France's Emmanuel Macron will host German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Marseille on Friday for informal talks ahead of the EU summit in Austria later this month.
Migration and Brexit are expected to be the main focus of the discussions, according to Elysee sources.
There is plenty of agreement between the two — but there are also sizable differences.
Refugees and migration
In light of the latest refugee crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron agree that EU member states should integrate their data systems and work more closely with refugees' home countries. Crucially, both say efforts should be made to provide young people with better prospects for the future, especially in Africa. There are plans to launch a kind of "Marshall Plan" for the continent. Both leaders also agree that closer cooperation with countries bordering the eurozone and transit countries is needed.
Merkel and Macron stress that the EU should adopt a united approach to asylum-seekers. Common criteria are needed to determine who is and who is not granted asylum, they say. Both emphasize that over the long term, Europe's border force Frontex must be strengthened and made into a fully operational border police. Frontex, in their view, must someday be able to process all steps of asylum applications.
Merkel and Macron concur that there must be more opportunities for legal migration into Europe to counter "illegal migration."
Reforming the European Commission
Germany's chancellor and the French president want to reduce the power of EU commissioners. While Macron would like to halve the number of commissioners, Merkel merely favors "fewer than before." She accepts that Germany and France could pay a certain price for this. Merkel has proposed introducing a rota system so that different member states designate commissioners. This would mean that at times, even leading EU members would be left out.
The two leaders disagree over how the president of the EU's executive body should be selected. Merkel champions a Europe-wide list of candidates who compete against each other. That would make the president's nomination independent of EU member states' governments. Macron, however, is skeptical of this suggestion.
The pair are expected to discuss German lawmaker Manfred Weber's candidacy for the European Commission presidency. Weber is a member of Merkel's conservative bloc, and she has backed his bid. It is unlikely Macron will endorse a candidate from the center-right European People's Party, with which his party is not allied.
Foreign and defense policy
Merkel and Macron have very divergent views on European foreign and defense policy. Germany's leader continues to advocate for an EU seat on the UN Security Council and would like to see an independent "European Security Council." This, in her opinion, should be made up of several EU member states on a rotating basis. She hopes this will allow the EU to play a more proactive role in foreign affairs. Macron rejects those proposals.
He, meanwhile, has suggested establishing an EU intervention force to engage in military missions abroad. While Merkel, too, supports the idea of an EU army, she does not want such a force to engage abroad. Macron has left no doubt he considers British troops an integral element of such a prospective EU army – even through the United Kingdom intends to withdraw from the EU in 2019.
When it comes to financial matters, disputes are likely to continue. Merkel and Macron agreed in June to set up a single eurozone budget aimed at boosting convergence between the 19 member countries and fighting off future crises. While the new budget is slated to be put in place by 2021, details on how it should be financed remain unclear. Macron says member states should contribute several percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to the budget, running into the hundreds of billions of euros. Currently, members contribute 1 percent of GDP.
Merkel may also want to give greater weight to her economic brainchild: an EU monetary fund. Such an EMF would, in her view, play an important role in the eurozone on a par with the commission. It would be able to give loans to ailing EU members and, in return, be granted the right to monitor member states' fiscal affairs.