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.
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.
Center-right parties in Western Europe are responding to competition from the nativist right in radically different ways.
Whereas Dutch prime minister and liberal party leader Mark Rutte argued against the “pessimism” of the nationalist Freedom Party in the March election and won, conservative leaders in Austria and the United Kingdom have chosen to appease reactionary voters.
Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian foreign minister, has been elected leader of the Christian democratic People’s Party because he appeals to voters who might switch to the far right.
Kurz made his name writing an Islam Law for Austria that, among other things, prohibits foreign funding of mosques.
He also took a hard line in last year’s refugee crisis, going behind Europe’s back to do a deal with neighboring Balkan countries to control the influx of people.
Other leaders were dismayed, but Austrian voters seem to approve.
A year ago, the Freedom Party was faraway the country’s most popular with around 32 percent support in the polls. Support for the ruling Social Democrats and People’s Party languished in the low twenties. Now the three are neck and neck. There is a good chance Kurz will be the next chancellor. Read more “Other Conservatives Should Be Wary of Imitating Kurz and May”