In his harangue at the Sorbonne on 26 September 2017 – two days after the parliamentary elections for the German “Bundestag” – Emmanuel Macron presented his own project of a federal and sovereign Europe. A project that the French people were made aware of at the same time as the Germans. Because Macron believes that the integration of France in a federal Europe is a project that he can operate alone, without first asking the French whether they agree.
In previous articles1, we tracked step by step how German policy responded to this project … in fact it hardly did so at all!
The government of the new “GroKo” (“Grand Coalition”) finally took office on 14 March, but the silence has continued in Berlin since then and, as seen from Paris, this weighs rather heavily. The French Minister for Economic and Financial Affairs Bruno Lemaire emphasised, in the newspaper “Die Welt” of 2 June, that France was expecting an answer from Berlin.
The minister might have forborne this explanation. It indicates a certain concern in the Elysée, combined with feelings of irritation. As early as the following day, Angela Merkel responded with an interview in the Sunday edition of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ).
The decision to publish a press interview is by no means negligible. Angela Merkel could have made a solemn speech like the one Emmanuel Macron gave at the Sorbonne or a statement on government policy in the “Bundestag”, or given a television interview in front of millions of viewers. The decision to turn to the Sunday readers of the financial center’s newspaper (circulation on Sunday: 250’ 000 copies) avoids causing a great sensation while preserving all forms of decency.
The financial and economic issue is the biggest challenge for Germany. Emmanuel Macron called for the creation of a common economic and financial area with a European Finance Minister disposing of an independent budget and with the principle of financial transfers in the euro area.
Angela Merkel, for her part, stands by the position of former Finance Minister Schäuble, following the spirit of 154 economics professors’ recent appeal:
These proposals by no means correspond to the core of the objectives pursued by Emmanuel Macron. The Elysée mentions only a “rapprochement” of the German proposals. So, in reality, the German position has hardly changed since 2012.
The second major topic is the migration policy. It seems that the proposals of Berlin and Paris are closer here: the creation of a true European border police and of a common migration policy which requires the introduction of the principle that the European countries must accept quotas for immigrants. However, these proposals are so far removed from reality that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are reacting very sharply to them. The “Süddeutsche Zeitung” comes to the conclusion that “one runs no great risk when making such proposals”, and thus imputes a double game to Mrs Merkel.
Other important topics are the defense and foreign policies. On the one hand, the Chancellor is moving in Macron’s direction when she defends the idea of a European reaction force. On the other hand, she comes up with a surprising and completely new idea: the creation of a “European Security Council” and the division of non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council among the European states.
France, which has a permanent seat on the Security Council, would not be affected. But this proposal, the only new one in the whole interview, puts Emmanuel Macron in a delicate position. The “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” describes exactly the strings attached for him. Every country has a core of national interests to defend: financial and economic policy for Germany, military and foreign policy for France. In fact, after Brexit, France will be the only EU country with a permanent seat at the United Nations (and is, moreover, a nuclear power).
Therefore, Mrs Merkel points to this unique position and indirectly asks the Elysée a question: are you ready to question your fundamental interests, as you ask us to touch ours? It will be interesting to see if the Elysée answers this question in the near future.
Angela Merkel’s answer is therefore strategically very mature. She sticks to her own fundamental interests (German monetary and economic policy), shows herself flexible when moving on secure ground (migration policy, blocked by the eastern countries) but subtly offensive when it comes to the fundamental interests of the other party (defense policy and diplomacy for France). This sober and discreet reaction, which contrasts with Macron’s lyrical flights and illuminated visions in his Sorbonne speech, therefore means a decided rejection.
So beyond the Rhine, the rejection of an upgrading of the EU is finding clear expression. In view of the new economic situation due to US protectionism, the discrepancies between the national interests of France and Germany will increase and the gap will also widen. In fact, Emmanuel Macron is completely isolated within the EU.
The meeting between Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, which took place on 19 June 2018 in Germany, has not changed anything. Mrs Merkel did say she was in favour of “setting up a common budget for the euro area so as to better protect it from crises”. But apart from the fact that eight states of the European Union have already announced their veto, Emmanuel Macron has explained that this budget could be “implemented in 2021”, so ... in three years’ time! This means that it is a nebulous project, because nobody knows whether the euro zone will still exist in three years’ time. In addition, many political analysts are considering that within two weeks, Merkel will not be Chancellor, if her CDU-CSU government agreement breaks up due to the “immigrant” question. •
* Alain Morau is a French doctoral student in Agricultural Sciences, residing in Germany, since May 2014 a member of the French UPR (Union populaire républicaine).
1 www.upr.fr/actualite/france/allemagne-instabilite-politique-fuite-socialiste-martin-schulz-sort-dun-chapeau-project-detats-unis-deurope-2025 of 15 December 2017 and www.upr.fr / actualite / france / allemagne-derriere-les-apparences-le-nouveau- gouvernement-issu-de-la-groko-dit-non-a-leurope-de-macron of 14 March 2018
(Translation Current Concerns)
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