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26.11.2019 Europe

France and Germany to kiss and make-up with 'future of Europe' conference

Frederic Scheiber/Pool via REUTERS
NOV 26, 2019 EUROPE
Frederic Scheiber/Pool via REUTERS

France and Germany have drawn up plan to guide deep reform of the European Union to present to fellow members and to counter concerns about divisions between their leaders.

 A draft paper calls for a "Conference on the Future of Europe" starting next year and carrying through to 2022.

"The conference should address all issues at stake to guide the future of European with a view to making the EU more united and sovereign," the draft says.

Any changes in how the union works agreed by member states, in consultation with the EU institutions, outside experts and civil society could lead to a treaty changes, it says.

The draft will be discussed by ambassadors from EU members in Brussels on Wednesday, just as the European Parliament is expected to approve the new European Commission.

The incoming head of the executive, Ursula von der Leyen, is expected to take charge on December 1 at the head of a 27-strong commission with no British member.

Europe's future
But Brexit is not the only dispute clouding the future of Europe; Paris and Berlin -- once the twin motor of EU integration -- are increasingly seen as being at loggerheads.

French President Emmanuel Macron's disruptive style has rubbed up against Chancellor Angela Merkel's cautious approach, and there are substantive disagreements.

France is blocking EU enlargement by the admission of North Macedonia and Albania, championed by Germany and broadly supported by the EU Commission and other members.

Macron also torpedoed the European Parliament's efforts to appoint one of its group leaders to the Commission job, blocking a German candidate from Merkel's centre-right party.

Macron and Merkel
And Merkel's feathers were further ruffled this month when Macron set the stage for a difficult NATO summit next week by declaring in an interview that the alliance was "brain dead".

This drew a rare public rebuke from Merkel, who was not consulted beforehand, and cemented a growing impression in Brussels of a rift between the two capitals.

If the reform outline is given the go ahead by the other European leaders at the December 12 EU summit, a reform secretariat could be set up to oversee two years of talks.

The meat of the political dialogue will take place in the second half of 2020 under the German presidency of the union, and finish in 2022 when France will have taken to the rolling role.