Macron’s Priorities for Trump Meeting, Tillerson’s Disastrous Tenure at State
Emmanuel Macron is due to meet his American counterpart, Donald Trump, in Washington DC next week. Erik Brattberg and Philippe Le Corre write in The National Interest that he will have four priorities:
Staking out a common stance on Syria.
Preserving European exemptions from Trump’s tariffs by pushing for a transatlantic trade agreement.
Convincing Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.
Changing Trump’s mind on climate change.
#1 seems doable. #2, who knows? Signs for #3 are ominous. White House officials have been leaking to reporters that, this time, Trump is serious about blowing up the nuclear agreement. #4 seems impossible. Read more
In my first contribution to World Politics Review, I write that a deal is slipping away in Catalonia as the region’s separatists remain deadlocked with the central government of Spain.
Both sides are waiting for the other to make the first move: Spain for the Catalans to form a pliable regional government; the separatists for Spain to drop charges against the leaders of their independence movement. Neither is likely to happen. And so six months after the referendum, and four months after regional elections in Catalonia, there is still no breakthrough.
The solution, I’ve argued before, is more self-government. Most Catalans don’t feel they have enough control over their own affairs. But most don’t really want to break away either. It’s only if they are forced to choose between the status quo and secession that the population splits down the middle.
Unfortunately, more autonomy is out of the question for the current Spanish government. Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, won’t even negotiate with the Catalans.
The longer this impasse lasts, I warn, the more the extremes will benefit.
The liberal Citizens, who take a harder line against the independence movement, are stealing voters from Rajoy. Radical separatists in Catalonia are growing at the expense of pragmatists. Rajoy may come to regret not talking with reasonable separatist leaders when he had the chance. Read more
EU Rejects Northern Ireland Proposals, Italy No Closer to Government
The EU has rejected British proposals for avoiding a hard border in Ulster, with a source telling The Telegraph, “It was a detailed and forensic rebuttal… It was made clear that none of the UK’s customs options will work. None of them.”
Keep in mind that The Telegraph is a right-wing, pro-Brexit newspaper, so its sources may be attempting to put pressure on EU negotiators.
According to the report, the EU rejected:
A “customs partnership”, under which British would collect EU tariffs on goods destined for EU markets, as needlessly complex; and
A “highly streamlined customs arrangement” as effectively “turning a blind eye” to goods coming from non-EU countries.
The United Kingdom has committed to keeping Northern Ireland in full regulatory alignment with the EU in order to avoid a border with Ireland. The easiest way to accomplish that would be to keep Northern Ireland in the EU customs unions, however, that is unacceptable to hardline unionists in Theresa May’s government. Read more
Merkel Presents Alternative Eurozone Plan, Erdoğan Calls Early Elections
Angela Merkel’s response to Emmanuel Macron’s EU reform push is to beef up the Eurogroup: the regular conclave of finance ministers from the nineteen countries that use the single currency. Merkel would add economy ministers to the meetings and expand the Eurogroup’s remit to include all areas of economic policy.
Mehreen Khan argues in the Financial Times that it’s a good way to sabotage eurozone reform: “you effectively hollow out decisionmaking power and create a glorified talking shop.”
I think that’s an exaggeration, but Merkel and Macron do have different priorities.
The former, backed by a Dutch-led alliance of liberal member states, calls for structural reforms to boost competitiveness in the south. Macron argues for investments to promote convergence.
The end goal is the same, but the way they would get there is very different: Merkel puts the onus on the laggards while Macron argues for a shared responsibility. Hence his push for a common eurozone budget and a European finance minister. Read more
Macron’s German Challenge, What America Should Attempt in Syria
Eric Maurice writes in EUobserver that French president Emmanuel Macron’s biggest challenges comes from Berlin, where Angela Merkel and her conservative party are skeptical of plans to create a European Monetary Fund and establish a European deposit insurance scheme to protect savers:
Although the two plans were initiated by the EU before Macron took them, their rejection would signal a clear rebuttal of the French president’s more ambitious proposals for the longer term.
Merkel hasn’t ruled out a European Monetary Fund, but — like the Dutch and other deficit hawks in the north of Europe — she wants it to be an “intergovernmental”, as opposed to an EU-led, institution.
Germany isn’t in favor of creating a eurozone budget and finance minister either.
I predicted in September that these would be the most difficult items on Macron’s wishlist, but other things are still doable: harmonizing corporate tax rates and asylum procedures, creating an EU military intervention force, reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. Read more