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
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 EU 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 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 investment 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
Everything You Need to Know About the Airstrikes in Syria
Britain, France and the United States attacked three targets in Syria last night in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack by Bashar al-Assad:
A scientific research center in the Damascus area.
A chemical weapons storage site west of Homs, which Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said was “the primary location of Syrian sarin … production equipment.”
A chemical weapons equipment storage facility and command post close to the second target.
American defense secretary James Mattis called Friday’s attack a “one-time shot” and emphasized that the strikes weren’t aimed at Assad’s protector, Russia.
President Donald Trump, however, singled out Iran and Russia for their support of Assad.
“What kind of nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?” he asked. “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” Read more
Italy’s Democrats Split, EU Victory for Macron, Doubts About Syria Strikes
Italy’s Democrats are split on whether to negotiate with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
At a party meeting on Tuesday, former ministers Dario Franceschini and Andrea Orlando argued for coalition talks.
The alternative, a Five Star government with the xenophobic (Northern) League, would make Italy look “like Hungary,” Franceschini said.
However, centrists loyal to the outgoing leader, Matteo Renzi, reject a deal.
Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio has said it is time to “bury the hatchet”. His talks with the League have not been going well. But the Five Stars still call for overturning Renzi’s signature labor reforms, which made it easier for firms to fire and hire workers. Read more
Franco-German Relations Cool, Anti-Assad Coalition in the Works
EurActiv reports that Franco-German relations are going through a rough patch.
The hope in Paris was that a new grand-coalition government in Berlin would be amenable to Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for EU reform. In fact, little has changed. Germany remains apprehensive of transfer union: the permanent subsidization of the south by the north.
Meanwhile, the Dutch have formed an anti-Macron pact with Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden. All argue for enforcing debt and deficit rules, completing the single market and pursuing free-trade deals as opposed to deepening political union in Europe. Read more