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Macron's European dream more difficult without 'strong' Germany

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a news conference following talks on European Union integration, defence and migration at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - President Emmanuel Macron’s bold vision for European renewal will be harder to translate into real policy change if France does not have a “strong partner” in Germany, France’s new government spokesman said on Monday.

Benjamin Griveaux’s comments were the most explicit yet by the French government that the faltering coalition talks in Germany posed a risk to Macron’s ideas for reform of the euro zone, as well as defense, immigration and energy policy.

“We are naturally paying close attention to everything that might help stabilize the political situation (in Germany) because without a strong partner it will obviously be more difficult to carry out the president’s ambitious European project,” Griveaux told a weekly news briefing.

Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have spoken frequently in past months about their desire for France and Germany, the European Union’s two largest economies and often its engines of change, to take the lead on closer cooperation.

But Merkel’s fourth term was plunged into doubt a week ago when three-way coalition talks with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens collapsed. Now momentum is building for another “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats (SPD).

Even so, those negotiations may not be quick. The EU faces a narrow window to forge agreement on Macron’s sweeping proposals because, as European elections in 2019 approach, the bloc is likely to be distracted by Brexit negotiations and wrangling over a new long-term budget.

Moreover, doubts are rising over whether the SPD would make European reform a priority in looming coalition negotiations.

On euro zone reform, Macron has called for the creation of a budget, finance minister and separate parliament for the currency bloc.

Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Brian Love, William Maclean