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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Boost for Franco-German 'engine'
CDU leader Angela Merkel with French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy
Angela Merkel is seen as politically close to France's Nicolas Sarkozy
The German opposition leader, Angela Merkel, has said the Franco-German alliance must remain the engine of progress in the European Union.

"All initiatives taken must be open to all European countries, but France and Germany must be the engine of these initiatives," she said in Paris.

Mrs Merkel is tipped to beat Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in elections expected to be held in September.

She was speaking after talks with French President Jacques Chirac.

She is also meeting French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin - both seen as leading contenders to replace President Chirac in 2007 if he decides not to stand again.

"Future European construction depends very much on Franco-German relations," Mrs Merkel said.

Mr Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder have developed a close partnership to deepen EU integration.

Doubts about Turkey

Mrs Merkel also repeated her opposition to Turkey becoming a member of the EU, saying that it was possible to bring Turkey closer to Europe without granting it full membership.

"We need to talk about the limits of enlargement. We need borders. People need to know where these borders are," she said.
If the CDU wins the elections, we shall have intensive discussions on Turkey
Angela Merkel

"We need to find solutions, within a privileged partnership, which make it possible to bring Turkey and Europe together without going as far as accession."

The EU has pledged to open discussions with Turkey on 3 October on its bid to join the bloc.

Mrs Merkel, who heads the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and Mr Sarkozy, leader of Mr Chirac's governing UMP party, have both spoken about the need to reform their own political parties and the economies of their respective countries, to boost the European Union's effectiveness.

Their similar political views have prompted speculation about a reshaping of the EU if the two come to power.

Mr Sarkozy said the Berlin-Paris axis, while indispensible, "must not be maintained against the interests of the rest, but for the rest".

Advantage to UK?

Both he and Mrs Merkel admire the way Britain's economy has been transformed since the 1980s.

The BBC's Europe correspondent Tim Franks says the Franco-German engine has been seizing up in recent years, hit by the two countries' economic woes and the impact of EU enlargement.

Some other countries in the enlarged EU have resented what they have seen as particularly French condescension, our correspondent reports.

UK ministers are openly hoping that, with new leadership in Germany, and then possibly France, the motor could begin powering in a new, more anglocentric direction, he adds.

European political heavyweights meet in France

French PM announces new cabinet
02 Jun 05 |  Europe

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