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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
France and Germany build bridges
President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder
All smiles, but France and Germany are divided on Europe
By Rob Broomby in Berlin

The French and German leaders are meeting in the German border town of Freiburg ahead of the EU summit in Sweden later in the week.

Officially, measures to combat racism and xenophobia are at the centre of the talks, but the two nations are also hoping to hammer out a unified position on the enlargement of the European Union to reassure applicant nations.

Enlargement was dealt a blow last week when people in the Irish Republic voted to reject the Nice Treaty - the agreement which lays out reforms enabling the new members to join the EU.

France's President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin are meeting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at a time when the European Union looks increasingly divided over the style and extent of future European integration.

Differing visions

Officials are playing down the contradictory European visions which have caused friction between Berlin and Paris in recent weeks.

Instead, they have reaffirmed the common German-French goal of European expansion and transforming Europe into a global player.

Irish no campaigner
The Irish no vote will dominate the talks
But the two leaders have very different European ambitions.

The French Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, has rejected Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's vision of a federal Europe with its own government based on the European Commission.

He wants more say for the member countries and a federation of nation states.

Yet alliances are emerging - on some issues Germany's foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, is closer to the French prime minister than to his own boss, Chancellor Schroeder.

But the debate is getting increasingly technical and the Irish No vote has provided further evidence that Europe is failing to carry all its people along.

German officials say that the reasons for the Irish result need to be analysed calmly, but they are determined that enlargement will not be held up.

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See also:

08 Jun 01 | Europe
Ireland rejects EU expansion
11 Jun 01 | Europe
EU 'to proceed with enlargement'
18 May 01 | Europe
Schroeder's EU plans explained
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