Sun, Oct 16, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Schroeder, Chirac call for more socially just Europe

DPA AND AP , PARIS

Stoicism was the order of the day on Friday at outgoing German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's farewell dinner with French President Jacques Chirac, his comrade-in-arms on issues ranging from Europe's future to the Iraq war.

"Let's not be too sentimental or else we'll have to get out our handkerchiefs," Schroeder said before dinner at the Elysee Palace.

The two leaders have developed close ties over seven years, with France and Germany acting as the motor for European construction.

At what was certainly one of their last official joint press conferences as state leaders, Schroeder and Chirac said their countries would continue to fight against those who would sacrifice social justice to bring economic changes to Europe.

"We must change, but the changes must be just," Schroeder said in Paris after being warmly received at the Elysee Palace by Chirac and a French honor guard.

"France and Germany believe that economic efficiency and social unity are the principal elements that make up the model of European society we hold dear and wish to sacrifice this model of European society," Schroeder added.

Schroeder, who will leave his post next month to be replaced by Christian Democratic Union leader Angela Merkel, said he assumed that the new German government would emphasize this view since a great majority of German voters had expressed it during the Sept. 18 general elections.

Schroeder said he was convinced "that every German government knows or quickly learns that progress in Europe is only possible when it is based on the close cooperation between Germany and France."

Chirac said "The chancellor and I, Germany and France, have the same vision, the same project for the Europe of tomorr,ow, a Europe both political and social, an organized Europe based on solidarity."

Officially, the meeting between the two leaders was to prepare for the Oct. 27 summit and to decide which initiatives they would support at Hampton Court, as well as to discuss such international issues as the Mideast, the crisis in Lebanon and the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

The farewell dinner was between two leaders who, after initial difficulties, became the strongest of allies and good friends.

Schroeder said it was one of the most important events of his life "to have got to know the president and to have been able to call him a friend."

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