Merkel, Macron agree on eurozone budget
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France and Germany have agreed to set up a common budget for the eurozone, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday, announcing a key reform proposal to bolster the bloc.
The sum will be a "real budget with annual revenues and spending," said French President Emmanuel Macron after talks with the German leader, adding that Paris and Berlin hoped to have it in place by 2021.
Macron would not be drawn into giving a figure for the budget, saying that its size would be discussed with other members of the bloc.
How it would be funded was also up for discussion with other eurozone members, said Merkel, suggesting that it could involve regular transfers made by individual countries or a tax on financial transactions.
Macron had initially sought a budget of several hundred billion euros, but Merkel in a recent interview offered far less, saying that the total should be "at the lower end of the double-digit billions of euros range".
France and Germany are seeking deals with frontline states in Europe's migration crisis to return asylum seekers to the EU country where they were first registered, usually their point of arrival, President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday.
"France and Germany will ensure that those who are registered in a Schengen zone country can be taken back as quickly as possible to the country where they have been registered," he said, vowing to achieve this through bilateral and multinational agreements.
Popular misgivings over the migrant influx have given populist and anti-immigration forces a boost across several European nations, including Italy and Austria where far-right parties are now sharing power.
In Germany, voters in September's election handed veteran leader Merkel her worst score ever, giving seats for the first time to the far-right anti-Islam AfD.
A defiant Interior Minister Horst Seehofer warned that he would give Merkel a fortnight to find a European deal to curb new arrivals by a June 28-29 EU summit, failing which he vowed to order border police to turn back migrants.
Merkel immediately rejected the threat, saying there would be "no automatism" if no European deal was found, and warned Seehofer and his Bavarian CSU party that she is ultimately in charge of government policy.
Several high-profile crimes by migrants have also fuelled public anger. They include a deadly 2016 Christmas market attack by a failed Tunisian asylum seeker and the rape-murder in May of a teenage girl, allegedly by an Iraqi.
Merkel now faces the challenge of persuading EU governments to sign up to a common plan on migrants.
Central and eastern EU nations such as Hungary and Poland have either refused outright or resisted taking in refugees under an EU quota system, and Austria has also taken an uncompromising stance.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)