Merkel to host France’s Fillon for talks
21 Jan 2017 - 1:11
Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) will host French presidential hopeful Francois Fillon for talks in Berlin on Monday, but rules out any meeting with his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen.
“France is our closest political partner and such an exchange of opinions with the leading candidate of the Republicans in France is part of the very close political, very close personal contact between Germany and France,” said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert.
The meeting will take place at chancellery, rather than at Merkel’s party headquarters where she hosted two other conservative candidates, Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppe, on separate occasions last year before they lost their party's primary to Fillon.
Fillon’s Republicans and Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union are both conservative parties. But the leader of Europe’s biggest economy will not meet Le Pen, who heads the anti-immigration National Front, Seibert said, a day before the far-right leader is due to headline a gathering of populist parties in the western German city of Koblenz.
“I believe that it is obvious that there are no points in common between the policies that the National Front stands for and the policies of the chancellor as well as this government,” Seibert said.
Rejecting any accusations of meddling in the neighbouring country’s domestic political affairs, Seibert recalled that ahead of the 2007 elections, the chancellor had not only hosted conservative candidate Sarkozy but also his challenger, Segolene Royal of the Socialist Party.
Polls currently show Le Pen qualifying for the second round of the presidential election in May where she is forecast to face—and lose to—Fillon.
Le Pen is hoping to surf on a wave of populist sentiment that has helped propelled Donald Trump to the White House.
The far-right leader, who says children of illegal immigrants should be refused public schooling, is a sharp critic of Merkel’s liberal refugee policy that led 890,000 people from mostly war-torn countries to seek refuge in Germany in 2015 alone.