December 14, 2017
Macron gives up on Euro reform... for now?
Like Nicolas Sarkoyz and François Hollande before him, Emmanuel Macron has taken six months to drop his eurozone reform agenda. Faced with a German reaction ranging from Angela Merkel's indifference to outright hostility from other quarters, French officials tell Reuters that Macron does not want to get bogged down in technocratic discussions over the eurozone budget, but to focus on other areas of policy where agreement on a way forward is more likely, such as defence, energy, and the digital economy. Reuters adds migration to this list of more promising issues, but as we note in our parallel story today, it is far from clear EU politicians even agree on what the ultimate goal of the EU's migration policy should be.
What strikes us is the change of tone in how the Franco-German discussion s being described, also in the German press. Now the narrative is one of an indecisive Merkel hindering a newly ambitious France. We note that Macron's predecessors didn't start out any less ambitious than Macron. But, as is the case now, their ambitions didn't last more than a few months - at least when it came to eurozone reform. What is different now is Merkel's personal situation. Where in the past she presided over coalitions built on rock-solid parliamentary majorities, she now has trouble putting together a majority, with coalition talks having failed once already. In a comment in Tagesspiegel, Albrecht Meier is outright enthusiastic about Macron's leadership in Europe and his effectiveness at home. Macron has delivered on what Merkel had expected of him, like the pace of the labour reforms and deficit reduction. Internationally, Meier is also impressed by Macron's initiatives regarding Africa or climate change. By contrast, the political impasse in Berlin prevents Merkel from setting the tone. She is past he zenith, Meier writes, and Paris can sense it.
But, on the eurozone, little has really changed other than perception. Merkel stonewalling Sarkozy and Hollande was perceived as a show of strength because she was strong at home. Now the delays are interpreted as weakness because she's weak at home. But the end result is the same: the French president drops his eurozone reform proposals.