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German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was in Paris on Tuesday for the biannual Franco-German summit with French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.
Defence issues dominated this year’s summit.
The French and German leaders endorsed calls for a European Union rapid reaction force to strengthen Europe’s military muscle and urged Russia to allow representatives from Europe’s top security body, the O-S-C-E, to visit war-torn Chechnya.
The leaders also reportedly discussed the ongoing dispute with Britain over E-U tax harmonisation which threatens to dominate the upcoming E-U summit in Helsinki, Finland.
Although they are called “summits”, the extent of France and Germany’s cooperation is such that their leaders meet many times a year.
However, the far reaching strategic issues are usually left for the biannual summit and this time was no exception.
Defence, and the shape of Europe’s security forces in the next century dominated the 74th summit between the two countries in Paris.
In a joint communique, France and Germany welcomed progress on creating a new rapid reaction force which would intervene in circumstances that did not affect the NATO alliance as a whole.
The statement echoed last week’s communique by France and Britain for a 50-thousand to 60-thousand-strong force capable of full deployment within 60 days and able to remain deployed for at least a year.
France and Germany also want to boost Europe’s air force capabilities and in the statement the two countries called for creating a European air transport command.
The two countries called on their European partners to make decisive progress on developing E-U defence capabilities at their upcoming summit in Helsinki, Finland in December.
On other issues, Chirac and Schroeder said they were not concerned about the level of the euro against the dollar.
“The strength of our economies is so good that the current exchange rate between the euro and the dollar is just temporary and does not require any initiative from us.”
SUPER CAPTION: Gerhard Schroeder, German Chancellor
The Euro has performed below expectations since its introduction on January first this year, but has lost further ground in recent days after Britain vetoed a move to harmonize taxes on savings across the 15 member union.
On Chechnya, both leaders expressed concern about the conflict.
“Military means sent will not allow a stable and long lasting solution, therefore we ask for military action to be scaled down and for a political solution which is the only way to stop the conflict and allow dialogue to commence.”
SUPER CAPTION: Jacques Chirac, French President
The two leaders urged Russia to keep its promises and allow representatives from Europe’s top security body, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (O-S-C-E), to visit the war-torn Chechnya region.
O-S-C-E chairman Kurt Vollebaek visited Moscow on Monday, but got no firm date for a O-S-C-E fact-finding mission into Chechnya.
Later on Tuesday, Schroeder was to address France’s National Assembly, becoming the first German chancellor and only the fifth foreign dignitary, to do so.
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