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Berlin denies Merkel rebuked Macron over NATO remarks

Jill Petzinger
·Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcome European Commission president-elect Ursula Von der Leyen (not pictured) after a joint Franco-German cabinet meeting in Toulouse, France, October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
French president Emmanuel Macron, right, and German chancellor Angela Merkel in Toulouse, France. Photo: Regis Duvignau/Reuters

Angela Merkel’s spokesman on Monday denied that the German chancellor had scolded French president Emmanuel Macron over his recent comment that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was suffering a “brain death.”

At a government press conference in Berlin, spokesman Steffen Seibert said there had been “neither complaint, nor anger, nor strife” between the chancellor and Macron. He described France as Germany’s most important friend and partner in Europe.

The New York Times reported on Saturday that Merkel had been “furious” with Macron over his NATO comments.

During a dinner to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Times reported that Merkel told Macron: “I understand your desire for disruptive politics, but I’m tired of picking up the pieces. Over and over, I have to glue together the cups you have broken so that we can then sit down and have a cup of tea together.”

Macron criticised the transatlantic military alliance in an interview with the Economist earlier this month. "What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO," Macron said.

Macron told the Economist that the US is turning its back on the alliance, and members needed to “reassess the reality of what NATO is in light of the commitment of the United States."

"You have partners together in the same part of the world, and you have no coordination whatsoever of strategic decision-making between the United States and its NATO allies," Macron added. "Strategically and politically, we need to recognise that we have a problem."

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg will sit down with Macron in Paris this week to discuss the president’s criticism of the alliance ahead of the NATO summit in London in December. Stoltenberg said his message to Macron would be that NATO is “adapting, agile, and responsive.”

Germany is under pressure to take on a more active global security role, considering its economic size. However, tensions between Merkel and Macron have been simmering over a number of other issues. Earlier this year the pair were at odds over who should become the next president of the European Commission. In 2018, Merkel subtly put the brakes on Macron’s ambitious demands to reform the EU banking system, and transform the EU bailout fund into a European Monetary Fund that would aid member states.