Chancellor candidate for the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and North Rhine-Westphalia premier Armin Laschet held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Wednesday, just weeks before critical federal elections in Germany.
What did the two political leaders discuss?
Laschet said he had a "good, very friendly conversation" with the French leader. The two leaders spoke for about an hour behind closed doors at Elysee Palace, the official residence of the French president.
Security in Europe and counterterrorism were two of the main topics discussed during the meeting.
Laschet said it's clear that "only a European solution will make us strong in the fight against terrorism" and called for a "European FBI". He urged closer cooperation between Germany and France on security issues.
The German politician also promised €500,000 ($591,453) in private donations from Germany to help France rebuild the Notre Dame, which was damaged by fires in 2019.
"It's a symbol that shows Germans are also involved in the reconstruction of this great cathedral," Laschet said.
Laschet's meeting with Macron comes as France begins the trial against the suspects behind the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.
Laschet laid a white rose on the memorial for the 90 people who died in the attacks at the Bataclan concert hall. He called the terrorist act an attack on our "European way of life."
The trip was meant to signify Laschet's competence in foreign affairs. Laschet also serves as Germany's official representative for German-French cultural relations.
Laschet slammed by opposition at home over visit
The North Rhine-Westphalia leader was criticized by opposition politicians in his home state over the Macron meeting.
Laschet's visit to Paris occurred as members of the North Rhine-Westphalia parliament debated the impact of catastrophic flooding this summer, which killed 49 people in the western German state.
Laschet defended his absence from the parliamentary debate.
"It was an important, long-planned trip," he said after the meeting with Macron. "I believe people have the understanding that the Franco-German relationship is also significant."
Laschet has been criticized for laughing during a visit to a flood-affected region this summer. The CDU has fallen behind in the polls in recent months, with the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz gaining traction.
Scholz previously met with Macron on Monday. Another possible contender for the chancellery, Green Party candidate Annalena Baerbock, is not expected to visit the French capital in the coming weeks.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will soon step down after nearly 16 years in office, reiterated her support for Laschet as her chosen successor during a passionate address in the Bundestag on Tuesday.
Germany's federal elections will take place on September 26.
wd/rc (AFP, dpa)