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Macron And Merkel Pledge Cooperation On EU Reforms

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on May 15.

France's new President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to work together to strengthen the European Union, saying they were prepared to discuss changes to existing treaties to modernize the 28-nation bloc.

Macron spoke alongside Merkel at a news conference in Berlin on May 15, hours after he named conservative politician Edouard Philippe as his prime minister.

Macron, who assumed office a day earlier, said he would work closely with Merkel on a "road map" to reform the EU and the eurozone, adding that "there is absolutely no taboo for us here."

"There are several areas in which we can cooperate in the short term," he added. "Common asylum policy, posted workers, and bilateral trade. All these will have an impact on our citizens. We need more pragmatism, less bureaucracy ,and a Europe that protects our citizens."

Macron's defeat of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in a run-off vote this month was greeted with relief by pro-EU political forces rattled by a surge in populist, Euroskeptic sentiment across the continent, including last year’s Brexit referendum vote approving Britain's departure from the bloc.

His candidacy and victory was embraced by Merkel, who said during the May 15 news conference that, while treaty changes are not an immediate subject of discussion, she is open to the idea.

"First we need to work on what we want to change, and then if it turns out it needs a treaty change, then we're prepared to do that," she said.

Macron added that he intends to back economic reforms in France, where Le Pen and his other opponents are seeking to bounce back in parliamentary elections slated for June 11 and 18.

His push for reforms aimed at combating unemployment in the country comes "not because Europe requests it, but because France needs it," Macron said.

Meanwhile, Philippe said hours after his appointment on May 15 that he decided to accept the job Macron offered him because France is in a "unique situation."

"I told myself that the situation we were in was so unique that we should try something that had never been tried before," Philippe, a lawmaker and mayor of the port city of Le Havre from the center-right Republicans, said in comments broadcast by TF1 television.

Macron may need the support of the center right to push through economic reforms.

Macron and Philippe, who had been tipped as favorite for the job, are known to have similar views on the economy and social issues.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, Bloomberg, and the BBC
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