Germany and France vow to strengthen ties

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in the yard of the castle in Ludwigsburg.
Image caption The two leaders do not always see eye to eye

French and German leaders have stressed they will remain committed in tackling European issues on the 50th anniversary of a post-WWII reconciliation speech.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande made the pledge in the German city of Ludwigsburg.

Speaking in German there in 1962, French President Charles de Gaulle said they were "children of a great nation which had made great errors".

The two allies are working closely to address the current euro debt crisis.

"Less than 20 years after the most horrible global conflict, it took boldness to call for the union of our two countries which had fought against each other with such savagery," Mr Hollande said.

"It took boldness to believe in Europe, this continent which had just torn itself apart. It took boldness to turn resentment into hope."

France and Germany have "a very special responsibility, we form the heart of Europe", he said.

Mr Hollande spoke of the need to "create instruments that make us stronger: a fiscal union, a banking union, a social union, a political union".

At the end of his speech, President Hollande spoke in German addressing young people in both countries: "It is now your role to make the European dream a reality and give it a future."

Image caption The ceremony was to remember the beginning of a lasting alliance

The German chancellor said the two countries ought to work together to strengthen Europe.

"However great the economic challenges may be, it remains and will remain valid: We Europeans are united in the pursuit of our happiness," Angela Merkel said.

Saturday's events were largely ceremonial, but the two leaders discussed plans by EADS and BAE Systems to merge - creating the world's largest aerospace and defence firm.

"We didn't make any decisions. Germany and France will stay in close contact on this issue," Chancellor Merkel said.

"Of course we discussed what we still need to consider with regard to the EADS/BAE issue. We agreed that we will investigate the necessary issues intensively with the necessary care, and in agreement with the companies involved," she said.

Disagreeing politely

Charles de Gaulle's speech was seen as a highly significant moment, when France sought partnership with its erstwhile foe, says the BBC's Steve Evans in Berlin.

Now the Franco-German relationship is the core of the eurozone, even though when President Francois Hollande won power earlier this year, it did not seem to be at its strongest, our correspondent says.

Mr Hollande and Chancellor Merkel had different policies on how to save the euro - the German leader had a more austere policy on public spending than he did.

But that now seems to have changed, our correspondent adds. He says they speak as one on insisting on strict conditions for bailouts.

Mr Hollande may have softened his belief that economies can be stimulated by government spending, and Mrs Merkel may have softened her position on the European Central Bank being more willing to help struggling governments, our correspondent says.

But issues remain, particularly over how fast to move towards a unified European banking system. De Gaulles' speech has led to a partnership but one where there are still rows.

They do not always see eye to eye but divorce is not contemplated, our Germany correspondent says.

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