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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

May 19, 2020
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron at the beginning of the Libya summit in Berlin, Germany, January 19, 2020. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will present a new Franco-German initiative later on Monday, Macron's office said in a surprise statement.

The two leaders will hold a video-conference at 1330 GMT, which will be followed by a news conference around 1500 GMT, the Elysee palace statement said.

It gave no details on what the new initiative might entail, but a source close to Macron told Reuters it would touch on public health, economic recovery, green and digital transition, and industrial sovereignty.

France and Germany have struggled to present a united front in the coronavirus crisis, with France leading a push by mostly southern European countries to convince fiscally conservative countries like Germany to issue joint European debt to help them weather the economic impact.

The two countries, long the engines of EU integration, have also fared differently in dealing with the pandemic, with the number of deaths in France three times higher than in Germany, according to official figures.

(Reporting by Marine Pennetier and Sudip Kar-Gupta; writing by Michel Rose; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)