Macron's EU vision meets Merkel's election realities
September 26, 2017
The French president is to lay out his vision for Europe. Angela Merkel is readying for coalition talks with potential partners, the FDP and the Greens. How could Germany's next government react to Macron's EU reform?
French President Emmanuel Macron is set to unveil his ambitious EU reform plans in a speech later on Tuesday at the Sorbonne University in Paris. So what exactly does he have in mind?
Well, nothing less than a historic reconstruction of Europe and the Eurozone judging by his road map, which - among other ideas - calls for the creation of a eurozone finance minister, a separate budget, a EU finance ministry and a European monetary fund.
Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrats have cautiously welcomed the idea of installing a finance minister, however, there is likely to be disagreement with Macron over how influential and powerful the position should be.
- While Macron says the budget he or she presides over should be in the "hundreds of billions," Merkel has a distinctly smaller budget in mind.
- Pledging to form a stable government, Merkel has refrained so far from drawing red lines over European policy, which gives her and her potential coalition partners enough room to maneuver.
- Macron and Merkel are more likely to see eye to eye on turning the current bailout fund into a wider monetary fund and on border security and defense issues.
- The FDP is also strictly opposed to the idea of a single EU finance minister.
- They favor a "multi-speed Europe" whereby the northern, fiscally disciplined member states pursue common objectives and others follow at a later stage.
- Toughness on Eurozone budget discipline and opposition to any fiscal transfers within the Eurozone are central issues for the FDP.
On the surface, the Greens, who see themselves as the most pro-European of the major German parties, wholeheartedly support Macron's vision to reform the European Union.
- They reject a division of Europe and want a deeper integration.
- Greens co-leader Cem Özedmir has said that trying to help struggling southern European economies by imposing austerity measures alone does not work in Europe.
- However, the Greens are vague on whether they support a separate Eurozone budget as proposed by Macron.
What that means for a potential German government
Taken at face value their respective party programs would indicate that the Greens want to press ahead with deeper European integration and the FDP wants to hold it back - a conflict that could frustrate coalition talks with Merkel, who wants a "stronger Europe" and is keen to revive the Franco-German engine in and for Europe.
While differences remain, the lure of being part of Germany's next government suggests that both the FDP and the Greens will do their utmost to paper over those cracks and find common ground on European reform.