Macron, Merkel to Talk in Berlin

Macron, Merkel to Talk in Berlin

BERLIN (AP) -- French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Berlin Thursday for talks with Angela Merkel aimed at winning support from the German chancellor for his ambitious reform plans for the European Union.

The meeting also gives Merkel and Macron a last chance to discuss Europe's stance on the crisis in Syria and the fate of the nuclear deal with Iran before both leaders fly to Washington next week for separate talks with U.S. President Donald Trump.

France and Germany were part of the six-nation group that negotiated the 2015 deal to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and both countries are keen to prevent it from falling apart when Trump's May 12 deadline for major changes to the pact expires.

On Syria, Berlin's decision not to join the U.S., Britain and France in attacking suspected chemical weapons sites last week highlighted Germany's hesitancy when it comes to military action abroad. Berlin has stressed the need for a diplomatic solution to the conflict that's seen more than 700,000 Syrians seek refuge in Germany at considerable political cost to Merkel, who insists giving them shelter has been the right thing to do.

Macron's flying visit to Berlin starts at the unfinished Humboldt Forum, a museum that's being built on the site where the German Kaiser's palace stood until it was largely destroyed in World War II. German media have noted the symbolism of the two leaders touring a building site at a time when they are grappling with a much-needed reform of the European Union.

While the two leaders agree on the need to step up protection of the EU's external borders and agree a common asylum policy, it's unclear how much backing Macron can expect from Germany for his plans to reform the bloc's financial structure.

In their deal to form a new German government, Merkel's conservative party and its center-left partners agreed that Germany — like France — is prepared to pay more into the EU budget.

But Berlin has been skeptical in its response so far to the possibility of a shared budget and Merkel is lukewarm about Macron's idea of a eurozone finance minister.