Macron met Merkel to plan how to make the EU great again
Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron has wasted no time in reaffirming his commitment to the European Union, traveling to Germany Monday to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel. The pair confirmed that in order to secure the future integrity of the bloc, they are willing to draw up new treaties to allow for deeper integration and facilitate widespread reform.
Just a day after he was officially sworn in, the 39-year-old former banker landed in Berlin to meet with Merkel — Europe’s most powerful leader. Macron becomes the fourth French leader Merkel has welcomed in the German capital since she took power in 2005.
Macron was greeted with full military honors upon his arrival, with hundreds of onlookers waving European flags and shouting his name. In a move that will no doubt please Germany, Macron also announced the appointment of Édouard Philippe as his prime minister on Monday. The center-right parliamentarian has lived in Germany and is a fluent German speaker.
Macron has also appointed France’s ambassador to Germany, Philippe Etienne, as a top foreign policy adviser, a move that was greeted positively in both Berlin and Brussels.
It has become unofficial tradition for French leaders to make Germany their first port of call after an election, but Macron’s trip takes on more significance given the various issues afflicting the region, including the debt crisis, the migrant crisis, terrorist attacks, and the decision by the U.K. to leave the union.
In a joint press conference Monday night, Merkel said this was “a very critical moment for the European Union.” She added: “Germany’s future lies in Europe. Germany will only do well in the long run if Europe does well. And the election of the new French president offers us here the possibility to bring dynamism into the development of Europe.”
Macron, who ran on a pro-EU platform, decisively beat far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the second-round vote earlier this month. The German media initially embraced Macron’s victory, with headlines like “France says yes to Europe,” “Macron wins it for Europe,” and “No Frexit” greeting readers the morning after the election victory.
In the weeks since, however, some analysts and media have focused on how Macron’s plans could be costly for Germany, with Der Spiegel running the headline “Our dear friend” — using the term “dear” to mean expensive. While Germany’s economy — Europe’s largest — has been performing well in recent years, France’s has stalled. It has led some to suggest that Macron sees Germany as a cash cow which will be forced into bankrolling other states — something which Jean Pisani-Ferry, economic programme coordinator for Marcon’ campaign, denies.
Some of the reforms Macron has floated include the creation of a finance minister for the eurozone, a shared budget and EU-wide social insurance. While politicians have previously suggested similar ideas, it was thought that the need to rewrite European treaties would stymie these options.
“In the past, the subject of treaty change was a French taboo. It will no longer be the case,” Macron said, with Merkel affirming her commitment to rework the treaties where necessary, adding that she had been “irked” by those who said treaty change was not possible. “The entire world is changing and we declare that we have exhausted ourselves once and that’s it for our entire lifetime,” she said.
Edouard Philippe is a Juppé ally from centre-right. Logical choice to appeal to conservatives. Important for Berlin: EP is fluent in German!
— Henrik Enderlein (@henrikenderlein) May 15, 2017
Macron’s victory is widely seen as a bright light for Europe amid the many negative issues the bloc must tackle. And for Merkel, facing critical elections in September, his win has given her campaign a much needed boost. As far-right and isolationist views have come to the fore in recent years, as epitomized by the election of Donald Trump and Brexit, Macron’s centrist appeal may have halted a trend which had threatened to see the European Union unravel.
Cover: Michael Kappeler/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images