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On EU summit eve, Macron visits Dutch PM to talk reform

© POOL/AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron first visited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) based in The Hague

THE HAGUE (AFP) - 

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived Wednesday in the Netherlands seeking to win over Dutch leaders sceptical of his eurozone reform plans, ahead of a key two-day EU summit.

Macron was due to meet with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for "long head-to-head" talks later Wednesday, aiming to set out his proposals for bolstering the eurozone, the French presidency said.

Before being received by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Macron first visited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) based in The Hague.

The visit comes amid "the Syrian crisis and the Salisbury attack," French officials said.

OPCW arms experts arrived in Britain on Monday to help investigations into the poisoning of a former Russian spy, who remains in hospital after allegedly being exposed to a nerve agent in Salisbury earlier this month.

During the Brussels summit on Thursday and Friday, Macron will urge European leaders to back his vision for reforms, including setting up a crisis fund for nations in trouble.

Paris is hoping a roadmap can be drawn up at the next summit in June, ahead of European parliamentary elections next year.

But Rutte set out his differences with the French proposals in an interview published in the French daily Le Monde, stressing it was up to individual nations to "put their economies in order", control their budgets and slash deficits.

"Any extra contributions should be avoided" to finance a eurozone budget, Rutte said.

He insisted the priority should be on things such as innovation, monitoring the EU's external borders and handling the migrant issue.

"The Netherlands is one of the major net contributors to the budget" stressed Rutte, who has long argued that the Dutch should not have to pay more into EU coffers.

© 2018 AFP