- Associated Press - Thursday, May 10, 2018

AACHEN, Germany (AP) - French President Emmanuel Macron urged Europe on Thursday to unite and exert a self-confident “European sovereignty” in the face of an increasingly complex world and unilateral American moves on issues such as the Iran nuclear deal and climate change.

Macron spoke after receiving the International Charlemagne Prize, an annual award for contributions to European unity given by the German city of Aachen. German Chancellor Angela Merkel honored him in a speech praising Macron’s efforts to reform France and his ambitions to reform the European Union.

Addressing an audience that also included leaders from Lithuania, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Ukraine, Macron urged Europe to defend the global multilateral order, for the sake of the continent’s sovereignty. He said that Europe must make its own choices, rather than go along with those made by others.

“We made the choice to build peace and stability in the Middle East,” he said in an allusion to the involvement of France, Germany and Britain in the Iran deal, from which President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. on Tuesday.

“Other powers, just as sovereign as us, have decided not to respect their own word,” Macron added. “Should we renounce our own choice? … We must choose, speak with everybody to succeed in building our own sovereignty which, in this region, will be a guarantee of stability.”

Merkel acknowledged that Europe “is still in its infancy” when it comes to having a common foreign policy, which will be “existentially necessary.”

“It is no longer the case that the United States of America will simply protect us - Europe must take its fate in its own hands,” she said.

France and Germany aim to agree on proposals for reforms of the EU by next month. Macron’s ideas for deeper integration of the 19-nation eurozone have met with some suspicion in Germany, where many are wary of large-scale financial transfers to weaker members.

Some in Germany say of France, “those people aren’t serious, they haven’t carried out their reforms,” acknowledged Macron, who was elected a year ago. “But wake up: France has changed, it is no longer the same, and that is the choice of the French people.”

He said he wasn’t afraid of saying that it’s right to change EU treaties and carry out reforms to reduce public spending, but “in Germany, there cannot be a perpetual fetish for budget and trade surpluses, because they are always achieved at the expense of others.”

“Let us not be afraid now of getting over our own taboos, our own habits,” he said.

Previous winners of the Charlemagne prize include former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Popes Francis and John Paul II, and Merkel herself. The Holy Roman emperor Charlemagne once ruled a swath of western Europe from Aachen.


Moulson reported from Berlin.

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