French President Jacques Chirac has played host to Angela Merkel, making her maiden foreign trip as chancellor of Germany. Just hours after being sworn in, his guest was keen to underline the importance she attaches to Berlin’s close relationship with Paris.Her trip to the Elysee Palace is also in keeping with a longstanding precedent. Gerhard Schroeder and Helmut Kohl both chose France for their first cross-border visits as chancellor. Pressing problems in Europe, such as the need for a quick deal on the next EU budget, mean the day-to-day partnership between France and Germany remains vital. This point was not lost on the French leader, who stressed the need for the two countries to continue to be Europe’s engine. “If we don’t get on, the system becomes blocked and Europe is a bit like a car with a broken part,” he told a joint news conference. Merkel described the two nation’s close relationship as a “miracle” given a history of conflict, including two world wars. She said she was confident relations would go on developing positively. In her first full day in office, the new chancellor then headed to Brussels to meet EU leaders and visit NATO headquarters. There she met Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and spelt out a key point on Iraq. Despite her much-talked-about desire to boost relations with the United States, Merkel signalled she was sticking to a policy adopted by her anti-war predecessor. It means Germany will not join NATO’s training of Iraqi military officers inside Iraq.
Merkel makes first foreign stop in Paris