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Leaders pledge to strengthen European Union ties

Leaders pledge to strengthen European Union ties

"It will include projects that are not going to emerge overnight, but we share a belief that we should not only tackle Brexit but also think of the ways to strengthen the remaining European Union countries and the eurozone", Merkel said.

Macron, the fervently pro-European centrist sworn in as head of state on Sunday, in keeping with tradition made his first trip overseas to Berlin, its power couple partner at the heart of the European project.

Germany, which has Europe's biggest economy, has vehemently opposed taking direct responsibility for weaker eurozone countries' debts.

French President Emmanuel Macron is greeted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) prior to talks at the Chancellery in Berlin on May 15, 2017.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, an arch conservative who has come to personify Berlin's focus on fiscal rectitude, had suggested that Macron's idea of creating a budget and finance minister for the euro zone was unrealistic because it would require politically thorny changes to the European Union treaty.

"The starting point for some Germans is, 'Why should we pay the French to do what they should have done 10 years ago?' But they also know they need some help running Europe".

Pictures from inside the Elysee Palace showed Macron smiling as he sat across the table from Edouard Philippe, his centre-right pick for premier, at the centre of the 22-strong ministerial team he appointed the previous afternoon.

Macron's election as president on May 7 smashed a decades-old left-right grip on politics and has left the conservative Republicans (LR) and the Socialists in disarray.

Several Socialist members of parliament have also joined Macron's cause and 21 LR members of parliament, including some party heavyweights and former ministers, issued a joint statement on Monday urging the party to positively respond to the "hand extended by the president".

Macron on the campaign trail made the case that a reformed France would go hand in hand with a reformed European Union, made more responsive to the concerns of citizens who may have missed the benefits of globalisation.

Macron addressed a source of German concern by saying that he had "never defended [the idea of] Eurobonds or the mutualisation of existing debt in the eurozone" because it would make some countries less responsible.

Macron said France was "the only country that has been unable to tackle mass unemployment in the last 20 years", and promised to fix it.

Macron's meeting with Merkel was his first visit overseas after his inauguration on Sunday, as it had been for his predecessors - Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande.

The OpinionWay/ORPI poll of just under 2,000 registered voters found Macron's Republic on the Move party set to win 27 percent of votes in the first round of the National Assembly election on June 11.

"I don't underestimate the difficulty that implies", Mr. Macron said.

Merkel, however, appeared keen to support Macron ahead of next month's general election in which he will faces a tough battle to win an outright majority.


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