October 1, 2017 / 11:06 AM / 18 days ago

In change of tone, leader of German FDP calls Macron a "godsend"

Free Democratic Party FDP leader Christian Lindner leaves a news conference in Berlin, Germany, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos

BERLIN (Reuters) - The leader of Germany’s Free Democrats (FDP) called French President Emmanuel Macron a “godsend” on Sunday, welcoming his proposals for more European cooperation in areas ranging from defence and migration to energy and the digital economy.

Striking a far more conciliatory tone than he did during the German election campaign, Christian Lindner echoed the language that Macron used during a speech at the Sorbonne University last week in which he spelled out an ambitious vision for Europe.

“We should not focus on red lines, but rather on common horizons,” Lindner told the Bild am Sonntag (BAMS) newspaper when asked about Macron’s calls for deeper euro zone integration, which the FDP leader had criticised throughout the campaign.

“Macron is a godsend. More cooperation in crime fighting, the military, asylum, energy and digital is within reach,” Lindner added.

The FDP is expected to enter negotiations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the environmentalist Greens in the coming weeks with the aim of forming a new three-way coalition government that has never been tried before at the federal level.

During the election campaign the FDP dismissed Macron’s plans to create a budget and finance minister for the euro zone and it has therefore been viewed as a major impediment to efforts by Macron and Merkel to agree far-reaching reforms in Europe.

In the BAMS, Lindner made clear that the FDP would not agree to create new “redistribution pots” in the euro zone. He has described a euro zone budget as a “red line” that his party will never support.

But in welcoming many of Macron’s other ideas, Lindner signalled that his party could be more open to European integration than its campaign rhetoric suggested.

In Macron’s speech on Tuesday, two days after the German vote, he offered a sweeping vision for the European Union, calling for closer cooperation in areas as diverse as asylum policy, corporate taxation, intelligence sharing and defence.

“I don’t have red lines, just horizons,” Macron said.

Reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Gareth Jones

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