously in accordance with the Elysee's customary practices, said Merkel will be back in Paris in the coming weeks for a "goodbye visit".

Macron met last week with two candidates to succeed her, Armin Laschet of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and Olaf Scholz, running for the Social Democrats.

The meetings, at the request of the two candidates, allowed Macron to get "the most precise information possible" about the political situation in Germany, and different hypothesis for the future coalition government, the official said.

Macron did not meet with Greens contender Annalena Baerbock.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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