Germany's Merkel, ECB's Draghi meet for private exchange of views

Germany's Merkel, ECB's Draghi meet for private exchange of views

"I will approach the new Italian government openly and work with it instead of speculating about its intentions", Merkel told the paper in an interview published on Sunday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel endorsed French President Emmanuel Macron's idea for a joint European defense force in a long Sunday interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Macron wants to turn Europe's existing bailout fund into a European Monetary Fund (EMF), to act as a buffer in any future financial crises in the bloc, which was almost torn apart in a debt crisis in 2009. She also said the EMF would remain under the authority of euro-zone states, in effect giving national parliaments some say over its decisions.

According to a statement issued by the chancellor's office, Merkel congratulated Conte on becoming prime minister.

"Solidarity between partners should never lead to a union of debt - it must be about helping others to help themselves", she said.

Merkel's proposals appeared to be somewhat more cautious, but with many points of agreement with her closest European ally.

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Merkel backed the step-by-step introduction of a euro zone investment budget in the low double-digit billions of euros, saying this could be housed within the European Union budget or outside.

The German chancellor is famously careful and deliberate when acting on issues, but she was criticised by members of her own government for not speaking out in support of Macron sooner.

Italy's new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has said that Italians "aren't the slaves" of European Union powerhouses Germany and France.

In terms of migration, she wants common asylum standards, a European border police force and a pan-European migration agency, saying that countries that refuse to take on refugees could compensate with contributions in other areas.

"However, such an intervention force with a common military-strategic culture must fit into the structure of defense cooperation", she added. "Agreeing to a force does not mean we will participate in every military intervention", she said.

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