Macron and Merkel can make the EU strong again

Writing in Danish business newspaper Berlingske, Rasmussen Global Senior Adviser in Berlin, Olaf Böhnke, has given his assessment of Macron’s election, and its implications for the future of the EU. He wrote: By Olaf Böhnke, Seniorrådgiver (Berlin) In eleven years as German chancellor, Angela Merkel’s key project, the European integration process, has consistently come under fire. […]

Writing in Danish business newspaper Berlingske, Rasmussen Global Senior Adviser in Berlin, Olaf Böhnke, has given his assessment of Macron’s election, and its implications for the future of the EU.

He wrote:

Olaf Böhnke - Rasmussen GlobalBy Olaf Böhnke, Seniorrådgiver (Berlin)

In eleven years as German chancellor, Angela Merkel’s key project, the European integration process, has consistently come under fire.

The financial crisis brought the Eurozone and its common currency close to its collapse; the sudden and heavy influx of refugees from Africa and the Middle East showed failings in Europe’s Schengen area and its migration policy; and the UK is set to leave the EU.

Against this gloomy backdrop, the victory of Emmanuel Macron is a gift, and perhaps a unique opportunity to steer the EU back on course. Macron’s immediate priority is his domestic situation, the French economy and particularly unemployment. However, his economic successes will only assist him in steering France back to being one of the engines of EU integration, alongside Germany.

Across most of Europe there was a collective sigh of relief when exit polls showed Marine Le Pen was unsuccessful. However, Macron’s victory is not just about stopping the curse of Euro-sceptic populism, but about giving Europe back the hope, ambition and vision that it has lacked for too long.

Macron has not built his political career on the back of Merkel-bashing that we have seen across Europe. Instead of seeking to fight Merkel and her Germanic fixation with rules and austerity, Macron has sought to reinvigorate a true partnership without preconditions. That is not to say that Macron and Merkel will agree on everything. They have clearly divergent positions on trade, for example with Macron adopting a more protectionist campaign rhetoric. However, a healthy debate in the EU’s core should be welcomed as part of the European pluralism that we all cherish.

So it is no surprise that Macron has been warmly received in Berlin this week. Even German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble – normally the pin-up of the Eurozone’s Germanic hawks – has supported Macron’s suggestions for an EU budget and an EU finance minister. However, before Macron can move into the European hot seat, he first needs to win national elections next month.

Macron’s rise to power has rightly been compared to Obama’s in 2008, but if he cannot form a working majority then he is in danger of following Obama in failing to deliver on the seminal change promised in his campaign. This could pave the way for Marine Le Pen at the presidential election in France. But, if he succeeds, finally Angela Merkel could have a strong partner in the Elysee Palace to help her make the EU great again!

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