Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Macron Seeks More Clout in Brussels

According to the Financial Times, Emmanuel Macron is seeking to have Bruno Le Maire replace Jeroen Dijsselbloem as head of the Eurogroup, the committee of finance ministers who set Eurozone policy. Failing that, he'd like to see Odile Renaud-Basso become the head of the so-called Working Group within the Eurogroup. Meanwhile, he's also pushing for the creation of the post of Eurozone finance minister--a move to which the Germans may accede. Agreement on any of these proposals would signify progress toward a Franco-German entente on Eurozone policy, which is long overdue. But any decision may be delayed until after the German elections in the fall.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, let's wish Macron good luck (although this move would really weaponize Le Maire). And let's wish bad luck to the dangerous Christian Lindner. An FDP/Union government in Berlin might spell the end of Macron's hopes of meaningful Eurozone reform: Lindner has compared Macron's Eurozone plan to the Soviet communism. (I wonder what Mélenchon thinks of this sentiment!)

I've read in some French publications that Lindner is a paper tiger: Merkel is popular enough that she can ally with the SDP or the Greens. I think that his understates the popularity of Lindner's rhetoric on the German right and center: CDU/CSU voters (and AFD voters) like his anti-Macron, pro-Putin stance. The Christian parties would be happy to have him as a reason not to give Macron any major concessions. Merkel may prefer the Greens, but she is on the left of her party, and after this election she will be a lame duck. There is a real risk of the German stance on the Eurozone *hardening* in response to Macron.

Robinson said...

Some truth to the comment above: Lindner is clearly running against Macron, a fact that deserves to be noted. The FT article Art links talks about a Dutch-Finnish-German coalition skeptical of Macron (one which the Austrians may be about to join). The power of decision lies with Germany, and that means with Mrs. Merkel. After the election she will decide between Macron and Lindner, Seehofer et. al. It will be the most consequential decision of her chancellorship, although I assume that true to form she will fudge it somehow.

Tim said...

The issue is not JUST Lindner's opposition to Macron but some of his recent pro Putin statements such as suggesting Germany recognize the annexation of Crimea. While this might help him gain support among some Germans I question to what degree Merkel and the mainstream CDU want to get in bed with some views. Merkel has never had that great of a relationship with the FDP anyways and I suspect Lindner's recent actions might be reaffirming her views on that subject.

My sense is Lindner jumped the shark by not just coming out as anti Macron but coming out as pro Putin, pro Trump, and pro Brexit none of which I am suspect will help his approval with the median German voter. At this point I really question whether Merkel could "trust" Lindner in the Foreign Minister portfolio FDP coalitions typically get.

Tim said...

As to the point about the Dutch view of Macron I suspect a lot of infighting over forming a new Dutch govt which has now gone on for quite some time I suspect is over how to respond to Macron with the D66 probably being strongly in favor of working with France.

atomymous said...

It would make sense, Tim, but all reports suggest that immigration and 'euthanasia +' are the reasons Dutch negotiations are dragging out.

Anonymous said...

@Tim, and assuming Lindner does indeed become Vice-Chancellor: I don't know that he would have the weight and authority to dictate a foreign/European policy course to Merkel. The junior partner usually bends to the will of the larger party in German coalition. Also, she always has the option of going back to the Social Democrats, with whom she's twice governed fairly successfully, should the Free Democrats end up making unacceptable demands.

JCW

Anonymous said...

The trouble is not simply with Lindner and the FDP. His anti-Macron, pro-Putin and pro-British sentiments are widely shared in German industry and in the CDU/CSU. (The CSU especially, of course.) If the choice were up to Merkel I assume that she would vastly prefer to govern with the SDP or the Greens. Her party prefers the liberals, and Lindner would be dangerous as a vice-chancellor because he would speak for a good part of the CDU/CSU.

-On Brexit, German industry has so far been mostly silent during the current "phony war," but I assume that to preserve its UK customer base it will push hard for concessions to the British once the negotiations get serious. Here Lindner is simply being more honest than Merkel.

-On the Eurozone, the CDU/CSU would love any excuse that it could come by to oppose Macron. Some concessions on appointments are possible, although the German right still regards Draghi's appointment to the ECB as a kind of catastrophe.

-On the Russia question the left-wing parties are as divided as the right-wing ones: look at what Schröder has been getting up to. Even here, Lindner speaks for the silent majority of the German population and of German industry. In Germany more than anywhere else in Europe it is possible for the country's elite to force an unpopular policy down the throats of the population. The Afghan war, for example, was overwhelmingly unpopular but no mainstream party opposed it. How long can Germany continue a costly and unpopular anti-Russia policy with Trump in the White House?

Tim said...

What is somewhat amazing is both Macron REM and the German FDP are both under the banner of the pan EU ALDE group but obviously they have very different views to say the least. This divide in ALDE is much more visible in the Netherlands between the Dutch VVD and D66 which are both members of ALDE.

Second, it is pretty difficult for any Brexit deal to go into effect without France's approval no matter how hard the CSU/CDU might want to give concessions. Additionally Macron in blocking such a deal will be loudly backed by many Benelux euro Federalists like Guy Verhofstadt. So in the next few years we might have quite the fireworks.

Anonymous said...

Guy Verhofstadt is a paper tiger. Macron could block a deal, but why would he? It isn't really in the interests of France to drive too hard a bargain on Brexit, and when it comes to standing up to Germany, Macron has to chose his battles. By "concessions" I don't mean any of the have-their-cake-and-eat-it-too fantasies that float about in the British press: just a long transition period in which freedom of movement is preserved and the Brits are members of the common market in all but name, a reasonably generous trade deal, and a final "bill" that isn't unreasonable. The "bill" is by far the least important item, but it is likely to generate the most sound and fury.

At any rate (since this is a blog about French politics): Macron may be making Verhofstadt-like Eurofederalist noises now, but when the Brexit negotiations become serious I am sure he will side with Germany. It can't be excluded, of course, that the British themselves will behave so unreasonably that the deal explodes in spite of German goodwill.

Anonymous said...

REM and the FDP stand in the same relative position in the political spectrum of their respective countries. REM wants France to become more like Germany, the FDP wants Germany to double down on its current model and to make no concessions to France.

Mitch Guthman said...

I have been mulling this over and I'm asking myself this question: To what end does Macron seek more clout in Brussels? Unlike Hollande when he was in campaign mode, Macron has no fundamental disagreements with Germany about economics, foreign policy or, really, much of anything. If the policies are the same or more conservative, so why exactly is it important that Macron has more "clout" in Brussels unless it is for the greater agrandissent of young Jupiter?

Perhaps a lesser focus on "inside baseball" by the press and a bit more questioning about the basic premises of the Macron regime might be in order.

Tim said...

Well one possibility is that conceivably post Brexit the simplest way to create an "Eurozone Budget" is to simply reuse the existing EU budget as a defacto Eurozone one with the UK as by far the largest non Eurozone member state out of the way. The treaty mechanism already exist that Germany must pay it's share of the EU budget and there for there is nothing really Lindner and the FDP can do about it. Post Brexit even with a transitional agreement in place the Brits will no longer have a say in the EU budget and thus Germany will lost its biggest ally in EU Budget negotiations.

The biggest problem for Macron is a pure EU budget more tilted towards France doesn't necessarily help the EZ periphery. Currently Greece and Portugal are far from being the poorest EU member states(the Eastern EU states keep this status). On the otherhand shifting the EU budget away from regional development and agriculture towards science and technology helps France(and Germany) and probably helps Italy and Spain too it really doesn't do much for Greece or Portugal.

Tim said...

@Anonymous

I agree that Macron and Germany could probably agree to a reasonably long transition if that included freedom of movement and that it would probably be in the interest of France(BTW Guy Verhofstadt would probably push for one too). I guess the question is whether Lindner would push a transition agreement "without" Freedom of Movement. That seems to be the question being asked in the German press. Macron I also suspect would support a Canada style trade deal with the UK but not some type of Canada plus the Brits keep talking about.

In either scenario the UK will lose it's EU voting right come early 2019 with all the negative impacts that will entail for the CDU/CSU.

Also the next French elections will take place at almost the same time as the next UK elections so given that Theresa May wants to resolved Brexit before the next UK election French voters will know the consequences of Brexit long in advance of the next French election.

Anonymous said...

@Tim- the sensible solution to that is to get rid of freedom of movement in name but to retain it in effect during the transition period (some sort of registration could be imposed on new entrants). This shouldn't be politically impossible for the British as long as freedom of movement ends when the transition does. The risk is that it becomes a bone of contention among the Tory ministers vying to be PM: if they present a united front, it will be generally accepted by the right. If temporary accommodation on freedom of movement becomes too strongly associated with Hammond, and particularly if Davis is imprudent and opportunistic enough to oppose it, then the prospects of a temporary deal will collapse. Unfortunately May is powerless to impose order on her cabinet.

The above solution might be interpreted as Germany forcing Europe to capitulate to Britain, but this interpretation would be wrong. There is no way that a more generous transition deal will be offered, although I see why Lindner would want to gesture in the direction of one. As for Canada vs. Canada plus, the devil is in the details but I think Tim is substantially correct.

Anonymous said...

Wondering if there are any French reactions to what happened in Charlottesville... I know Angela Merkel made a statement but how do French media present what happened? Did they report on it? Ot is everyone at the beach for the holiday (15-aout)?

Art Goldhammer said...

Charlottesville has been covered intensively in France. A fair sample of the reaction is today's edito in Le Monde: http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2017/08/16/la-transgression-sans-precedent-de-donald-trump_5172839_3232.html

Tim said...

I hate to spread rumors but Justin Trudeau's government in Canada has been in hot water over the fact some of his aides have developed close ties to Trump WH Advisor Steve Bannon. While this has not publically been reported in France yet I have also heard from source that similar close ties exist between Steve Bannon and members of Macron government. Bannon is reputed to believe that both Trudeau and Macron are "better" than Jeremy Corbyn and Melenchon and as such the "Bannonista" movement should swing its support behind Macron and Trudeau.

Anonymous said...

Thanks.
Anything from Macron?

bert said...

The fact that it's so close to an election curiously makes me place less weight on this than otherwise. Even so, this reads like big news:
https://www.ft.com/content/97916d18-8ca9-11e7-9084-d0c17942ba93