Macron's or AKK's: which Europe do we want?

Two visions for Europe are going head to head: after French President Macron's proposals Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Angela Merkel's potential successor as chancellor, has now also presented her ideas. Journalists discuss whether her manifesto can put Europe on the right path.

Open/close all quotes
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Berlin striking out on a completely new path

The manifesto is not a reaffirmation of Germany's Europe policy so far, political scientist Ulrich Speck explains in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“It's about self-assertion in a radically changing world in which Europe is no longer protected by a 'benevolent hegemon' America that allows it to focus solely on its own social and economic prosperity. ... With her manifesto Kramp-Karrenbauer is heading towards a paradigm shift in Germany's Europe policy. She is reacting to a geopolitical situation that is changing fundamentally. If Europe wants to preserve its liberal order against the surging nationalism and the new competition from the superpowers it can no longer afford simply to focus on its internal affairs and perfecting its own institutions, but needs to reposition itself as a political power.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Germany must leave its comfort zone

Kramp-Karrenbauer's vision leaves much to be desired, former German vice-chancellor and foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel criticises in Le Monde:

“The reason for this situation isn't Macron's supposed vanity, but the most recent example of unwillingness or inability on the part of Germany's politicians. Germany hasn't shown the slightest support or initiative. ... Deep down France is uneasy and hesitant. For that reason the political leadership is looking for solid ground, which it finds in the idea of a stronger Europe. In Germany it's the other way around: politically and economically - at least on the surface - things are calm there, even if there's apparently plenty of agitation below the surface. ... It would be good if Germany left its comfort zone before the storm takes us unawares. Together with France we can make Europe weatherproof.”

Ethnos (GR) /

AKK's Europe is a gift to Le Pen

Kramp-Karrenbauer's stance on the EU is in keeping with a disastrous tradition, To Ethnos criticises:

“This is a denial of the reality, since the lessons have piled up in recent years - the best example being Italy, but France equally so. ... Berlin's restrictive-minimalist vision of European integration, as explained between 2008 and 2010, was not shaken by either the Brexit referendum or by Renzi's defeat in the referendum in that same year in Italy. Today Merkel's successor rejects Macron's proposals and is completely aware that those who will benefit from the internal and European blockades against the president are none other than Le Pen and her far-right party Rassemblement national.”

Spiegel Online (DE) /

Integration panic

For Spiegel Online it's clear just how little Kramp-Karrenbauer is interested in Europe:

“The Frenchman wants more common ground, the German can barely write 'Europe' without immediately adding that nothing is possible 'without the nation states'. Macron is working towards genuine European integration. Kramp-Karrenbauer seems to want to retreat to a largely economic cooperation with stepped-up joint border controls. ... This approach, based solely on economic and security interests, cannot create a European identity: all it aims for is self-interested cooperation between nation states. Kramp-Karrenbauer has at best a half-hearted idea of Europe. Meaning in essence: she has none at all.”

Financial Times (GB) /

The required pinch of scepticism

The CDU leader's vision for Europe's future is an important addition to the debate, the Financial Times writes in praise:

“Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer's intervention does not feel like a passing of the baton from one generation of leader to the next. It is a party formulation that captures the mood of Christian Democrat ambivalence: committed to the EU, sceptical about further integration. For Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer is speaking as party leader rather than as Germany's leader. All the same, she is articulating a legitimate, conservative vision for Europe's future, a contrast to Mr Macron's more radical thinking. She too has done Europe a service.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Good that Macron is facing opposition

Fortunately Kramp-Karrenbauer is not playing along with Macron's game of good-against-evil, Jyllands-Posten concludes:

“Kramp-Karrenbauer is exemplary in the clarity of her answer to Macron, who calls on all the citizens of Europe to demand that the pro-Europeans stand together. From the point of view of the Parisian presidential palace the upcoming elections to the European Parliament are a decision on whether one wants Europe or not. ... We in Denmark are only too familiar with this one-sided debate for or against Europe. It has brought nothing good. Firstly it has allowed the opponents to define what is discussed, and secondly it forced the proponents to defend things [some of which they hadn't actually agreed on] for years. There was no room for nuances. Therefore it took generations for the Danes to begin a serious debate about what the meaning and purpose of the EU should be.”

De Tijd (BE) /

No one taking the lead

The obvious lack of consensus between Germany and France about Europe's future course is a source of unease for De Tijd:

“With just over two months to go before the European elections the German-French tandem is no longer functioning. ... The bitter truth is that the European stage will be glaringly empty once the Brexit drama is over. There's grumbling coming from all sides but no one is standing centre-stage. In the fight against Euroscepticism everyone describes themselves as European. But there is no consensus on Europe's future. For now the US, China and Russia are dominating geopolitics - a situation that France and Germany had wanted to avoid. But their axis no longer functions.”

Contrepoints (FR) /

Two different visions

The CDU leader's reactions to Macron's proposals highlight the growing discrepancy between the two neighbouring countries, writes Ludovic Delory, editor-in-chief of Contrepoints:

“Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer rejects the proposals that Macron has presented 'in the spirit of progress': a minimum European salary and the mutualisation of national debts. ... Two and a half months before the European elections, France and Germany seem to be heading in opposite directions. This No to Macron's key proposals will at least allow voters to take stock of these two very different visions of Europe: the one put forward by a centralised country which has been prey to violent protests and repeated challenges for the past few months; the other presented by a more open country with an unalienable desire for sovereignty in a Europe that is increasingly tentacled and challenged by its own people.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Finally someone has ambitions for the EU again

The daily Die Welt finds Kramp-Karrenbauer's proposals convincing:

“Doing the doable but doing it with resolve: that's Kramp-Karrenbauer's ambition for Europe in a nutshell. Part of this can be put down to beginner's enthusiasm. Angela Merkel was just as ambitious when she started out. But reality has a way of bringing modesty to the fore. With Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, however, we have someone who wants to achieve the seemingly impossible once more - to systematically develop the EU instead of getting caught up in the sort of mawkishness that has led to the Brexit, among other things. And it's a good thing! ... Assessing cheeses according to fair competition practices is not Europe's be-all and end-all. The EU needs cooperation in climate policy, asylum law, military matters and digital technology if it wants to talk on equal terms with China, India and the US.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Europe lacks leaders as seldom before

There's no sign of someone with the right qualities to lead the EU, Die Presse comments:

“Kramp-Karrenbauer? She's still defining her role and learning the ropes. Angela Merkel? She no longer has enough support in her own party, to say nothing of in other states. Emmanuel Macron? He's in trouble at home and is trying to hide that fact with European initiatives. Jean-Claude Juncker? He's getting ready for his retirement. Europe's conservatives? They're puzzling over what they should do now and in the future with the new-established right, such as Hungary's Viktor Orbán. The social democrats? They're buckling their seatbelts and putting their heads between their knees before their plane crashes. Europe's other erstwhile constructive forces? They're in despair over the upcoming Brexit and wringing their hands over the economic confrontation with Donald Trump. In other words: the EU lacks a leader now as it has seldom done before.”