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Scholz and Attal See Progress on Key European Defense Projects

(Bloomberg) -- French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are confident their defense companies will overcome long-standing differences to complete two major projects seen as key to boosting European security.

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Attal said it’s essential to keep investing in a new fighter jet, part of the Future Combat Air System program, as well as a replacement for the existing Leopard 2 and Leclerc main battle tanks.

“There’s an absolute determination in our two countries and above all an absolute interest that’s reinforced by the return of war to the European continent,” Attal told a news conference in Berlin following talks with Scholz on Monday.

“I see both projects on the right track,” the chancellor added. “I’m confident this big project, which we need for our security, will be successful.”

FCAS seeks to bring together France’s Dassault Aviation SA with the German-based defense arm of Airbus SE — currently part of the rival Eurofighter consortium that also includes BAE Systems Plc and Leonardo SpA. It’s been stalled as companies have argued about intellectual property and export policies. Meanwhile, Britain and Italy are developing the rival Tempest fighter, along with Japan.

France and Germany are also collaborating on a new main battle tank as part of the Main Ground Combat System project.

Attal’s visit to the German capital was his first international trip after being named prime minister in January.

The Franco-German relationship is emerging from a difficult few months after the neighbors clashed over defense, energy and European finance, with little alchemy between French President Emmanuel Macron and Scholz. In October, the two visited an Airbus production plant in Hamburg together. They are now seeking more common ground ahead of European Parliament elections in June as far-right parties have become a threat for both.

Macron will travel to Germany for a state visit in May. Last year, the event was canceled due to riots in France after the police shooting of a 17-year-old boy.

Scholz and Attal also pledged to continue supporting Ukraine. Later this week, the chancellor will travel to Washington to meet with President Joe Biden and will press for the unlocking of a military aid package for Kyiv that is currently stuck in Congress. Last week, EU leaders succeeded in overcoming Hungarian resistance to €50 billion ($53.7 billion) of financial support.

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