“The German-French couple doesn’t exist”

Hardly a week passes without President Macron and Chancellor Merkel appearing in public together. Finance Ministers Scholz and Le Maire also present themselves as a team. But that’s misleading, says a French author. Macron is fooling himself (and us).

“The German-French couple doesn’t exist,” says the new book by C. Delaume, who specialises in European issues. It has been published by Michalon (unfortunately only in French so far) – and puts its finger into some open wounds.

France is isolated in Europe, according to the introduction to this provocative essay. No one in the EU shares Macron’s “federal” and “sovereign” vision. And nobody believes that France is on a par with Germany.

But it is precisely this belief that underlies Macron’s incantations of the “Franco-German couple”. Paris and Berlin, he just said in the Bundestag, must go ahead together and save the world from the threatening “chaos”.

Yet there is only “one true boss” in the EU, according to Delaume – Merkel. In the Elysée, it might not have been noticed yet, but the good old “French Europe” has been transformed into a “very ostentatious German Europe”.

So far, so correct – and well known. The German sociologist U. Beck had already come to the same conclusion in 2012, during the Euro crisis. But why doesn’t Macron see that? Why does he cling to Merkel like a love-grabbing admirer?

Because the French elites use the “German model” to dismantle the welfare state in France and break any resistance to (neo-)liberal reforms, says Delaume. The Hartz reforms send their greetings!

But there is a catch, the author continues: on the one hand Germany is relatively isolated in the EU itself – because it has too often shown itself to be uncooperative and unsolidaristic. On the other hand, the German “model” has had its day.

The “Model Germany” fades away

In fact, German politics is turning away from Hartz & Co. at the very moment when France is introducing the corresponding reforms. And the German “economic locomotive” is showing signs of fatigue.

Despite the fact that the euro is chronically undervalued by German standards, the economy has shrunk recently. The party system, which has been stable for a long time, is falling apart – in the meantime it is not even clear how long Merkel will last.

The big question is whether Paris would be well advised in this situation to break away from Berlin, as Delaume suggests. Should Macron file for divorce – just at the moment when Britain gets its Brexit treaty? That would be risky.

Macron missed the right moment

In truth, Macron missed the right moment to break away from Merkel. In the Brexit negotiations he could have demonstratively met Great Britain, it would have been in France’s best interest.

He could also have emancipated himself from Merkel in the dispute over Germany’s export surpluses. After all, the surpluses are not only a problem for the USA, but also for France. He also missed this opportunity.

Will there be a third chance, for example in the European elections, as “Der Spiegel” suggests? Maybe! It is true that the social democrats have not ruled out an alliance with Macron.

But at the same time Macron is losing more and more support in its own country…

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator