PARIS – French president Emmanuel Macron promoted his pro-European views in a series of meetings Friday with leaders of The Netherlands, Spain and Estonia in Paris, as Brexit negotiations are set to start next week.
Macron met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas and had a working lunch with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Estonia will lead the work of the 28 EU member states for six months starting from July.
Defense and security issues, migration and climate change are among France's priorities for a European summit scheduled next week.
In a joint statement in the Elysee courtyard, Macron said his meeting with Rutte helped define "common goals" of France and The Netherlands for the Brexit negotiations led by the EU executive body.
Rutte stressed that "Brexit also means that we have to protect our citizens from the economic impact that might happen."
The newly elected Macron campaigned on a strong pro-European stance. He notably proposed a shared budget for the countries that use the euro currency to allow for joint investments, provide emergency financial help and help the eurozone better react to a financial crisis. It would be managed by a newly created joint finance minister for the eurozone.
Rajoy agreed that "we must start discussing about the (eurozone) budget" but stressed it's a long-term goal.
Macron pushed for a Europe that protects its citizens through cooperation on defense and security but also by providing them with high standards of welfare.
The French leader called on European authorities to do more to solve the issue of low-paid workers coming from central and eastern Europe to work in the continent's western nations, including France, on temporary assignment.
"We must change the rules," he said, insisting that the situation is generating unfair economic competition.