Merkel in addition to also also Macron at Odds over completely new EU Leader
The décor of the room in which the German chancellor hoped to convince the French president to support her favored candidate was telling: brown leather chairs, a lonely potted plant at the window, a bottle of mineral water in addition to also also a thermos of coffee on the table. This specific was clearly more Chancellery than Élysée.
This specific was here, in one of the German delegation’s rooms on the fourth floor of the completely new European Council building in Brussels, that will Angela Merkel in addition to also also Emmanuel Macron met on Tuesday afternoon before joining their counterparts for an informal EU dinner 45 minutes later. Merkel’s spokesman posted a photo on Twitter in advance of the meeting: Angela Merkel in addition to also also Emmanuel Macron, both smiling.
nevertheless appearances were deceiving. The relationship between Berlin in addition to also also Paris is usually tenser than This specific has been in quite some time. Ever since Macron moved into the Élysée Palace two years ago, the German-French relationship has been a bit more heated. Macron wants to change Europe, nevertheless the Germans prefer to stall.
Berlin has rejected Macron’s proposals to reform of the Eurozone in addition to also also the two countries are fighting over armament projects in addition to also also weapons exports. This specific was difficult to find a compromise on Brexit in addition to also also common ground German-Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline proved just as elusive.
in addition to also also today, following European elections, the EU is usually today inside the process of choosing completely new occupants for its top positions — in addition to also also additional tensions may be on the horizon. inside the wrangling over those leadership positions, Paris in addition to also also Berlin have conflicting interests. Macron wants to take advantage of the opportunity to remake the EU, as he has said in numerous speeches. To do so, he needs an energetic European Commission president who shares his aims.
Merkel, meanwhile, must support Manfred Weber, the German lead candidate for the European People’s Party (EPP), the center-right European Parliament group to which Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) belong. She has little choice inside the matter, particularly given that will her party already suspects her of having left them inside the lurch during the campaign. Ever since Merkel gave up her position as the chairperson of the CDU in addition to also also announced her impending retirement through politics, she has become a lame duck. To prevent her power through crumbling further, the chancellor needs to prove she can still represent German interests in Brussels. She needs to prevent a commission president through being selected whom the Germans do not like.
Macron, meanwhile, has joined forces with the European liberals in addition to also also hopes to form an alliance — ideally with the Greens — to finally end the dominance of the big blocs in EU politics, the center-right conservatives in addition to also also the center-left Social Democrats. He rejects the very concept of the lead candidate. More than that will, though, he is usually opposed to the man for whom Merkel has to fight: Manfred Weber, of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s CDU.
in addition to also also so they stand opposed: a frustrated French president, disappointed by the timidity in addition to also also worries of the Germans, determined if necessary to move Europe forward with help of some other partners. in addition to also also an outgoing chancellor, who wants to remain the most powerful woman in Europe to the end. Merkel in addition to also also Macron spent an hour in addition to also also a half on the phone the evening the European elections ended, nevertheless so far there are no signs that will they are approaching agreement on top European jobs.
When Macron says the word “spitzenkandidat,” German for lead candidate, This specific’s clear how little he thinks of the concept. He rushes through the long German word, putting the stress on the third syllable in addition to also also generating This specific sound pointed, almost like barbed wire inside the middle of the French surrounding This specific.
A completely new Landscape
After the meal with the heads of state in addition to also also government, Macron explained for the umpteenth time how little he thinks of This specific selection process according to which only someone who campaigned as lead candidate inside the elections can become commission president. Weeks ago, he was already insisting that will there is usually no legal foundation for the process. today, with the election today over, he sees This specific as anachronistic, mirroring as This specific does the old power structures characterized by the dominance of the erstwhile big-tent parties.
“These elections mark a turning point for Europe,” Macron said in Brussels. For the 1st time since 1979, the two largest parties might not be able to form a majority, he said. “So we cannot simply continue as we are used to doing.”
Macron had just experienced the opposition to his point of view during dinner, when Merkel — over pork filet, asparagus in addition to also also green beans — clearly threw her support behind Weber. This specific was a tense discussion, in addition to also also mobile phone reception was even blocked.
Merkel contradicted Macron’s argument that will Weber didn’t possess the necessary experience. This specific was something people had said about her, she recalled, when she took office 14 years ago. The evening ended having a temporary victory by the chancellor. Then on Tuesday, Merkel parried attempts by the French in addition to also also others to finalize a set of firm criteria for the future commission president.
Merkel, of course, like Macron, has never been a fan of the lead candidate system. She does, though, see Weber is usually an acceptable candidate. She is usually accustomed to much worse through the CSU. More than anything , though, the chancellor knows that will the CDU in addition to also also the CSU back home are expecting her to get Weber through in Brussels. As a result, she finds the stubborn opposition through Macron in addition to also also others to be unsettling.
through the German perspective, Macron’s combativeness violates an unwritten EU rule. EU leaders know the expectations that will each are facing through their own country; they all know the constraints firsthand. For that will reason, they generally try not to make compromise more difficult by generating statements in public.
nevertheless that will’s exactly what Macron is usually doing. He has heaped pressure on the chancellor in addition to also also made the leadership issue into a power struggle. today Merkel is usually defending Weber in part because she doesn’t particularly like Macron’s approach.
Macron is usually the fourth French president with whom Merkel has had to work during her chancellorship. To understand the fidgety Nicolas Sarkozy, she allegedly watched Louis de Funès films. François Hollande, meanwhile, blended into the woodwork next to the chancellor. nevertheless Macron stands up to her. He wants to shape Europe, in addition to also also is usually threatening her position as the unquestioned top dog in Europe.
A Pushy Macron
Merkel knows that will there could be a point at which she might have to give up on Weber. She seemed to lay the groundwork due to This specific on Tuesday evening when she argued that will the EU needs to remain functional in addition to also also believes that will the situation can’t be allowed to become so contentious that will the EU becomes blocked. She issued a warning at the summit that will the leaders should “interact with one another carefully.”
nevertheless Brussels diplomats fear that will Macron is usually determined to use the admonishment as a sign of weakness, in addition to also also to celebrate Merkel’s defeat as a victory. Berlin is usually generating This specific correspondingly clear to Paris that will Macron shouldn’t expect to place a French person in one of the top jobs if Merkel isn’t able to bring in a German.
Macron’s preferred alternative to Weber is usually either Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier or liberal Dane Margrethe Vestager. Barnier is usually, like Weber, a member of the EPP, which is usually still the strongest single group in parliament. in addition to also also he is usually French.
nevertheless that will is usually precisely the problem. The CDU — the Germans, in some other words — are said to be especially opposed to Barnier. “Definitely no Frenchman,” was the stance in Berlin, according to a leading European conservative. One observer described the negotiations as a “nasty relapse into nationalism” of the kind that will many had hoped belonged to the past.
This specific’s a danger that will Paris also sees: “This specific is usually first in addition to also also foremost about substance, not about nationalities. The position of the head of the Commission is usually not a battle for a national flag,” argued Amélie de Montchalin, the state secretary for European affairs inside the French Foreign Ministry. “This specific is usually not about a conflict between France in addition to also also Germany, that will has nothing to do with This specific.”
The defeat of Merkel’s CDU inside the European elections in addition to also also the self-destruction of her coalition partner in Berlin, the Social Democrats, threatens to throw her government into crisis. nevertheless Macron came to Brussels strengthened. Although his party La République en marche! only came in second behind Marine le Pen’s Rassemblement National, the gap separating them through the right-wing populists was much smaller, at 0.9 percent, than had been feared.
More than anything, though, La République en marche! believes the election confirmed its position as a completely new political power inside the country. The old-school French Republicans, Merkel’s allies inside the EPP, received 8.5 percent, an historic low. The Socialists received just over 6 percent. For En Marche, the election confirmed that will they have irreversibly changed the French political landscape. that will also has consequences for Brussels. Why, En marche argues, should the French trust Weber, a representative of the traditional center-right to lead European politics?
The conflict over the leadership post, to be sure, is usually just one of many conflicts paralyzing the German-French relationship. Increasingly, Paris in addition to also also Berlin are supporting conflicting positions in Brussels. This specific is usually, as diplomats through smaller countries openly admit, a dangerous development.
The council’s Polish president Donald Tusk said as much behind closed doors on Tuesday during dinner. Smaller EU member states, he said, don’t particularly like This specific when the German-French motor is usually running smoothly since that will means they don’t have much influence. These days, though, he said, they are all hoping that will Paris in addition to also also Berlin could Once more find agreement.