In the aftermath of Emmanuel Macron’s speech on Europe, the German press warned that there might be a major obstacle in the revival of the European project: the FDP, the liberal party with which Angela Merkel would have to rule, and whose European ideas are radically opposed to those of Emmanuel Macron.
Emmanuel Macron hit hard. On Tuesday, September 26th at the Sorbonne, the French President outlined his plans for Europe. Affirming on several occasions that it was “the right time” to “be ambitious”, he enumerated twenty concrete proposals, ranging from European defence to fiscal and social convergence, or the extension of the Erasmus program beyond the student world. This series of proposals received polite reception in Germany. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, said Emmanuel Macron could “count on” Germany. Cem Özdemir, co-chairman of the German Greens and who is expected to become the next Minister of Foreign Affairs of an unexpected coalition (CDU, FDP and Greens), said he hoped that Germany would seize the hand held by the French President.
The German press, however, emphasized that the task might be complicated for the French President: “He has to expect strong resistance, particularly from Germany”, wrote die Spiegel on its website. The main criticisms were made against the European budget proposal. “This could frighten the Europeans of the East, who are reluctant to a multiple speeds Europe” recalled the Spiegel. But it is mainly the conservative and liberal politicians who are likely to pose a problem to Emmanuel Macron’s proposals. Indeed, the conservatives of the CSU, allies of Angela Merkel, also expressed their scepticism: “Macron’s plans lead to an unlimited union of financial transfers and the dissolution of the Stability Pact, which are the bad lessons of the euro crisis”, said Hans Michelbach, CSU MP. In addition to the CSU, Angela Merkel is expected to lead a coalition with the Liberals of the FDP, which clearly reject a Eurozone budget. “The FDP in the coalition, and potentially in the Ministry of Finance, is a nightmare come true for Paris and Brussels”, headlined the conservative daily die Frankfurter allgemeine Zeitung. At 32.9%, the CDU’s disappointing score will not help Angela Merkel win against her allies.
“In recent years, we have not ceased complaining that we are not making enough progress on Europe”, wrote die Zeit on its website. “With a Francois Hollande in charge in France, it was difficult to advance (…) France now has a strong President, with a European project, and Germany has a weakened chancellor. Angela Merkel will have to deal with the entry from the AfD to the Bundestag: she will have little of remaining energy to devote to Europe. From the European point of view, Angela Merkel is the new François Hollande”. The website of the centre-left weekly calls to follow Emmanuel Macron. “The requirement of Germany over the last few years on the European budget was logical, but since then the Eurozone is full economic recovery, Ireland, Portugal and Spain have overcome the crisis. We must expect a new crisis”, wrote die Zeit, brandishing the danger of populism. “It is no secret that Macron was hoping for a pro-European coalition in Germany”, said Tagesspiegel. “But he cannot let his plans be deconstructed by German hesitation: his credibility in his own country is at stake”. The newspaper warned: “He will look for other partners and it can only be the states of southern Europe”. If Germany refuses to follow President Macron, the country will therefore give up the future development of the Eurozone. And, it is unimaginable”.
At the end of the day, President Macron seeks to revive the European project at a moment when the peoples of both countries have rarely been so divided. The German Chancellor will likely encounter many difficulties with this new unprecedented coalition. It is a safe bet that in the years to come, the European project will encounter political difficulties in Germany. The countries of the South could then take advantage of this situation to regain their place in the European construction, left vacant for too long…