Merkel's and Macron's ideas: are they compatible?

Angela Merkel has presented her plans for a joint EU security and refugee policy and a stable Eurozone in a newspaper interview. This was her first public response to French President Emmanuel Macron's proposals for the EU's future. Europe's press examines whether the two leaders can bring the EU forwards together, or whether their ideas are incompatible.

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Financial Times (GB) /

Germany wants to be bridge-builder once more

The German chancellor's proposals provide a solid basis for a pan-European compromise on EU reform, columnist Constanze Stelzenmüller comments in the Financial Times:

“Ms Merkel's plan is an implicit apology for past German intransigence on economic policy, and signals that Germany wants to return to its old role as a bridge-builder.... Ms Merkel accepts that Germany, Europe's richest economy, needs to contribute more than others, while acknowledging that there is resistance on the part of northern and eastern EU member states to further integration. Her plan, unlike Mr Macron's impassioned calls for deeper reform, stands a chance of forming the basis for a new European consensus.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Merkel downscaling Macron's demands

There is little indication that Merkel and Macron will really work together on EU reform, Lidové noviny concludes:

“In certain aspects the relations between France and Germany constitute a partnership. In other aspects, however, their interests are hardly compatible. Germany doesn't want any big changes to the EU model because it's the country that benefits most from the status quo. France, by contrast, wants above all to bring the Eurozone forward and a greater sharing of the risks. So it's no surprise that Macron and Merkel don't see eye to eye. Even if Merkel is at pains to meet Macron halfway, in practice she's scaling down Macron's demands to a tenth of what they were. ... It would be interesting to know how many Europeans still believe that France and Germany really are the driving force of the EU.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Macron also counting on Rome and Madrid

Fortunately Macron knows that his EU reform plans don't hinge entirely on Germany, comments Marco Zatterin, la Stampa's Brussels correspondent:

“Without Rome and Spain, which thanks to its new socialist government is likely to be more interested in dialogue now, there won't be a more solidary or less 'austerity-oriented' economic union. ... Macron will work out the basics of the Eurozone reform project with Merkel. It will be a document full of healthy Teutonic and accounting principles that takes the first but not the second step. Consequently, Macron will seek a parallel alliance with Italy and Spain to give the Union what it lacks, namely a political breath of fresh air as well as economic flexibility that makes the benefits of remaining together more apparent.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Chancellor gives up hesitant stance

Der Standard takes a positive view of the chancellor's answer to Macron:

“Well look at that, the Europeans can breathe a sigh of relief: Merkel is alive! She chose as her format a long interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to send a signal of solidarity. And the content of Merkel's signal is also solid, carefully thought through and not just non-committal: first of all she makes it clear that she considers a step-by-step deeper integration of the Eurozone necessary to increase the 'convergence' of the member states. She admits that a joint asylum and migration policy is a difficult project but that it is nonetheless the common goal. Hers too. She makes it clear that this is an existential issue for the Europeans: they must take their fate into their own hands. It looks as if Merkel remained carefully objective but she wants to put an end to the shilly-shallying.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Typical Merkel: progress at a snail's pace

It's about time, Le Monde exclaims:

“Finally! After months of dashed expectations, incomprehensible delays and useless cursing, on Sunday, June 3, Angela Merkel finally gave her response to Emmanuel Macron's proposals for reforming Europe, which he had formulated most clearly in his Sorbonne speech in September 2017. Those who thought that the German chancellor was taking her time because she wanted to better position her own ambitions for Europe vis-á-vis those of her French partner are in for a bitter disappointment. There will be no German revolution. True to her reputation, Merkel is being Merkel: she's advancing, but with small steps.”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

A newspaper interview is the wrong format

The Berliner Zeitung finds the chancellor's choice of of format for conveying her message odd:

“She did it in a newspaper interview, meaning that she absolutely wanted to retain control over her message and how it is interpreted. What would have been more fitting is a government statement in the German parliament to the representatives of the people. After all, this is about the future of Germany and Europe. A chancellor should not approach a topic of such importance lightly. In any case, a first statement of intent has been made. But the muted reaction from Paris shows that much more must be done.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

France needs Germany

Merkel must back Macron's plans, historian and social commentator Timothy Garton Ash comments in La Repubblica:

“If not, then Macron is seriously toying with the idea of appealing over the heads of his fellow leaders to voters across the whole EU, in next year's European elections. Quite apart from the practical difficulties of fighting elections in other people's countries, the trouble with this bold idea is that, for all his great virtues, Macron is in many ways exactly the kind of technocratic, top-down, elite figure to which so many Europeans have developed a distinct allergy. Be that as it may, he is the best European leader we've got. If he fails, I fear not just for France but for the whole future of the European project. Germany, please take note.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

German conservatives not interested in Europe

The chancellor's actions are guided by the wishes of her party, Naftemporiki comments:

“In fact Merkel's plans fall far short of Macron's proposals, both in terms of the volume of the joint investment budget and as regards transforming the European Stability Mechanism into a monetary fund. Her limited ambitions are easy to understand because her party, the Christian Democratic Union, has lost its appetite for Europe. Politics must take all a society's values, needs, possibilities and prospects into account. ... In this case it's clear that the chancellor wants to move closer to Macron so as to create a protective shield against pressure from abroad [the US]. ... So if she's calling for more Europe, it's not in the name of Europe and its citizens but to preserve acquired interests.”