French President Emmanuel Macron received German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his Mediterranean holiday retreat on Thursday to discuss a long list of burning issues including the coronavirus pandemic, post-election unrest in Belarus and growing tensions with Turkey, according to AFP.
The pair have a packed agenda for their meeting at the Fort de Bregancon, with challenges raised by Britain’s departure from the European Union, climate change, the coup d’etat in Mali and the consequences of the devastating blast in Lebanon also set to loom large.
Macron welcomed Merkel for her first-ever visit to the presidential summer residence with a Namaste-style greeting, palms pressed together and bending at the waist, in observance of social-distancing guidelines against coronavirus spread.
According to the Elysee Palace, a priority of the talks will be to push ahead with a coronavirus recovery fund for Europe that the pair had piloted and was agreed at an EU summit last month.
“The international agenda is particularly full,” the French presidency said ahead of the talks, which are to be followed by a news conference and a working dinner.
It added that Paris and Berlin shared “a high level of convergence” on the issues.
The allies will look to coordinate policy on the mass protests in Belarus following President Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election win which the opposition had denounced as a fraud.
They will also discuss mounting tensions between Greece and Turkey over disputed Mediterranean waters, with Macron taking a tough line against Ankara.
In an interview with Paris Match published earlier Thursday, the French president said his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was conducting an “expansionist policy that mixes nationalism and Islamism, which is not compatible with European interests.”
He also accused Turkey of being a “destabilizing factor.”
Germany, for its part, is seeking to mediate between Turkey and Greece in a growing row over gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.
Also on this issue, “there is no contradiction on the substance” between Paris and Berlin, said the Elysee.
Macron and Merkel last saw each other at a marathon five-day EU summit that ended on July 21 with member states agreeing to a 750 billion euro ($858 billion) rescue plan for economies left shattered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Germany and France strongly backed the package, which enables joint borrowing by the 27 members of the bloc to help virus-hit countries, particularly Spain and Italy.
The deal was a special victory for Macron, who came to office in 2017 committed to strengthening the European Union but has struggled to deliver.