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Sarkozy and Merkel pledge unity

Latest update : 2008-06-09

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to support each other on illegal immigration when France takes over the EU presidency in July, though differences remain between the two over CO2 vehicle emissions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged unity Monday as they held talks aimed at resolving deep-seated divisions between their countries.

"France has come to tell you that we need Germany," Sarkozy said as Merkel welcomed him in the baroque southern town of Straubing for a one-day summit.

He praised Merkel as the woman who pulled the European Union out of its constitutional crisis and helped to deliver the Lisbon Treaty on a new organisational framework for the 27-nation bloc.

"When Europe was deadlocked, it was Germany and Madame Merkel that unblocked the situation," Sarkozy said.

In turn, Merkel vowed to give France her fulsome backing when it takes over the rotating EU presidency in July.

"We are going to support France during its presidency of the EU."

In keeping with that pledge, French and German ministers said here they have agreed to cooperate on immigration -- an issue on which France plans to propose a sweeping new EU pact once it takes over the presidency.

The two sides said they would work together more closely to fight illegal immigration and lobby other EU members to refrain from giving residency status collectively to large groups of illegal immigrants.

The summit was also due to focus on energy, the environment and defence issues.

But there was scant hope of resolving a protracted dispute between Paris and Berlin over European plans to reduce carbon emissions from cars as part of plans to fight climate change.

The European Union wants to impose a carbon emissions limit of 120 grammes per kilometre on all new EU cars by 2012 as part of efforts to fight climate change.

Merkel's government strongly oppose the plans as vehicles made by cornerstone German firms like BMW, Daimler and Porsche tend to be larger, luxury vehicles with greater emissions.

France however backs the legislation as leading French carmakers such as Peugeot and Renault tend to build smaller cars that pollute less.

A German government spokesman said Friday reports that the row has been resolved were unfounded and described ongoing negotiations as "difficult and complicated in detail."

The issue is one of several that have strained ties between Merkel and Sarkozy since he took office last year and include their row over his proposal for a union of Mediterranean nations.

Merkel saw it as a bid to sideline Berlin and Sarkozy finally promised to open it to all European nations. But observers say a summit on the project in July will show whether the compromise is holding.

Another contentious point Monday could be Sarkozy's recent proposal to cap value-added tax on oil across the European Union to help countries deal with the soaring oil price. It drew a cool response from Merkel.

"I support the proposal that we act together," she said.

"But it of course depends on the exact measures being mooted. We should see whether we can agree on something that addresses our goal."

But the chancellor has sought to put a brave face on disputes past and present as she hosts Sarkozy in what will be their last summit before France assumes the EU presidency next month.

In an interview published Monday in the local Straubinger Tagblatt she vowed to help France deal with thorny issues such as climate protection and European Union institutional reform, which will be tested this week as Ireland holds a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

"We have managed to solve all the problems that have arisen and make progress," she said.

"The Mediterranean Union is a good example of how we managed to make good use of the French-German motor in the interest of the EU."

Date created : 2008-06-09