March 19, 2018
Waiting for Germany
There will not be a Franco-German EU agenda for the EU summit this week, but there may be one in June. At least that is what Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron confirmed after their meeting last Friday. There was plenty of goodwill on display, but the question is whether the so-called technical difficulties, which are more political difficulties, can be overcome by June.
Macron was diplomatic enough not to point fingers. But everyone is now waiting for Germany to come up with a proper response to Macron's proposals. We know what the Germans don't want, but not what they do want. After years of EU crisis management, how could the Franco-German partnership renew its vision for Europe? And how can Merkel rally the eurosceptics in her party behind such a proposal?
One of the problems pointed out by Michaela Wiegel in FAZ is that the German debate reduces this initiative too easily to the question of money. Every proposal about immigration or security policy evokes the suspicion that the other member states are all after German money. This instinct is so deeply rooted that even if France is now becoming the poster child for fiscal prudence and economic reforms, it won't convince the Germans yet that they are in the same boat. Even the grand coalition contract cements the idea that all that is requested from Germany is more money. The debate is focusing on how much the German contribution to the EU budget should rise and on the conditions for the banking union. But there is so much more that needs to be discussed.
A Franco-German agreement is necessary but not sufficient, Hubert Vedrine once said. This is true also this time, as there are plenty of challenges. In Italy a political majority of anti-euro parties was elected, the Dutch premier Mark Rutte has assembled a coalition of mostly Baltic and northern European states around him to resist a possible Franco-German leadership claim, and the Visegrád states won't go for it either.