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Seventeenth Franco-German Council of Ministers’ meeting in Berlin

Published on April 1, 2015
Communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic

Berlin, March 31, 2015

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President François Hollande, accompanied by the ministers of the two governments, met today on the occasion of the 17th Franco-German Council of Ministers to discuss issues of foreign and defence policy, justice and home affairs, the economy and labour, education and research, culture and copyright, and climate policy.

France and Germany agreed on bilateral cooperation aimed at deepening the Franco-German partnership and benefiting the European Union as a whole. They will proceed with discussions on the reforms and investments they are conducting at national level to boost the competitiveness of their economies. France and Germany thus hope to contribute to Europe-wide efforts to achieve growth, competitiveness, investment and employment, combined with solid public finances.

1/ Foreign affairs – defence

In recent months, the German Chancellor and the French President, as well as the two governments’ foreign ministers, have further stepped up Franco-German consultation on foreign policy, particularly in the face of Russia’s attitude in Ukraine. The two parties will continue their close cooperation in order to achieve a lasting, peaceful settlement to the Ukraine crisis.

The two governments will prepare, together and with Poland, the European Council of June 2015 for a stronger, more effective Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in a spirit of solidarity. The involvement of the Franco-German Brigade and Eurocorps in the European training mission EUTM Mali illustrates our two countries’ commitment to peace and security in Africa. This action will be continued with new proposals to strengthen support for our African partners in terms of security, particularly through the Train and Equip initiative, aimed at supporting strategic partners in the area of security and defence policy.

The German and French defence ministers will broaden existing space cooperation in the area of new-generation satellite observation capabilities (CSO and SARah). An agreement on the technical details will be signed by June, to enable Germany to join the CSO system currently being created and to give France access to the SARah radar system’s capabilities. The agreement will be reflected in the launch of joint work to build a third CSO satellite, improving the system’s overall performance.
Moreover, France and Germany, acting in cooperation with Italy, have confirmed their desire to work together with a view to developing a new generation of European UAVs for the period 2020-2025. An initial study to define the system will be launched in the course of 2015 and will be preceded by the signature of a technical arrangement.

2/ Climate

In Paris at the end of 2015, Germany and France would like to achieve, along with all the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an ambitious and legally binding agreement on the fight against climate change and its effects, committing every country to act to contain the temperature increase to 2ºC by the end of the century and coming into force in 2020. Germany will actively support France this year in the negotiation process. The Petersberg Climate Dialogue, to be held in Berlin on 19 May with the participation of the Chancellor and the French President, and the G7 summit in Elmau in June will provide strong impetus in this direction.

3/ Economy and finance

France and Germany recall the three pillars cited in the Annual Growth Survey (investment, structural reforms and growth-friendly fiscal consolidation) and would like to strengthen the contribution of European policies to growth and employment by exploiting the potential offered by the internal market and encouraging investment in Europe. In particular, they support European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s Investment Plan to improve the investment climate and mobilize new investment. They have decided to build cooperation together in the key areas of industry, energy and the digital sector.

Along with the other EU member states, the two governments will strive to do everything to achieve, by the end of 2015, an ambitious, comprehensive agreement on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that is beneficial to both parties. They reaffirm their commitment to transparency of trade talks.

France and Germany stress the importance of an ambitious agenda to combat abusive tax optimization and damaging tax competition within the EU.

France and Germany will work together to implement energy union. They will contribute to this through, among other things, specific cooperation projects in the area of renewable energy, electricity grids and cross-border cooperation between regions that are exemplary in terms of the energy transition. Joint work will also continue in the area of research, particularly on the storage of electricity. The high-level group on energy and the closer ties between ADEME [French Environment and Energy Management Agency] and DENA [German Energy Agency] will enable these projects to be identified and promoted.

France and Germany support an ambitious digital agenda enabling Europe to regain a leadership role in the world thanks to its support for innovation and for the development of new technologies and innovative commercial models, taking into account, among other things, the definition of an appropriate regulatory framework for Internet platforms and the need to ensure the protection of personal data.

In the autumn of 2015, the German and French economy ministers will organize a joint conference on the digital economy. It will give a strong boost in the area of start-ups, the digitization of industry (“Industry 4.0”), the Internet of Things and Big Data.

France and Germany recall the importance of developing the cultural and creative industries, which already account for more than 4% of the EU’s GDP. In this regard, they emphasize the crucial role of copyright, which is an effective mechanism for promoting creativity and cultural diversity. Copyright must therefore be promoted and preserved as the basis of creative activity, while innovations in technologies, economic models and user habits must also be taken into account.

Concerned to promote innovation in the spread of knowledge and culture, Germany and France consider it necessary also to implement a reduced VAT rate to digital books, the online press and other electronic news media. The two countries will therefore work to ensure that the necessary changes are made to European legislation.

France and Germany welcome the new momentum given by ARTE to its European ambitions, and they encourage the channel in its desire to better distribute its cultural programmes in Europe thanks to the EU’s multilingualism and support.

4/ Research and higher education

The two governments will step up their cooperation on energy research and research into IT security, the humanities and the social sciences, thus contributing to greater competitiveness and growth.

The two governments reiterate their support for the development of the Franco-German University (FGU) and express their desire to boost its attractiveness and continue increasing the number of students, doctoral students and young researchers by 2020.

The Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin is one of the flagships of bilateral scientific cooperation. This Franco-German research centre for the humanities and social sciences will now be given a permanent legal status enshrining its dual nationality.

5/ Employment and worker mobility

As regards employment, existing cooperation between the two public employment services will be intensified and a joint initiative on a skilled labour force will be organized in the autumn.

To ensure that the mobility of workers in Europe safeguards both their rights and fair competition between businesses, the two governments call for the full application of the European rules on the posting of workers, the 1996 and 2014 directives in particular, and greater responsibility from businesses.

In order for labour markets in the border areas to be more closely integrated, a second ministerial conference on Franco-German cross-border cooperation will be organized in Metz on 6 and 7 July.

6/ Security, fight against intolerance, societal cohesion

- Germany and France will resolutely oppose every form of violence and intolerance; the German Chancellor and the French President demonstrated this in Paris on 11 January. They will relentlessly fight racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts and every form of discrimination.

- Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Minister-President of Saarland, and Jean-Marc Ayrault, former French prime minister, are tasked with devising bilateral projects between now and the next Franco-German Council of Ministers to promote integration within our societies. On the German side, this process will be supported by Aydan
Özoğuz, Federal Government Commissioner for Migrants, Refugees and Integration.
- Drawing on the statement made by heads of state and government on 12 February 2015, Germany and France are working for the swift adoption of the strong, effective European Passenger Name Records (PNR) directive, with solid data protection safeguards. Full use must be made of the existing Schengen framework to reinforce and modernize external borders’ control. In the framework of the fight against terrorism, Germany and France will proceed without delay to systematic and coordinated checks on individuals enjoying the right of free movement against relevant databases, based on common risk indicators, and would like to look at a targeted amendment to the Schengen Borders Code – where necessary to provide for permanent checks. They will make use of every opportunity to prevent terrorist fighters, throughout the European Union, from leaving the territory and monitor their possible return to the EU.

- Germany and France would also like significant new action to be taken on combating the financing of terrorism, combating the illegal circulation of firearms and to ensure the removal from the Internet of illegal content which tries to justify terrorism or incites violence or hatred.

- The two governments will intensify their cooperation on combating illegal
immigration. To this end, the interior ministers will continue their close consultation and take new initiatives, among other things to control increasing flows into the Schengen Area more effectively, particularly by identifying more effectively people who are eligible for protection. They will also conduct a discussion on the ways and means of strengthening the role and resources of the Frontex agency./.