German Chancellor Angela Merkel sat down with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to discuss the eurozone, immigration, the rise of populism, and reforms in the European Union. Euronews breaks down the key takeaways from her interview.
What are the key things Merkel wants to change in Europe?
An "investment budget" for the eurozone in low double-digit billions of euros, to help with "innovation" and growth measures.
The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) will become the European Stability Fund, which will give short-term lends to cash-strapped countries a joint-European defence force and a pan-European response to the migration crisis.
What did she say about the immigration challenge?
Merkel underlined the need for a common European response to the challenge of immigration, but said it must be a "flexible" system so that countries can contribute to helping and housing migrants as they are able to. There also needs to be common standards for asylum in Europe, Merkel said, and a unified external border control, which will be operated by Frontex.
What did Merkel say about Italy?
Merkel was characteristically diplomatic when asked how she felt about the incoming populist government in Italy and the comments its euroskeptic leaders had made about Italy not being "slaves to Germany and France". She said she looked forward to open conversation with the new leaders to help solve any problems. But on the issue of the southern European country's mounting debt and any possible relief, there wasn't a lot of sympathies. "Solidarity between partners in Europe must never lead to a debt union," she said, pouring cold water on hopes for any debt relief for Italy.
Macron gave his speech on European reforms in September 2017, why is Merkel only responding now?
The German chancellor is famously careful and deliberate when acting on issues, but she was criticised by members of her own government for not speaking out in support of Macron sooner. It is a difficult time for Europe: the UK is making an awkward exit; the Italians have just voted in eurosceptics which ties into the rise of populism — in Germany and elsewhere in Europe; and new fault lines developing between Europe and the US, now is the time to come together.
Macron has ambitious plans for European reforms but he cannot go it alone, and the strength of the Berlin-Paris axis is an important gauge for how well things are going in Europe. The two leaders may not see eye to eye on all issues, but there is certainly enough common ground now to work on the reforms together. They will present their plans at an EU summit at the end of June.