French President Francois Hollande Thursday said that France and Germany needed to "set a course" for Europe in the aftermath of Britain's decision to leave the European Union.

"Our two countries are essential so that all of Europe can move forward," Hollande said after a meeting in Paris with newly-elected German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"France and Germany now have the clear responsibility to set a course for Europe," Hollande said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday formally notified Brussels of Britain's intention to leave the European Union with a letter that triggered two years of Brexit negotiations.

Paris and Berlin should "give our respective peoples a vision so that we can be fully engaged to build the Europe of the future," Hollande said.

The alliance between France and Germany has long been the key relationship at the heart of the EU's internal politics.

Steinmeier, whose visit to Paris is his first foreign trip since being sworn in last week, joined Hollande in stressing the importance of the European project.

"Germany and France have a greater - an even greater - responsibility to protect European integration," he said.

Hollande backed European Council President Donald Tusk's position that the conditions for Britain's departure from the bloc would have to be agreed before negotiations started on any future relationship.

British leaders had hoped to start discussing future trading terms in tandem with the talks on how the country would end its EU membership, which are expected to take two years.

"We will also have to resolve the very important issue of the European nationals in the United Kingdom and British citizens in our countries," Hollande noted.

According to British government research, there are probably about 3 million EU citizens living in Britain and 1.2 million Britons living in other EU countries.

Many of them are at risk of losing their rights to live and work where they now reside unless Britain and the EU strike a deal on the issue.

Hollande had spoken to May by phone earlier in the day. According to a statement from the Elysee Palace, he "reminded" the British premier that the Brexit talks should take place "in a clear and constructive manner, in order to remove uncertainty and fully respect the rules and interests" of the EU and its remaining member states.

After his meeting with Steinmeier, Hollande warned that neither France nor Germany were themselves immune from "the temptation ... of turning inwards" and the "nationalist trap."

The Socialist president, whose term of office ends in May, has in recent months repeatedly warned against the rise of extreme nationalism, not least in the elections for his own successor.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is neck and neck with centrist Emmanuel Macron ahead of April's first round of voting, although opinion polls suggest Macron, a strong supporter of the EU, should beat the National Front leader comfortably in the decisive run-off vote on May 7.

Le Pen has hailed Brexit and says that if elected, she will take France out of the euro currency and the Schengen border-free zone, as well as holding a referendum on leaving the EU altogether.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.