German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron met last Monday in Berlin. As a rule, the first foreign visit of the elected leader to an important political power has a profoundly symbolic and practical significance. The first visit demonstrates the priorities and intentions of the foreign policy of the leader of this country. So it happened this time. Macron pointed out the importance for France of participating with Germany in the EU's supporting structure - the Franco-German axis.
European media interpreted the first meeting of French President Makron with Chancellor Merkel in Berlin with "cautious optimism." In the Dutch De Volkskrant wrote: "Macron and Merkel - are beautiful names that sound from both sides of the Franco-German axis." As is the case with the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and US President Barack Obama, is the type of Macron, next to which Merkel can absorb a little of its shine.
This is the external side of the visit of the elected president of France. However, this event is mainly of interest from the point of view of the reforms proposed by the Macro of the eurozone, which should give a new impulse to European integration and overcome the crisis phenomena in the European Union. In recent years, the European Union has faced a series of problems: the euro- and debt crisis, the migration and border crisis, the terrorist attacks of fanatical Islamists and, finally, the UK's withdrawal from the EU. In this regard, Macron said that he would seek "a historic reconstruction of Europe and the eurozone." He stresses everywhere that France and the European Union must recover during his five-year presidential term. Otherwise, the road to "extremism" will be opened, which will crush a single Europe.
The "path of recovery" lies through reforms that are possible through cooperation between the two leading powers of the European Union - France and Germany. At a joint press conference after the talks, Merkel and Macron struggled to emphasize that they would cooperate. But it was noticed that none of the leaders addressed the other by name, as is customary in the European Union. Although each was emphatically attentive to each other. This is the fourth French president, with whom, after 2005, Merkel is at the Chancery post. The discrepancy in the experience between the two leaders was so obvious that Merkel deemed it necessary to warn in advance that she would not behave with the new inhabitant of the Elysee Palace as "knowing everything," but would listen carefully to him.
However, we can not say that he himself is a newcomer to German-French politics. Between 2012 and 2014, as Minister in the office of President Hollande, he actively participated in the Franco-German discussions on how to create deeper economic integration in the core of the eurozone. It has already been noted that the new Prime Minister of France, Edouard Philip, appointed by Macron, speaks German fluently. The former French ambassador in Berlin, Philippe Etienne, will now become Senior Advisor for Political Affairs at Macron. German priorities of Paris are underlined in the foreground.
Germany itself looks at Macron simultaneously with hope and skepticism. In the German press, the joy over the election of Macron as president of France was quickly replaced by criticism of the proposed European reforms. So, for example, the German weekly Der Spiegel 13 May even came out with a portrait of the new French president on the cover and a sarcastic signature: "Dear friend. Emmanuel Macron saves Europe, and Germany must pay for it. " In a speech to the leadership of the CDU, Merkel said that she was not going to change her "approach" just because a new president was elected in France. Immediately after that, her spokeswoman issued a statement that the German government is not a supporter of Eurobonds, which, allegedly, is going to follow MacDonald's example.
"Dear friend. Emmanuel Macron save Europe, and Germany must pay "
On the other hand, Merkel does not want to complicate life for the new French president. The election of Macron happened at a time when her own influence in Europe was running out. In the eyes of a large number of Europeans and Germans, including Merkel remains "Chancellor of budgetary economy", which opened the gates of Europe in front of inocultural refugees. Therefore, it is no accident that during the visit of Macron the German leadership showed encouraging gestures addressed to Paris. Chancellor Merkel and her chief deputy - Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble before important negotiations with the French president stated that they are ready to show flexibility in trying to solve the economic problems of France. The Chancellor stressed that the Germans should not be the main ones, that is, they recognized that it was necessary to listen to French wishes. The degree to which Merkel is ready to follow this path is not clear.
In an interview with the weekly Der Spiegel, Minister Schaeuble acknowledged that the positive trade balance of Germany with France alone is € 35-38 billion, and that is too much, in his opinion. Schaeuble confirmed that there is a need for transfers between the richer and poorer EU states. "The community can not exist without strong bail for the weaker," he said. In turn, Merkel said last week at a business dinner in Dusseldorf that she was ready to consider the eurozone budget for 2018 year, "to help countries that want to reform." Such statements should be seen as encouraging gestures towards Paris. A more balanced relationship between Germany and France could put an end to Berlin's reputation in recent years as a "selfish European hegemon" for Germany.
The main result of the first meeting of Macron and Merkel was the statement of the German Chancellor that, according to Berlin, it is possible to introduce changes in the basic agreements of the EU within the framework of the process of reforming the European Union. Merkel said she was personally ready to consider such changes. Macron responded by saying that "changing the treaty for a long time was a French taboo," but that changed after he became president. Earlier in Berlin, were cautious about the plans of the French president to reform the European agreements. "At the moment, changes in the European treaty are unrealistic," said the official representative of the German Finance Ministry on the eve of Macron's visit to Berlin. Thus, there is a cardinal shift in the position of Berlin on the key issue.
A statement about the possibility of changing the basic EU treaties with notable irritation was met in the UK. After all, before the referendum, Prime Minister Cameron's proposals for reforming the European Union were repeatedly rejected with the argument that a change in the basic treaty was impossible in principle. As it turned out, it was impossible with regard to lowering the level of integration, rather than raising. In this regard, the British Financial Times spoke most frankly in its commentary on the Franco-German meeting in Berlin. It expressed fears that the revival of the "Franco-German leadership" in the European Union will put Britain in a "difficult position" in the conditions of Brexit and after it. A strong Europe with clear leadership has always been and will be a problem for Britain. "No one in the UK will say this out loud, but once decided to withdraw from the EU, in its strategic interests to achieve paralysis or the collapse of the European Union," the Financial Times wrote.
British politicians allegedly have not yet realized what difficulties they create for election Makron. Makron dynamism, according to a British publication, is likely to lead to closer ties between France and Germany. British diplomats, hoping to play on the differences between France and Germany in the hope of providing more favorable conditions for Brexit. Now Britain has to a united front in France and Germany.
However, there are certain doubts that the Berlin meeting became decisive in restoring the Franco-German axis. The fact is that the election of Macron in France became a factor in German policy. France gave the example that a pro-European election campaign can bring the votes of voters. Own election campaign in Germany has already begun. And Chancellor Merkel will have to pass between the Eurosceptive AFD on the right and the left-centrist SPD on the left. In this case, the candidate from the SPD, Martin Schultz, presents himself as the most real pro-European candidate. Support for the Macro reform program is currently directly related to the German elections, that is, it may have only a tactical significance for Merkel and the leadership of the CDU.
The public demands of the Macron in Berlin affect the German elections, which will be held in four months. Competing with the CDU, the SPD tries to present itself as a true ally of Macron. For example, for some reason the French president was met at the airport in Berlin by the vice-chancellor and foreign minister Zigmar Gabriel (SPD), which was a serious departure from the protocol. Gabriel himself seeks to weaken the policy of budgetary economy, conducted in the European Union by the duo Merkel-Schaeuble. In his article in Spiegel, he suggested rethinking this problem and being open to the Franco-German compromise on the currency union. In the SPD political paper presented last week in Berlin, entitled "Élysée 2.0: A New Impulse for German-French Cooperation," directly referring to the reform efforts of Hollande in 2012, the Social Democrats are returning to the idea of a tax on financial transactions in the European Union, to increase corporate income tax, as well as to the proposal to turn the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) into a European investment fund similar to the IMF. All these proposals clearly go in the mainstream of the "European ideas" of Macron. The Social Democrats obviously aimed at attracting the French president to their side during the election campaign in Germany, or at least to demonstrate greater openness to the proposals of the young and "progressive" president of France.
While that is happening in the relationship Paris and Berlin should be interpreted as follows. Agreement between Macron and Merkel is the only prerequisite that in Europe there will be some movement in the direction of the reform of the euro zone. In Berlin, it was announced that Germany and France will develop a joint plan for EU reform. To this end, in July, it will be held the meeting of two Council of Ministers, which will begin the preparation of the "road map" of reforms of the European Union and the eurozone.
But there is hardly any serious talk about any reforms before the parliamentary elections in Germany and the formation of a new German government. In this regard, the situation in Germany must finally be determined somewhere in November 2017 year. In the meantime, the CDU refused to initiate negotiations with Paris on the budget of the eurozone for 2018 a year before France starts large-scale reforms and reduces its budget deficit to the required standard. The reforms that Macron offers to France - the labor market or the education system - can only be realized if there is a presidential majority in parliament. This is still problematic. Recall that the decisive in this regard for Macron parliamentary elections in France are scheduled for 11 and 18 June 2017.
In practice, the current wishes of Paris to Berlin are reduced to a request to reduce the price of the necessary reforms in France. After meeting with Merkel, Macron demonstrated his readiness to follow Berlin's requirements. Perhaps it was "home-making" concessions. Macron stressed that he does not support the introduction of Eurobonds, which was especially fiercely opposed in Berlin after his election. Instead, Macron argues for the need for "investment", which, of course, means German investment in the French economy. In this regard, the idea of a German investment program, working, including on France, can act as an economic engine for the further integration of the eurozone. However, the last word remains for the Germans, who so far have been guided only by considerations of increasing their own profits in the export economy. In this logic in Germany until the last moment, it was believed that France must live in accordance with its obligations and opportunities.
For this reason, even in France are skeptical about the Makron ambition to rebuild Europe at the cost of the reform of the socio-economic system of France for a German account. Therefore, this promise Makron in Berlin the German leadership to become a "direct, frank and constructive partner" can not be executed.