It is business more-or-less as usual as Germany’s new Chancellor continues her lightening tour to reassure EU partners. Yesterday, Angela Merkel showed the way she was thinking with her first visitsas leader to Brussels and Paris.
But during talks with the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, Merkel made it clear she expected Europe to shape up. Speaking in Brussels she said:“Europe must focus on economic reform so that in a globalised world we can keep up and be competitive. Our social model can only be preserved if we are economically strong. They are two sides of the same coin.” The Portuguese Commission President’s response was suitably diplomatic – and in German:“Germany’s government has given us a clear signal that the European Union is as always at the centre of its agenda. And of course a strong Germany is good for Europe”. Chancellor Merkel’s earlier meeting with France’s President Jacques Chirac was aimiable enough, clearly valuing the French/German special relationship. But with her calling for closer ties with the US, the two leaders may not be completely of one mind. Indeed the welcome at today’s port of call, London, and Prime Minister Tony Blair, may not be completely cordial. There is the thorny subject of Britain’s EU rebate, long cherished by Downing Street, but under attack by some.