Merkel and Hollande urge unity facing Europe's crises

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Media captionThe leaders of France and Germany called for unity to deal with the migrant crisis

The two speeches could have been written by the same hand.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande both focused on the crises leading to the fractures within the EU, with the message, themes and even the words near-identical.

They called for unity, solidarity and fairness in Europe's responses.

The chancellor drew parallels between the EU of today and that of 1989 - the last time leaders of France and Germany spoke here together.

It was after the fall of the Berlin Wall that President Francois Mitterrand and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl spoke of Europe's responsibility to absorb the mass movement of people from East Germany.

'Total war'

In the European Parliament on Wednesday, reference was made to the Greek financial crisis and the implications for the euro, the conflict in the east of Ukraine, the wider threat of terrorism - but the dominant issue was the response to the current mass movement of people.

Europe was being "too slow to recognise the consequences of the crisis", President Hollande warned, saying that if a political solution wasn't found soon, the problems would worsen.

"If we allow religious conflict between Shia and Sunni - and this has been the case over many months and years - if we allow that to grow further, then do not think for one moment that we will be protected. This will be total war which could spread to our own territories, and we must act."

He was applauded by some when urging member states not to "retreat into their own nationalist shells at a time of crisis".

Angela Merkel delivered her speech in characteristic low-key, no-frills style, but described the crisis as a "trial of historic measure" for the EU. From a chancellor not known for hyperbole, it underlined the scale of the challenge.

"We need more than ever before the cohesion and courage that Europe has always shown in the past when it really mattered, and Germany and France are standing ready," she said.

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Image caption The UKIP leader gave an impassioned response, railing against both leaders
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption French far-right leader Marine Le Pen rounded on President Hollande, accusing him of selling out to a Europe run from Berlin

There was some praise and muted cheers throughout the speeches. Opposition was small but the most vocal, and it came in stinging comments from nationalist MEPs, afforded a rare opportunity to question the leaders.

UKIP's Nigel Farage told the chamber he felt France and Germany's "once noble intentions" for a united Europe back in 1989 had "gone rotten".

He then directly addressed Francois Hollande, saying that "France is diminished, trapped inside a currency from which it can't recover", and called the French voice "no more than a pipsqueak" against a "totally German-dominated Europe".

The leaders looked bemused by the comments. At Mr Farage's words, Angela Merkel notably stopped taking notes, looked away and then back again, as if exhausted by a tiresome child in the classroom she didn't know how to discipline.

Marine Le Pen, far-right MEP and leader of France's National Front, accused the leaders of "absurdly trying to dominate", and stood up to deliver a memorably scathing line directed at the German leader: "I do not recognise you, Madam".

The leaders of France and Germany had delivered a historic joint speech rich in rhetoric, urging a political approach to the root cause of the Syria conflict. But they gave no new details on how to solve its consequences - the spiralling migrant crisis.