French President Emmanuel Macron. Picture: REUTERS/FRANCOIS MORI
French President Emmanuel Macron. Picture: REUTERS/FRANCOIS MORI

Paris — French President Emmanuel Macron urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel to confront the damage that Germany’s obsession with budget discipline is doing to the European project.

"Germany can’t have a perpetual fetish about budget and trade surpluses, because they come at the expense of others," Macron said as he received the annual "Charlemagne Prize" from the city of Aachen in front of an audience including the German chancellor.

As the French leader was celebrated for his contribution to European unity, he gave perhaps the clearest sign yet of the tensions emerging in the alliance with Merkel, around which he has built much of his European strategy.

He called for a eurozone budget to stabilise the bloc’s economy and bring its members closer together, a main plank of his vision which Germany has so far refused to support.

In comments introducing her French counterpart, Merkel paid tribute to his commitment to European unity and culture, calling him a "dynamic young politician for whom Europe is a natural choice". Merkel supported Macron’s call for pan-European universities and common migration policy, but limited her comments on the euro to saying "we need a stable and sustainable" monetary system.

"We come from different political pasts, but we find common ground, and that is the magic of Europe," she said.

Macron’s speech was less detailed than others he has given over the past year, but it wove together similar themes of greater democracy in the EU, more shared sovereignty and common institutions in areas like higher education and the military, and the need for more pooled resources.