Germany and France set the pace in the EU. Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande were convincing in their performance in Strassburg. Now, deeds must follow words, says Bernd Riegert.
They do everything together. His tie even has the same color as her coat. Together, they are saving Ukraine, helping refugees and defending Europe against populists. The message from the German chancellor and the French president was clear: There is no daylight between us. Europe can only master its domestic and foreign policy challenges with a strong Franco-German motor. Just like the historic image of Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand striding to the speaker's pulpits of the European Parliament 26 years ago. At the time, the issues were the East-West conflict and the unity of Germany and Europe. Today the issues are the refugee crisis and the threat of re-nationalization among Europe's 28 member states. Enormous challenges, then and now.
Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande played their roles perfectly. She reminded hesitant Europeans of the European ability to find compromises and courageously enact them. He used dark images to warn of failure and the end of Europe as we know it. There was no difference nor deviation in content.
Merkel and Hollande could just as well have read each other's speeches. Most likely the speeches were closely coordinated in the Chancellor's Office and the Elysee Palace. Existing differences of opinion on economic policy were swept under the rug.
The two made their claim to European leadership crystal clear, and patently rejected the nationalists, separatists, Euroskeptics and perpetual doubters. "We'll do it." The chancellor's motto for Germany is now to be the motto for Europe, even if the actual words were never uttered. The only question is whether this relationship therapy lesson by "Merkollande" will have any effect on the addressees, the citizens of Europe. Their trust in Europe is waning, and not just since the refugee crisis.
However, the harmonious duo of Merkel and Hollande failed to present concrete suggestions about how to solve the Syrian conflict, or fight the causes of refugee migration. They will need to deliver more in the coming days if they intend to cement German and French leadership claims in the EU. Aspirations will meet reality as early as next week. When decisions will have to be made at a summit of the leaders of all 28 European member states in Brussels. It is doubtful that the Strassburg "lovefest" will continue in Brussels since there are a variety of different interests to be brought to a common European denominator as far as refugee and asylum policy is concerned. Though finding that common denominator may just be possible with Franco-German unity. Without that unity, it would be impossible.
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