The Paris-Berlin axis redux?

On The Guardian, Natalie Nougayrède claims that Macron’s election reinforces Angela Merkel’s hold on European politics. Moreover, the French commentator argues that most of the press incorrectly labelled Macron’s visit as one of “a beggar”. On the contrary, she claims that the French President’s visit is important against a “significant context” which sees Donald Trump coming to Europe in two weeks. She adds that the “Macron-Merkel get-together in Berlin was a demonstration of democratic resilience, a show of political resistance in an era of populist pressures”. Although it might be early to draw any definitive conclusion, Nougayrède argues this new Franco-German alliance could reinvigorate Europe’s politics and its role on the global stage.

On the The New York Times, Roger Cohen describes the current geopolitical context as characterised by the risk of a “new Yalta”. The latter comes in the shape of a US-Russia tie that looks with hostility at the European efforts of building a stronger Union. In such a situation, a Macron-Merkel duo “would be formidable”, Cohen writes. The main challenge ahead? The establishment of an effective, defence, fiscal, economic and social union, focused on security, growth and solidarity. As Cohen argues, Macron and Merkel are both “passionate Europeans” and there is a “unique opportunity to rekindle the dream of a federalizing Europe”.

In a commentary published on Social Europe, Dani Rodrik, underlines that Macron’s victory needs to be followed by a German “change of heart”. Rodrik stresses the need for a “true political, economic and fiscal union” among Member states of the EU. Crucially, the economist claims that the French President’s reform plans within his country are unlikely to have a deep impact, without a proper change in the governance of the European Union.

Writing on the The New York Times, the leader of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, warns that after much relief for Macron’s victory in France, there is no time to waste to reform the Union. Verhofstadt claims that, after the German elections of September, institutional representatives and national leaders need to fix the governance of the Eurozone and strengthen the EU foreign policy as well as external borders. More importantly, Verhofstadt suggests to replace the European Commission with a smaller government and get rid of the unanimity rule in decision-making processes at the EU level. Referring to the French elections, he writes: “Europe’s citizens are inspired to vote for politicians who stand up for Europe, but they will extend our mandate only if we deliver”.

On Carnegie Europe, Judy Dempsey focuses instead on the electoral success of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the German state region of Nord-Rhine Westphalia. Dempsey argues that, once again, the so-called Merkel effect played a major role. By this concept, the author means the the German Chancellor’s ability to reassure the electorate and transmit the image of a “safe pair of hands” in times of political turmoil. Dempsey claims that “despite a lack of ideas about how to bring Europe forward”, Merkel still embodies economic stability and growth. Dempsey also doubts the capacity of the Social Democratic party to win the next federal elections in September: “Unless they explain that they really stand for, they could go the way of other left-wing parties in Europe”, she writes.

Speaking of Germany’s economic strength, Barry Eichengreen, on Project Syndicate, analyses the issue of the German current account surplus. Eichengreen argues that, contrary to Trump’s theories, the simple reason behind Germany’s impressive surplus, is that “it saves more than it invests”. He argues that there is actually a very good reasons why the German population should continue to do so: in a context of ageing population, it is reasonable that people save for their retirement years. Nevertheless, the American economist claims that the German government should also realize that its economy needs public investments in some specific sectors, such as infrastructures, health and education.

This Ideas Monitor is by Carlo Burelli and Alexander Damiano Ricci

Photo Credits CC European Parliament

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