Merkel, Hollande to hold anniversary talks

The leaders of France and Germany meet Saturday to mark a seminal 1962 speech by Charles de Gaulle, with the euro crisis and a proposed EADS-BAE merger also on the agenda.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said the meeting in the southwestern city of Ludwigsburg, where De Gaulle addressed German youth in a key gesture of post-war reconciliation, was to be largely ceremonial.

But a few hot topics will nevertheless figure on the menu.

"The issue of EADS and BAE will certainly be addressed at the working lunch with President (Francois) Hollande," the spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters Friday, referring to the mooted tie-up.

"There will of course be no decisions this Saturday and you should not go into the press conference expecting any."

The same applied to the issue of tighter checks on the European banking sector, a focus of eurozone crisis-fighting at the moment, Seibert said.

Governments have been cautious since the announcement last week that the British defence group BAE and European aerospace behemoth EADS are negotiating a merger.

The French presidency has said Paris and Berlin were waiting for the merger project to be clarified before passing judgement and taking decisions.

Germany has also taken a wait-and-see approach, with some officials arguing that the bigger company would create a potent challenger to US rival Boeing while others worry the fusion could end up costing good jobs.

The two groups have until October 10 to finalise the project or abandon it.

France and Germany hold major stakes in EADS, while the British state has a golden share in BAE that allows it to veto deals that it perceives not to be in the public interest.

Meanwhile Paris and Berlin have differing views on common EU banking supervision, seen as crucial to ensuring financial stability.

While France would like to hand the European Central Bank power to supervise all 6,000 eurozone banks from January, Germany would like it to tackle just big banks and is in little hurry, favouring thoroughness over speed.

Saturday's festivities are the latest in a series of events celebrating 50 years of partnership between the wartime foes.

Merkel and Hollande will meet at Ludwigsburg's Baroque palace, make brief remarks and then retire to a working lunch.

The leaders, who have struggled to keep their initial friction to a minimum since the president took office in May, are expected to hold a joint news conference at around 3:00 pm (1300 GMT).

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