May 11, 2018
Chère Angela, it is time to decide..
Emmanuel Macron no longer spares Angela Merkel. On stage to receive the Charlemagne prize in Aachen he insisted it is time for actions and ambitious visions for Europe. Nationalists and demagogues are clear and have a clear language; Europe must be clear too. To succeed he laid out four commandments for Europe:
"Let’s not be weak, let’s not be divided, let’s not fear, let’s not wait."
Macron no longer dims down his reform proposals, including the European finance minister and a rainy-day fund - and promotes them confidently to the German press and audience. He wants real reforms: a vision for the next 30 years - small steps are for later. A treaty change should not be excluded. He called on Germany's solidarity, and warned that Germany's fetishism about budget policies and trade surpluses has costs for others. No soft packaging of messages anymore.
Merkel did what she knows best, not budge one bit. She reminded Macron that he was only 13 years old when the cold war ended. Yes, there is a fresh wind since Macron raised to power last year, a magic that is in every new beginning. These comments left no doubt about her message: she is the master and he is the apprentice. And, true to her style, she remained vague in terms of content. A German position on eurozone reforms will come in June, plans for investment in crisis countries may even be presented in Sofia next week. It is not that Macron has it all figured out, he is vague too. But he is so much better and more energetic than Merkel in delivering his message to the public, finds Spiegel Online. The youthful and ambitious Macron and the waning era of Merkel, this is not going to end well.
Timothy Garton Ash tells Handelsblatt that Macron needs a strategic answer from Germany to his strategic vision for Europe. An answer to what France and Germany should want to achieve together in Europe. Germany usually only does the minimum required to rescue the eurozone. This is not about pointing out to existing rules and admonishing everyone to do their homework. Garton Ash warns that there is a lack of empathy in Germany, as the Germans find it difficult to see beyond the horizon of their own prosperity. But France and Germany need each other and to work together, as it is in their best interest. Merkel may not be a visionary, says Garton Ash, but she is a clever strategist. Europe needs a stronger foreign and security policy because of Donald Trump, and both countries could pull together. This is also relevant for immigration and securing the EU's borders. A stronger banking union is an obvious candidate too.