In a rare joint address to the European Parliament, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande called for greater cooperation in dealing with the influx of migrants into Europe. That didn't go down too well with some MEPs.
After the German chancellor and French president used a joint speech to call for more unity on a wide range of issues, including in dealing with the influx of desperate people seeking refuge and work in Europe, some of the European Parliament's senior figures issued a swift retort.
"There is no alternative to a strong Europe to guarantee our sovereignty," Hollande said.
Merkel called the refugee influx "a test of historic proportions."
Following Hollande and Merkel's speeches, the leaders of the European Parliament's party blocs were given the floor on Wednesday in Strasbourg.
The President of the EPP group, Manfred Weber, said if Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon were able to offer shelter to millions of people fleeing civil war, "we wealthy Europeans" must also be able to make the effort.
"The world will not wait on our internal debates. This is why Europe must move forward with commitment," he said in remarks carried by the European Parliament Press Service.
Skepticism from MEPs
The Polish vice-President of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, Antoni Legutko, questioned the role of the "Franco-German engine of Europe."
"Don't you think that it is part of the problem that one or two countries decide for the rest?" he said.
Marine Le Pen, the President of the right-wing Europe of Nations and Freedoms (ENF) group, launched an insult at Hollande, calling him Merkel's "Vice-Chancellor of France Province."
"I cannot call you 'President'," Le Pen said, saying Hollande did not defend French sovereignty. "On the contrary, when, in a perfectly irresponsible gesture, Chancellor Merkel says that we must welcome thousands of migrants, you applaud with both hands."
The Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group (EFDD) President Nigel Farage said Europe was being dominated by Germany, and referred to the previous joint speech by the German and French leaders in 1989.
"When (Helmut) Kohl and (Francois) Mitterrand came here representing their countries, it was a partnership of equals. But no longer. France is now diminished, trapped inside a currency," Farage said.
se/jr (AP, Reuters)