French President Emmanuel Macron speaks after being awarded the Charlemagne Prize during a ceremony in Aachen, Germany. Picture: Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay
Aachen - French President Emmanuel Macron urged Germany to be bold in its ambition for European renewal, saying the European Union could not afford to show weakness and division in the face of outside threats and resurgent nationalism within its borders.

Receiving the Charlemagne Prize for offering a "vision of a new Europe" in the German city of Aachen, Macron said bluntly that it was time for Berlin to let go of its obsession with a budget surplus - an achievement he said that came at the expense of others.

He said Europe needed to be more ambitious in its financing to defend its interests and help bring about economic and fiscal convergence among member states.

"That's why I believe in a stronger euro zone, more deeply integrated, with its own budget allowing for investments and convergence," Macron said after becoming only the second sitting French president to win the prestigious prize.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech commending Macron's efforts to strengthen European integration.

"Dear Emmanuel, I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. Your enthusiasm, your commitment, your courage are carrying others away," Merkel said. "You're bursting with ideas and have revived the European debate."

Yet, while lavish in her praise for the 40-year-old Macron since he swept to power a year ago, the German chancellor is proving the biggest obstacle to his ambitions for a more politically and economically integrated Europe.

She has largely poured cold water on Macron's ideas for reviving the EU, which include a stand-alone budget for the single currency bloc, a single finance minister, and other steps to reinforce economic and monetary union. 

Reuters