Francois Fillon warned Angela Merkel to crack down on migration and soften her stance towards Russia
Francois Fillon, the frontrunner in France’s presidential election, branded European Union sanctions on Russia pointless and warned Moscow and Washington could form an alliance that could exclude the EU.
Mr Fillon met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin as he attempted to maintain strong France-Germany relations.
But the conservative Les Republicains candidate was quick to point out major differences between Paris and Berlin and took a swipe at the EU.
Fillon may be a conservative like Angela Merkel but his views on migration and Russia are a source of concern for Berlin
The conservative is the only candidate in France’s presidential election to be received by the German Chancellor so far, in a sign of support from Mrs Merkel.
But she looks unlikely to give him explicit backing – there was no joint statement or comment from German officials after the visit, which may have ruffled feathers in the capital.
Henrik Enderlein of the pro-EU Jacques Delors Institute said: “Fillon may be a conservative like Angela Merkel but his views on migration and Russia are a source of concern for Berlin.”
Francois Fillon said the EU was "despised by major powers"
The 62-year-old presidential candidates also slammed Brussels’ plan to spread refugees across EU member states.
And in a major dig at Germany’s open-door migration policy, he criticised Mrs Merkel for engaging in EU membership talks with Turkey in exchange for Ankara taking in migrants.
Mr Fillon said: "We have differences? Let's accept them instead of denying them. We have divergences on the issue of refugees or on economic policy? Let's face them to better overcome them.”
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The German Chancellor looks unlikely to give Mr Fillon explicit backig
Francois Fillon arrives in Berlin to meet Angela Merkel
Mr Fillon said the EU was "despised by major powers" because of its divisions and must better defend its economic interests.
As Germany takes a hard line in favour of EU sanctions over Moscow's annexation of Crimea and its support for a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine, Mr Fillon squared up to Mrs Merkel.
He said Russia should be a “major partner” and warned: “We need to get out of this deadlock we put ourselves in and which does not benefit anyone.”
Mr Fillon said: "I am convinced that the economic sanctions are totally ineffective.
Angela Merkel in pictures
Tue, November 29, 2016
Angela Merkel has served as German Chancellor since 2005 and Leader of the Christian Democratic Union since 2000. We take a look at her political career in pictures.
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the gala for the 200th anniversary of Werner von Siemens on November 29, 2016 at the historic headquarters of Siemens in Berlin
"We must find another way to talk.
"I do not want President Donald Trump to talk with Russia at our expense.
“It would be damaging for Europe if Trump went above our heads, which is not inconceivable.”
The presidential candidate has called for a better relationship with Moscow and last year President Vladimir Putin called him an “upstanding person”.
Vladimir Putin and Mr Fillon worked together when they were both prime ministers
The pair were both were prime ministers during Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency but the pro-Russian Frenchmen rejects the description that they are friends.
Mr Fillon spoke of plans for a new economic partnership with Russia and a Europe-Russia security conference, once the conflict in Ukraine is resolved.
With a pro-business focus on cutting public spending, Mr Fillon is generally seen as an ally by Mrs Merkel on economic issues and has called for the euro zone to be strengthened.
Vladimir Putin in pictures
Tue, December 13, 2016
Russin President Vladimir Putin in pictures
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He said heads of states should have the upper hand and meet every three months.
Speaking after the visit, he said the two leaders were "on the same page" on the need not to let the US impose its laws that have cost European banks billions of euros in fines and other settlements over violations of US sanctions against other countries.
The former prime minister is the frontrunner in opinion polls but his ratings have dropped slightly and surveys predict an increasingly tight race between him, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron.