Europe, En Marche!
Right now, nowhere in Europe is more exciting than France. It is the place where a political shooting star of the new En Marche (On the Move) movement arrived on the scene and crushed the old right-left party system with a single blow. That same man has summoned a cabinet there that brings together members from every political camp and generation - career politicians and outsiders. That is astonishing in itself, but one thing cannot be praised enough: Emmanuel Macron won France's presidential election with an unapologetically pro-European message. Now he has assembled a pro-European cabinet.
Back out of the cold
So it is possible! The European Union really can be more than a political scapegoat. It seems that one can indeed convince voters that in Europe our future lies in creating a good neighborhood and a true community. That point was certainly not what sealed his victory, but Macron steadfastly refused to deviate from it. "If you vote for me, then you are voting for Europe, too," was his message.
The new French president has done us a great service in that respect. For he has freed Europe of its bad reputation and broken the old taboo that the EU, and even the mere mention thereof, was political poison. And with the naming of his cabinet, he has shown he is backing up his good intentions with deeds.
If hopes of a great leap forward in Europe are to have any shot at success, France will have to begin by liberating itself. Economy minister Bruno Le Maire will be Macron's most important cabinet member in that regard. If he can manage to overcome continuous resistance to reforms and get France's economy back in gear, the Macron government may actually have a chance.
And the key to that success lies in Paris. Billions of euros from Berlin will do little more than create the short-lived illusion of economic blossoming if the necessary structural reforms are not seen through in France. Those social democrats in Germany who believe everything will automatically work out as soon as the cash flow is opened, are sadly mistaken.
For instance, France needs billions to tackle youth unemployment: But the government has to create the foundation for doing so - namely, pushing through education reform. And it must lead a discussion about whether the prospect of a permanent job is the only possible route for someone starting his or her work life.
Macron will surely need a few quick successes. He will have to act swiftly, and the EU will have to react with record speed if it intends to support him. Admittedly: The president's proposed transformation of the eurozone into a common economic area is a medium-term goal. Berlin's skepticism toward the proposal will only be vanquished if France can demonstrate that it has turned itself into a roaring economic engine.
Forward in Europe
Nevertheless, there are a number of areas where France and Germany could get to work right away. For instance, France's new minister of armed forces, Sylvie Goulard, could see to it that after years of talks, military cooperation finally could move off paper and into the barracks. And if, for example, the mission in Mali is not going smoothly because the Germans do not have enough French-speaking officers, both sides must undergo language courses.
A determined French government could accomplish much with its partners in Berlin: from defending against terrorism to managing immigration and dealing with Turkey. Brexit negotiations will be the first indication of how strong we can be when we act together. In any case, there can be no more excuses in the wake of the election. And the motto must now be: L'Europe, en Marche!
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