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'Utopian suggestions': Kurz backs Berlin against Macron's Europe vision

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'Utopian suggestions': Kurz backs Berlin against Macron's Europe vision
Kurz speaking at a press conference in Vienna on Tuesday. Photo: DPA
15:06 CET+01:00
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Tuesday sided with Berlin in criticising French President Emmanuel Macron's European reform ideas, dismissing some of his proposals as "utopian" and others as "dangerous".

Macron outlined his ideas for Europe's future last week, ranging from stronger security cooperation to more controversial plans for harmonising a European minimum wage and social services across the bloc. But they got a lukewarm reply from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party.

"There are some (proposals) that we reject," Kurz told German radio Deutschlandfunk, adding that he was "pleased" with the CDU's stance because "it overlaps in large parts" with Austria's point of view.

"I believe that many of the suggestions are utopian, when I think of the proposal for a social union, or a European minimum wage," said the conservative chancellor.

Merkel's presumptive heir and CDU chief Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer argued in an article at the weekend for measures to boost European unity, including on security -- but she also distanced herself from many of Macron's more ambitious proposals.

The clash of visions comes as the race heats up for the European Parliament elections in May, where eurosceptic nationalists are expected to gain ground.

Merkel's CDU and Kurz's OeVP are campaigning for the same centre-right political bloc, the European People's Party (EPP), whereas Macron's Republic on the Move party is teaming up with liberal groups

Kurz said Macron's plan for an EU-wide minimum wage sounded good on paper, "but in reality it's completely impossible" given the difference in living costs and living standards across the bloc.

"Do you think that German carmakers would open production sites in Hungary or Poland if the salaries were exactly the same as in Germany?" he asked.

The EU's youngest leader, aged just 32, Kurz said he also rejected any pooling of European debt, as it could lead to taxpayer cash flowing from more fiscally prudent nations to spendthrift neighbours.

He described it as "a really dangerous" proposal that would only make it "more attractive" for some nations to take on more debt.

"That's really not the direction we should be heading in," Kurz said, echoing Germany's position.

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