Merkel pledges backing for French EU presidency

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged French President Nicolas Sarkozy her full support when Paris assumes the EU presidency next month despite ongoing differences, in an interview published Monday.

Merkel pledges backing for French EU presidency
Photo: DPA

Merkel told the daily Straubinger Tagblatt ahead of a Franco-German summit Monday that Sarkozy could count on Berlin’s help on thorny issues such as climate protection and European Union institutional reforms during Paris’ six-month stint at the helm.

“Germany will support the French EU presidency with all its resources just as Nicolas Sarkozy backed our presidency” of the EU in the first half of 2007, she said.

The 27-nation bloc plans to introduce measures by the end of the year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020. The goal was set under the German presidency and is aimed at slowing global warming with an emphasis on renewable energy sources.

“We need a fair distribution of the burden,” Merkel said. “I am sure we will make decisive steps under the French presidency.” France and Germany are at odds over EU-wide plans to impose a carbon emissions limit of 120 grammes per kilometre on all new EU cars by 2012.

Berlin opposes the plans as vehicles made by German firms like BMW, Daimler and Porsche tend to be larger, luxury vehicles with greater emissions. France backs the legislation as French carmakers such as Peugeot and Renault tend to build smaller cars that pollute less. A German government spokesman said Friday that Berlin did not expect to resolve the issue when Merkel and Sarkozy gather for a summit Monday in the southern German town of Straubing because negotiations were ongoing.

In the interview, Merkel cited the Lisbon Treaty to reform EU decision-making and Sarkozy’s plans for a Mediterranean Union to improve links between the EU and southern Mediterranean rim states as areas where Germany was willing to lend a hand.

The Lisbon Treaty has to be agreed by all EU member states, with Ireland the only member putting it to a referendum this week. Germany was initially angered by the Mediterranean Union proposal because it excluded some EU members but managed to convince Sarkozy to open it up to all.

“We have managed to solve all the problems that have arisen and make progress,” Merkel said.

“The Mediterranean Union is a good example of how we have managed to make good use of the Franco-German motor in the interest of the EU.”

At the one-day summit Monday, Merkel and Sarkozy will be joined by their foreign, environment, economy and defence ministers.