The new German chancellor Angela Merkel has said during her first foreign trip to Paris and Brussels that she “stands by the EU constitution,” vowing to revive the shelved charter when Germany takes over the EU presidency in 2007.
Berlin’s new leader dined with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels on Wednesday evening (23 November), after a long day of meetings that started with a kiss on the hand by French president Jacques Chirac in Paris in the morning.
Ms Merkel, who was sworn in as chancellor on Tuesday, upheld her predecessors’ tradition that the first trip goes to Paris, but she gave her own symbolically important touch to the schedule by tabling a Brussels rendezvous at NATO and the EU institutions on the same day.
Speaking at press conferences with European Parliament president Josep Borrell and Mr Barroso, Ms Merkel explained the Brussels stop-over was meant “to make clear right from the start” that Europe was “at the centre of the agenda” of her cabinet.
The 51 year-old first woman chancellor reaffirmed the new German coalition’s ambition to revive the EU Constitution, which has been put on ice by EU leaders since June when French and Dutch voters rejected the charter.
We stand by the constitution
“We stand by the constitution,” she said, adding that the reflection period agreed by EU leaders after the French and Dutch “no” votes should “by no means lead to the idea of the constitution being given up.”
The chancellor said that Berlin will “not be pushing too hard” to get the charter ratified, and will “wait for things to happen” first, but that the topic will be on the agenda when Germany takes over the EU presidency in the first half of 2007.