Eurozone Sketch: A kiss, a wrong turn and 'Merkollande' take the stage


If body language is anything to go by, then the new Franco-German relationship got off to a cool, confused yet cordial start in Berlin last night. Jacques Chirac insisted on giving Angela Merkel a regal "hand kiss" at their first encounter. His successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, insisted on a full embrace.

But for François Hollande, a survivor of drenching rain in Paris and the lightning that struck his plane on its first attempt to reach Berlin, it was a cool handshake for the German Chancellor, coupled with an almost timid and abrupt hand clasp applied momentarily to her right elbow.

Confusion followed when the two leaders stood side by side in the drizzle on a long strip of red carpet to witness a German military band and guard of honour play their respective national anthems. It seemed almost farcical when the pair briefly collided with one another.

Then President Hollande appeared not to know which way to turn until Ms Merkel tapped him on the shoulder and steered him in the right direction. She had to remind him again to turn round and accept a salute from the officer in charge of the honour guard.

If this was a foretaste of how Chancellor Merkel was about be persuaded to ease austerity and support European growth, it was hardly convincing.

But when the "Merkollande" tandem finally reached the entrance to Angela's "Washing machine" (the nickname Berliners give to her box-like Chancellery) it managed to produce broad smiles for the cameras before going in. It must have been the protocol musical chairs that made them grin.