Angela Merkel, Germany's new chancellor, ushered in an era of stronger relations with Britain yesterday, telling Tony Blair in her first meeting with the Angela Merkel, Germany's new chancellor, ushered in an era of stronger relations with Britain yesterday, telling Tony Blair in her first meeting with the prime minister that she wanted a warmer dialogue with London. Ms Merkel left Mr Blair in little doubt that he could count on a closer partner in Berlin after the coolness that marked the final years of Gerhard Schrцder's leadership.
Mr Blair and Ms Merkel are expected to resume formal biannual meetings after a break of several years.But the German chancellor, who held talks on Wednesday in Paris with Jacques Chirac, French president, gave nothing away about whom she backed in the Anglo-French row over the European Union's financing.
She said Germany would "contribute constructively" to efforts by London to achieve a breakthrough by mid-December."I want to have success and the situation of each country has to be taken into account."If anybody forgets one country with its interests you won't get any success."
While stressing the continuing importance of the traditional Franco-German axis at the heart of the EU, Ms Merkel, who took office on Tuesday, used language that set her apart from her predecessor. "With this visit, I want to underline that Germany and the new German federal government has a great interest in maintaining good friendly relations with France, but not just with France but particularly with the UK," she said.
Europe, she made clear, should not just be run by the big three economies.The smaller countries also had an important role to play. She voiced a shared understanding with Mr Blair on the economic challenges facing Europe.The chancellor argued that European countries needed strong economies in order to maintain their costly welfare states.
Speaking at Downing Street, Ms Merkel said that "without renewed economic strength the European Union cannot keep its social safety nets working".She announced that Berlin would resume formal consultations with London.They were broken off when Mr Schrцder came to power in 1998, although he continued to holding meetings with Mr Chirac and other European leaders.
British diplomats had been lobbying for the reintroduction of such consultations, involving six-monthly meetings between Ms Merkel and Mr Blair and cabinet members on both sides.German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said yesterday that Berlin would play a mediating role on EU financing.
Mr Steinmeier added that he intended to discuss the deadlock with the foreign ministers of the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic in the next two days, reports Financial Times. I.L.
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