Can Merkel and Macron reboot the EU?

Great things are expected of the German-French duo: after the EU's summer summit Europe's commentators once again voice optimism that Merkel and Macron can reform the Union and save it from collapse. These hopes, initially expressed after Macron's inaugural visit to Berlin, are now reinforced by the two politicians' clear demonstration of partnership.

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Kauppalehti (FI) / 27 June 2017

Starting shot to come this fall

At the very latest once the German parliamentary elections are over Merkel and Macron will start a massive push for EU integration, Kauppalehti predicts:

“ In trade policy the EU isn't yet pursuing Macron's course but as regards the plans for the future of the EU Macron has German Chancellor Angela Merkel's support. At a meeting before the summit Merkel said that she was open to Macron's proposal for setting up a euro finance minister with a common budget. … Polls show that Merkel has good chances of winning Germany's parliamentary elections in the autumn. After that all the requirements for the EU making a quantum leap towards deeper integration under Merkel and Macron's leadership will be fulfilled.”

RussEurope (FR) / 26 June 2017

Paris must not capitulate to Berlin

Macron must take care not to make too many concessions to Merkel, economist Jacques Sapir writes in RussEurope:

“That doesn't mean compromises aren't desirable. But they must be reached in a context in which the lines of conflict and separate interests are clear. By fetishising compromise as a sacred cow one makes it impossible to determine and define the interests of France, and consequently to work out a real compromise. That leaves no alternative but complete capitulation to Germany on the one hand or chaotic rebellion on the other, which would only lead to a conflict that's all the more unforgivable because it was suppressed for so long.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) / 18 May 2017

Macron left Berlin empty-handed

Macron has returned empty-handed from his first state visit to Berlin, writes the leader of the left bloc in the Portuguese parliament, Pedro Filipe Soares, in Diário de Notícias:

“Macron brought to Berlin a whole string of promises - which were clearly questionable but rang the bells for the establishment of a new Europe. … If there were any doubts about the potential of Macron's proposals for the EU project before his election, his trip to Berlin made things clear. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had already said before the visit that Germany wouldn't budge an inch on its own project for the EU and in particular for the Eurozone. Angela Merkel's no was polite and diplomatic, but nonetheless firm. The result? The bag in which Macron carried his proposals returned to the Elysée Palace empty.”

Postimees (EE) / 18 May 2017

Don't lose sight of Eastern Europe

Germany and France are hoping to work even more closely together in the future, Postimees notes:

“After Macron's first visit to Berlin the talk about the rebirth of the German-French axis is growing louder. What's more, election results show that Angela Merkel stands a good chance of being re-elected this autumn. That's good news for the axis. However, Germany has no interest in building walls along its eastern border: even though the German-French axis is important Berlin will continue to seek close cooperation with the Visegrád states. That's why Berlin hasn't reacted strongly to developments in Poland. How can the German-French axis be strengthened to revive the European Union while at the same time appeasing the other EU countries? That's the million-dollar question for Macron and Merkel.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) / 16 May 2017

Enthusiasm on one side, experience on the other

Sydsvenskan takes an optimistic stance after the meeting between the two politicians:

“The newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron met an anything but fresh German chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday. In other words, an untested political super talent, 39, met Europe's most experienced and respected head of government, 62. … The personal chemistry between the two seems to work. But these are two very different political personalities leading the EU's most important member states. While Merkel stands for continuity, security and stability, Macron was elected on the basis of his promise to bring change and a radical break with the old France. … From a historical perspective it is the German-French axis that has pushed Europe forwards and kept it together. If things go well the combination of Merkel's experience and Macron's enthusiasm could be precisely what EU cooperation needs right now.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) / 16 May 2017

New momentum for Europe

The Tages-Anzeiger also believes that France and Germany will now have the potential to join forces and revitalise Europe:

“Merkozy and Merkollande belong to the past. Macron, we can be sure, isn't about to become another of Merkel's appendages. France's new president, however, knows the Germans' fears about always being the paymasters. Not for nothing has he promised reforms aimed at boosting the French economy and making the country a serious partner for Germany once more. On inspection it would seem that such a trend reversal is possible. Just over ten years ago France was seen as the model state in the EU while Germany was the worst. But in Berlin too, they will have to move away from dogmatic austerity discourse and towards more investment to reduce the dangerous imbalance in the Eurozone. Macron will self-confidently demand this in return for his reforms at home. At any rate the chances of the German-French motor revving up again are better than ever now.”

Ilta-Sanomat (FI) / 16 May 2017

France's president in a dilemma

Ilta-Sanomat is more sceptical and predicts that Macron will have to do a major balancing act:

“He supports a federal Europe which for example will entail transfers and harmonised economic cycles. Such ideas are not popular in Germany. … If Macron wants to keep his voters happy he must keep his promises. And if he wants to win over a few Le Pen voters he can't continue with the current EU policy because that will only reinforce the impression that the EU elite calls the shots. The Germans, for their part, have already given Macron a few tips for a rigid economic policy. … Macron could easily get into a situation in which he faces the choice between pleasing either one part of his nation or the Germans. Keeping both happy is likely to be almost impossible.”

Financial Times (GB) / 16 May 2017

Strong Berlin-Paris axis bad news for London

United action on the part of Germany and France will make it significantly more difficult for Britain to push through its own interests vis-à-vis the EU, the Financial Times believes:

“Britain would not be neighbourly to say so, of course, but once it chose to leave the EU it gained a strategic interest in the paralysis or even breakdown of the bloc. That way the eternal dilemma - what to do about a giant neighbouring trade zone whose rules you observe but cannot shape - would resolve itself. Not only does the restoration of Europe's central bilateral relationship make that breakdown less likely, it creates the dread prospect of an EU that is actually more coherent after British departure.”

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