German chancellor Angela Merkel has met many of French president Emmanuel Macron’s demands for eurozone reform during a meeting in Meseberg outside Berlin. Read more
Stephen Walt argues in Foreign Policy that the diplomatic crisis around the Iran nuclear deal shows European leaders don’t know how to handle an American bully:
[I]nstead of getting tough with Trump and warning him that Europe would both stick to the deal and defy any subsequent US effort to impose secondary sanctions on them, [France, Germany and the United Kingdom] chose to mollify and flatter Trump instead.
It seems to no avail.
It pains me to admit it, but Walt has a point:
[T]he European response to Trump shows how successfully the United States has tamed and subordinated the former great powers that once dominated world politics. After seventy-plus years of letting Uncle Sam run the show, European leaders can barely think in strategic terms, let alone act in a tough-minded fashion when they are dealing with the United States.
I do think this is slowly changing. Trump is a wakeup call. The EU is rushing new trade agreements with Japan and Mexico. France is leading efforts to deepen European defense cooperation outside NATO. The Balts and Scandinavians are remilitarizing.
But deferring to America is a hard habit to kick. Read more
During a visit to Sydney, French president Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to work with the largest democracies in the region — Australia, India, Japan and the United States — to “balance” Chinese power and protect “rule-based development” in Asia.
“It’s important… not to have any hegemony in the region,” he said.
Australia has eyed accommodation with China since Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership in 2017. But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, speaking alongside Macron, insisted his country is still committed to preserving a rules-based order.
France is a Pacific power. It has around one million citizens in the region. Read more
The Netherlands’ Mark Rutte has been reprimanded by opposition parties for failing to disclose memos to parliament about internal government deliberations over the repeal of a business tax.
Rutte claimed he had not been aware of the papers, which were drafted by the Finance Ministry during the formation of his current government. The four parties in his coalition, which have a one-seat majority, accepted this explanation. All opposition parties but one voted to censure him.
Rutte surprised other parties by eliminating the dividend tax when he returned to power in October. Repeal had not been part of his election program. The suspicion in The Hague is that Rutte’s former employer, Unilever, and Royal Dutch Shell — two of the Netherlands’ largest companies — lobbied him to eliminate the tax. Read more
Der Spiegel laments that Angela Merkel is allowing Emmanuel Macron to take the lead in Europe.
The left-leaning weekly has complained for years that Merkel isn’t bold and visionary enough, but they have a point this time: Macron has seduced both eurocrats in Brussels and Donald Trump in Washington while Merkel’s authority in Berlin has been significantly reduced by a disappointing election result in September.
Also read Nicholas Vinocur in Politico on the French leader’s transatlantic ambitions:
Macron is determined to restore France’s greatness and Trump’s friendship elevates Paris as a nuclear power with a seat on the United Nations Security Council at a time when Britain — usually Washington’s preferred ally — is sidelined by the Brexit process.
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
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