Macron and Merkel in talks over European defence and US relations

French leader Emmanuel Macron and his German counterpart Angela Merkel hold talks on Friday on European defence and the early moves of US President Joe Biden to rekindle close transatlantic ties.

Macron and Merkel in talks over European defence and US relations
Macron and Merkel will talk via video link on Friday. Photo: AFP

The video conference will be an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss their visions of future ties with Washington.

Macron is a leading proponent of increased European autonomy – which means boosting EU military capacities in particular – while Germany has traditionally been happy to rely on the US and the NATO military alliance for security.

Ex-president Donald Trump ended this decades-long understanding by assailing Berlin for failing to pay enough into NATO and ordering cuts to the number of US troops in Germany.

The talks on Friday will cover all issues associated with “the strengthening of European sovereignty”, a French presidency official said, meaning slow-moving common defence projects such as a new fighter jet and a tank will be on the table.

“They will discuss issues around European defence in particular… as well transatlantic and international questions,” the official added.

The leaders will hold an online press conference at 1500 GMT where they are also likely to face questions about the European Union's faltering Covid-19 vaccine procurement programme.

After four years of Trump's norm-shredding presidency, Biden announced Thursday that “diplomacy is back” under his administration, which has signalled a clear recommitment to its traditional allies in Europe.

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Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin