Angela Merkel wants Macron to ‘inherit role with China’ says MEP
Mrs Merkel is preparing to step down as Chancellor in what is set to be a momentous shift in German and European politics. She has been at the helm for the past 16 years, guiding Germany and, by extension, the EU. Though she and Germany often refrain from appearing to lead the bloc, several political experts have claimed that France relishes any opportunity to push its way on to the European political stage.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Mrs Merkel have largely been perceived as leading Brussels, while other nations follow closely behind.
With Mrs Merkel’s last week in power coming to a close, some will be looking to Mr Macron as the EU’s next natural de facto leader.
He has been at the forefront of vital Brussels policy, including throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
He said the health crisis proved that the bloc needed to “beef up” its powers in order to grapple with international crises.
More recently, he and Mrs Merkel pushed for an overarching European plan to tackle migration flows from Afghanistan as people flee the Taliban’s control.
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However, Dr Alim Baluch, a professor who specialises in German politics at the University Bath, claimed Mr Macron will not have a position of power waiting for him in Brussels.
Asked if the French President would now be seen as the de facto leader of the EU, he told Express.co.uk: “No — Macron will continue the very tight Franco-Germany alliance, and that has always been very powerful.
“It’s most impressive when you have in one country a conservative and then the other country a centre-left chancellor or president.
“The alliance will become even more important because of Brexit, and maybe this will get on other countries’ nerves.
“Maybe Germany and France together have to find a third country — Italy has a big economy and a lot of people.
“So, maybe the rest of the EU feels dominated by the Franco-German alliance and that might, going forward, be a problem.
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“Germany is very happy for France to pretend that they are more influential than they are and to have shrill messages when they bark at smaller countries or the UK.
“France wants to punch above its weight and Germany says, ‘Yes that’s great, go ahead.'”
Mr Macron’s aides have said in recent weeks that he is concerned about “political paralysis” after Mrs Merkel’s departure, according to France24.
A protracted coalition building period in Germany could make it difficult for France to push for its ambitious EU reform agenda when it holds the rotating EU presidency in the first half of next year.
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Under the German constitution, however, Mrs Merkel will remain Chancellor until a majority of Bundestag lawmakers elect a successor.
Frontrunner Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) has said that he wishes to form a coalition with The Greens if he wins.
Mr Macron’s hopes of spearheading his EU credentials were given an additional blow last week following a poll published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank.
It found that Europeans would rather see Mrs Merkel secure a top job in Brussels over the French President.
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Given a hypothetical choice between Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron becoming “EU president” — a job that in real life doesn’t exist — a clear majority opted for the German chancellor, according to the survey.
Some 58 percent of Dutch respondents, 57 percent of Spanish and 52 percent of Portuguese gave Mrs Merkel support in this fantasy race, compared to 6 percent, 9 percent and 11 percent respectively in favor of Mr Macron.
Despite this, many political watchers believe that Mr Macron is still prepared to wait in the wings for an opportunity to try to replace Germany’s position.
Carsten Brzeski, global head of macro at ING, told CNBC: “As regards to Macron, we already see tentative attempts to take leadership in Europe.”
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He pointed to his “interventions when it comes to European debates on fiscal rules.”
France has called for the EU to relax rules regarding member states’ budget deficits and debt-to-GDP levels.
However, Mr Scholz has rejected these calls, saying they already provide enough flexibility to overcome crises, which could become a point of conflict should Mr Scholz become Chancellor.