Are they for real? Merkel & Macron pledge to reform European Union
On Monday, the new French President Emmanuel Macron held a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Berlin.
During Macron’s first foreign visit, he told Merkel that he was “happy” to work together with Germany “on a common roadmap for the European Union and the eurozone.”
The French leader said that “deep reforms” - up to and including amending the EU treaty - are required to address some of the major issues plaguing the EU.
“In the past, the subject of treaty change was a French taboo. It will no longer be the case,” Macron said, as cited by Reuters.
Merkel expressed guarded optimism to the remarks made by her French counterpart. But was all of this lip service to pacify an electorate that is hungry for real change?
Hugh Bronson, Alternative for Germany party (AFD)
RT: The meeting started on a nice note with Macron emphasizing the importance of relations between the two states. But how important are they?
Hugh Bronson: Well, they are of course crucial. Without the German-French axis, there would be no EU; there would be no coherent European policy. They are the two pillars on which the EU bridge has been built. But I am afraid we heard a lot of lip service today about reform. Peter Oliver said it before, he can’t count how many times the new French President has mentioned reforms, and in the end just carried on as usual. And we will see the same here. Treaties in place are not negotiable. I would rather see how these treaties are implemented in full. For example, the no bail-out clause, or the Dublin agreement, which looks after just distribution of migrants over EU countries. This has not been followed.
Also the no bail-out clause: everybody knows what happened to Greece. There will be another package being made ready to be shipped to Athens in the summer. I rather see European treaties being implemented and getting reforms done on the lower level than just lip service from these two heads of state.
RT: Macron has repeatedly said he wants economic reforms. Will Merkel be in favor of that? Usually, it's Germany that pays the lion's share into the EU.
HB: Yes, of course, Germany is the greatest payer for the European Union. Now that Great Britain has left because of Brexit, France will be in second place. Of course, she wants to see reforms – that is what she says. In fact, they both are very happy the way things are going. They were lucky at the election. Marine Le Pen only got one-third of the French votes. But that was a warning shot. Also the election in Britain last year, the Brexit – they know that things are happening. And their reaction is to move faster.
The danger also is that you have a two-tier, or even a three-tier Europe – a very close connection between France and Germany, who set the pace of further integration. Then you have the second tier of countries who don’t want that much integration; and the third tier of countries like the Visagrad states [Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia], who are not happy with certain agreements, and want to slow down the whole process. We are risking Europe of different speeds, different opinions, and different alliances. This is a danger to a project that is set out to unite Europe, or unite the 28 - soon only 27 states - which are members of the EU.
Jan Oberg, Director, Foundation for Peace and Future Research
RT: The two politicians seemed delighted to have met, with Macron emphasizing the importance of relations between the two states. But how important are they?
Jan Oberg: Historically these two countries - back to the coal and steel union - have always been centrally important to the EU. But when we start out today with the body language, and smiles and no smiles, and hand on shoulder, and things like that, I am tempted to quote Shakespeare: “Words, words, and words.” It remains to be seen because they are meeting at a moment where anybody needs some kind of new thing, some hype, and hope because things are so bad at the moment in the EU. You have economic problems; you have the huge refugee problem that has been treated in an awful, uncoordinated way that the whole world has seen. You have a very negative relationship with Russia; you have the Ukraine problem; you have Syria. On all of these things, I do not necessarily think these two otherwise very visionary leaders will be on the same page.
RT: Is the EU feeling more secure at present, following Macron's win?
JO: You might say it was a pro-EU candidate compared with a more anti-EU candidate. But if you talk of security in those terms, no I don’t think so. The EU at the moment is also saying things about coordinating military, becoming stronger militarily because of the environment, etc. I think the EU would be wise not to compete with the US about militarism. And would be very wise if its members could stop intervening all over the place in the Middle East, France of course in particular; and Britain is leaving – that is another thing. And instead, find a niche for itself.
For 50 years the EU has been talking about military integration. It is not going to happen because they don’t have a common foreign policy and they are not going to have one. But if they could find a niche of civilian early-warning conflict resolution, looking at problems, being the mediators, where others are going in bombing and doing the wrong things with devastating results – if they could come together, and do something new in the Middle East – that would be great. But I have a hard time believing that Mr. Macron is on that line.
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