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POLITICS

Germany backs France for ‘more sovereign’ Europe: German Foreign Minister

France and Germany bear a "special responsibility" to make the European Union a stronger world power as Paris assumes the bloc's rotating presidency, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told AFP on Friday.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock holds a press conference at the foreign office in Berlin, Germany
Annalena Baerbock became Germany's first woman top diplomat when the country's new coalition government was formed. Michael Sohn / POOL / AFP

Germany’s coalition government has said it wants to increase the bloc’s “strategic sovereignty” as rivalries between world powers such as the United States, China and Russia adversely affect the EU.

French President Emmanuel Macron has long envisioned a stronger European Union, saying he aimed to make it “powerful in the world” during France’s six-month presidency of the European Council beginning on January 1st.

Germany will also host the next G7 summit in June as president of the group of wealthy democracies, giving the EU a chance to establish global diplomatic leadership in 2022.

The two countries, “as the closest of friends at the heart of Europe, bear a special responsibility for a united European Union, capable of acting and looking towards the future,” said Baerbock.

France’s presidency is “an important opportunity we want to seize together to strengthen Europe and make it fit to rise up to tomorrow’s challenges”, she added.

“Our French friends can count on our support from the first day to the last to prepare the ground for a sustainable economic recovery, in the fight against the climate crisis, in digitalisation and for a more sovereign Europe.”

France’s priorities for its European Council presidency include a bloc-wide minimum wage, more regulation on digital giants and a carbon border tax.

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Member comments

  1. There’s only so much sovereignty to go round. A more sovereign Europe, by definition, means a less sovereign France. I wonder if that’s what people really want and if anyone will ask them.

    1. Russia is a world power in a military context, not an economic one. If the EU wants to build ‘sovereignty’ to be included in this bracket, it must have the means to defend itself like a global power and not rely on the US. This is what Putin fears and would stop him in his tracks.

      1. Since 5 member states are neutral and the rest don’t even pay what NATO expects from them , there’s no chance that the EU will ever be in a position to defend itself.

        1. Exactly. Which is what encourages the Russians to keep testing for weakness.
          The EU as a federal entity is a huge joke. It will never happen. To talk about EU sovereignty is just more hot air.

  2. Russia was promised many years ago that NATO wouldn’t be expanded into its backyard. So why is the German foreign minister supporting NATO expansion into Russian territory? Why is she fighting Nord Stream 2 which Germany needs real bad? If she wants to have a sovereign Europe why is she allowing the United States to encroach on German interests? The last thing we need is to provoke the Russian bear. Check her Wikipedia profile and you will gain an insight.

  3. Europe does need to be more sovereign and I don’t agree NATO is exactly the way to go about it. An EU army that is separate of NATO would be able to defend Europe from cyber attacks, crime, terrorism and Russian militarism. Small nations like the Baltics and Neutral states like Sweden and Finland would be best served by France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland collaborating together to present a United front against all threats.

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POLITICS

French Mediterranean resort’s far-right mayor bans burkinis

The far-right mayor of a resort on the Mediterranean coast of France has banned Muslim women from wearing burkinis in any of the town's swimming pools or beaches - despite previous court rulings saying that this is illegal.

French Mediterranean resort's far-right mayor bans burkinis

Three days after the southeastern city of Grenoble voted to allow swimmers to wear the full-cover swimsuit, the mayor of Fréjus – a member of Marine Le Pen’s far right Rassemblement National party – announced that he had decided to outlaw it.

“I learned with amazement of the authorisation given by the mayor of Grenoble to authorise the burkini in the swimming pools of its commune,” David Rachline wrote in a press release. 

READ ALSO OPINION: If France is to belong in a multicultural world it must accept its Muslim women

In fact, Grenoble updated its rules for municipal swimming pools to allow all bathers to wear any swimsuit – including burkinis – that protected them from the sun. It also permits women to swim topless if they wish and men to wear swim shorts instead of Speedos.

No-one seems to have had an issue with the swim shorts or the topless rule, but the addition of the ‘burkini’ to the list of accepted swimwear caused a major stir, with many lining up to condemn the move – including France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who ordered the local Préfet to review the decision, and later announced that he had asked for a legal challenge to the new regulations.

READ ALSO French government aims to block ‘burkinis’ in swimming pools

Rachline has pre-empted any decision from the government by acting unilaterally, trotting out the familiar refrain from the right that the decision in Grenoble goes against the “fundamental republican principle of secularism”.

“The express authorisation of the burkini is neither more nor less than an electoral provocation with a communitarian spring, implemented by the radical left,” he said.

“I see a culpable complacency with radical Islamism, for electoral purposes and in defiance of national cohesion.

“In order for things to be clearly stated, I have decided, as mayor of Fréjus, guarantor of public hygiene and safety, to modify the corresponding decrees to explicitly specify the ban on the burkini.”

His ban extends to both the town’s municipal swimming pools and its beaches, and he’s not the first southern mayor to attempt to ban burkinis on beaches.

In 2016, Cannes mayor David Lisnard issued an anti-burkini order on the beaches of his town.

The decision, which had also been taken in municipalities such as Villeneuve-Loubet (Alpes-Maritimes), was overturned after an opinion from the Conseil d’Etat, one of France’s highest legal authorities. 

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