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Tuesday, 30 January, 2001, 15:47 GMT
Franco-German alliance 'still special'
Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder
Berlin insists the Franco-German alliance remains strong
By Rob Broomby in Berlin

After a tense period in Franco-German relations, government officials in Berlin have insisted there is no alternative to the Franco-German relationship as the driving force in Europe.

The restatement of the traditional cornerstone alliance between Paris and Berlin comes ahead of a key meeting in Strasbourg on Wednesday aimed at repairing the partnership, which was seen as being damaged after the Nice summit in December.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair (left) with Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Berlin denies Britain is muscling in on the Franco-German friendship
The Strasbourg meeting follows an informal dinner between Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr Schroeder's foreign policy advisor, Michael Steiner, has said there is no alternative to the Franco-German special relationship, but he called for it to be redefined.

Triangular relationship

Monday's meeting between the German and British leaders had raised speculation that Berlin wanted to resurrect the idea of a triangular relationship - bringing London into the European fold.

German officials also declared the Nice summit a success and said there can be no talk of stagnation in Europe.

They dismissed the idea that Germany and France are at odds over the issue of a European constitution.

They said both nations were in favour of the idea, though they acknowledged London's concerns over the issue.

They warned that EU expansion could lead to an increase in the centrifugal forces pulling the community apart. The only alternative was the further deepening of Europe.

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