Merkel, Hollande agree to push for growth

Xinhua, May 16, 2012

Despite their differences over how to drag Europe out of its current economic swamp, German and French leaders pledged to make joint effort to reinvigorate growth in the continent during their first meeting on Tuesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel(L) shakes hands with the French left-wing new president Francois Hollande(R) on Tuesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel(L) shakes hands with the French left-wing new president Francois Hollande(R) on Tuesday.

"We share the responsibility for a good development in Europe and I think we will find solutions for individual problems in this spirit," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a joint news conference.

She made an effort to downplay the differences between her and the French left-wing new president Francois Hollande, who took office just hours ago.

The high-profile visit, which was Hollande's first diplomatic trip, was overshadowed by storm that forced his plane to return to Villacoublay military airport, apart from mounting international pressure of a potential Greek eurozone exit.

Earlier in the day, the final critical talks among Greek party leaders over the formation of a national unity government to lead Greece after the May 6 parliamentary elections collapsed, with the debt-ridden country heading to fresh polls in June.

However, leaders of the eurozone's two largest economies expressed their wish for Greece to stay in the single currency bloc.

"We want Greece to stay in the euro," said Merkel, adding that Germany and France were prepared "to study the possibility of additional growth measures in Greece" if Athens said they needed them.

Hollande echoed Merkel's opinion, while promoting a growth-driven strategy which was at core of his presidential campaign.

"I hope that we can say to the Greeks that Europe is ready to add measures to help growth and support economic activity so that there is a return to growth in Greece," Hollande said.

Calling the French-Germany ties as "balanced" and "respectful", Hollande said that "everything should be put on the table" at the forthcoming informal summit of EU leaders in Brussels due on May 23.

In addition, Hollande also affirmed his wish for a renegotiation of the EU fiscal pact. "I said it during my election campaign and I say it again now as president that I want to renegotiate what has been agreed to include a growth dimension."

Though remained opposed to any change of the EU fiscal pact, which has been ratified in several of EU member states, Merkel made it a point to send a signal of unity.

"Growth has to feed through to the people. And that's why I'm happy that we'll discuss different ideas on how to achieve growth," Merkel said.

Following the visit to Germany, Hollande is due to fly to Washington later in the week to meet U.S. President Barack Obama at the G8 meeting scheduled for May 18-19 at Camp David of the U.S. presidential retreat, as well as NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21.