Merkel congratulates Sarkozy after election victory
May 7, 2007 - 8:54:25 PM

Berlin, May 7 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Nicolas Sarkozy over telephone Monday and congratulated him on his 'great victory' in the French presidential elections.

'We discussed how we can continue with Franco-German cooperation and intensify it,' said the chancellor, who sent a congratulatory message to Sarkozy Sunday evening after it became clear that he had won.

Government sources said Berlin hoped the victory of the conservative politician would breathe new life into the 27-nation European Union.

Sarkozy, who scored a decisive 53.06 percent to 46.94 percent victory of Socialist rival Segolene Royal in Sunday's vote, takes over as head of state from President Jacques Chirac on May 16.

The new president is expected to call on Merkel in Berlin during the second half of the month.

In her message Sunday, the chancellor said she was looking forward to meeting the new French leader, who will also be attending the Group of Eight summit of wealthy nations taking place in Germany next month.

Under the new leader, the traditional Franco-German friendship would 'remain a cornerstone of efforts to ensure the continuation of peace, democracy and prosperity in Europe,' she said.

Merkel said it was 'important to continue the close, trusting and intensive cooperation between Germany and France' during what she called 'a decisive phase for Europe'.

In a separate message of congratulations, German President Horst Koehler stressed that the two neighbours needed to work together to meet the challenges facing them.

German European specialists said Sarkozy's victory improved Merkel's chances of salvaging the EU constitution, which has been on ice since its rejection by French and Dutch voters in 2005 referendums.

'It will be much easier for the chancellor to get a decent mandate in June to press on with the constitutional process,' said Elmar Brok, a European affairs experts with Merkel's Christian Democrats.

Merkel hopes to present a roadmap for maintaining key elements of the treaty to a summit of EU leaders before Germany's presidency of the bloc expires at the end of June.

Government sources said she would be consulting with Sarkozy, who is seeking changes to the moribund draft treaty so that he won't have to hold a new referendum.

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