Emmanuel Macron humiliated while Merkel “is content to claim that France is more influential than it is” | World | New
President Biden calls Emmanuel Macron after AUKUS controversy
The French president has, in recent weeks, made his weight on the world political scene. He reacted with fury to the news that the UK, US and Australia had entered into a trilateral security alliance. Canberra had an existing deal with Paris to build and buy 12 French submarines – but the new defense pact, AUKUS, will see Australia buy American-made submarines instead.
Mr Macron, widely seen as the EU’s spearhead alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, immediately condemned the deal and withdrew French ambassadors from the United States, thus avoiding political olive branches extended by Westminster and refusing to speak with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
As tensions have eased, with Mr Macron speaking separately with US President Joe Biden and Boris Johnson, the debacle has revealed just how ready France is to make its voice heard.
Mr Macron is no stranger to considerable influence in Europe: he and Ms Merkel regularly represent the EU in international meetings with powers like China, often speaking on behalf of member states’ interests.
However, a political expert has now suggested that Mr Macron’s influence may be only symbolic.
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Dr Alim Baluch, a professor specializing in German politics at the University of Bath, suggested that Mr Macron’s political power in the EU depended on what Angela Merkel was willing to give him.
The German Chancellor will make way for a new leader and a potential government as the country heads to the polls on Sunday.
Having held this position for 16 years, she has been at the forefront of German and European politics for almost two decades.
Much of the EU’s negotiating power therefore rests on the shoulders of Merkel, according to Dr Baluch.
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Speaking of the Franco-German alliance, he told Express.co.uk: “Maybe the rest of the EU feels dominated by it, and that could be a problem in the future.
“Germany is very happy that France claims that it is more influential than it is and that it sends out strident messages when it barks at smaller countries or the UK.
“France wants to strike above its weight and Germany is saying: ‘Yes, that’s good, go for it.'”
Speculation has surrounded who might step into Merkel’s role in the EU after she leaves.
Many believe that Mr Macron could push himself to become the bloc’s de facto leader.
According to France24, the president’s collaborators have expressed concern in recent weeks about the “political paralysis” after the departure of Merkel.
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A long coalition bailout period in Germany could make it difficult for France to push forward on its ambitious agenda when it takes the rotating EU presidency in the first half of next year.
However, under the German constitution, Merkel will remain Chancellor until the Bundestag elects a successor.
Dr Baluch said that instead of pushing to become the de facto leader, Mr Macron would likely work to strengthen the existing Franco-German alliance.
Even as Mr Macron tried to make his way to the top of the bloc, a recent poll released by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank suggests Europeans don’t want him behind the wheel – they would rather see Ms Merkel lands a top job in Brussels.
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Given a hypothetical choice between Merkel and Mr Macron becoming “EU president” – a job that does not exist in real life – a clear majority opted for the German Chancellor, according to the survey.
Some 58% of the Dutch, 57% of the Spaniards and 52% of the Portuguese supported Ms Merkel in this fantastic race, compared to 6%, 9% and 11% respectively in favor of Mr Macron.
Despite this, many observers believe he will take a step forward if given the opportunity.
Carsten Brzeski, global head of macro at ING, told CNBC: “As far as Macron is concerned, we are already seeing half-hearted attempts to take the lead in Europe.”
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He pointed to his “interventions when it comes to European debates on budgetary rules”.
France called on the EU to relax the rules on member states’ budget deficits and debt / GDP levels.
This could come into conflict with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s favorite, whose Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) currently leads the polls.
He has previously argued that EU fiscal rules provide enough flexibility to overcome crises.