For France’s head of state, the result of the parliamentary elections is a debacle. After losing a seat, he can only continue to govern with a simple majority and must seek support from other parties. But it also has massive consequences for Germany and especially its chancellor.
That’s it then with Emmanuel Macron Superstar. The Paris newspaper “Le Figaro” described the president as “the specter of a stillborn five-year term” after his party’s bitter defeat in the parliamentary elections. Anyone who has suffered the damage should not be surprised at the ridicule, especially when someone has acted as self-important and self-absorbed as the regent in the Elysee.
Macron without his own governing majority, which means that unstable conditions can be expected. This, in turn, cannot leave the German neighbors cold. After all, the French are our most important partners in Europe. If the Berlin-Paris axis doesn’t work, not much will work in Europe. Not only in Moscow and Beijing should be happy about that. Should Trump or a “brother in spirit” move into the White House in two years, a European Union that is only partially capable of acting would also be quite fine for the United States.
The EU always did well when Germany and France harmonized. Macron has clearly pursued the course of strengthening Europe. In the past two years, since the foreseeable end of Merkel’s chancellorship, he has even been number one among European heads of state and government. Previously, Merkel held this leadership role.
In foreign policy, the French president has a great deal of leeway, regardless of the parliamentary majority, at least in theory. In the new parliament, however, Macron is dealing with a left-wing and a right-wing opposition party, which, despite all the differences, have one thing in common: their rejection of a strong Europe and their very critical, sometimes hostile attitude towards Germany. Consequently, it is to be feared that Macron will become a “lame duck” in foreign policy. In any case, he will hardly be able to set accents in Europe.
The new number one could, yes, would have to be the German Chancellor. But after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he showed no energy or leadership. Whether it’s Nord Stream 2, sanctions, arms deliveries or symbolic gestures like a trip to Kyiv: Olaf Scholz was always more procrastinator than driver, more braker than accelerator. It is to be feared that the traffic light chancellor even feels quite comfortable in this role.
It is important now that the European Union repositions itself. It has been said countless times that no single European country can be an equal partner of the USA, let alone a counterweight to Moscow and Beijing. But instead of focusing on common strengths, the Union is drifting apart.
Scholz rightly pointed out that the EU must prepare for the admission of new member states. To do this, it must modernize its structures and decision-making processes. Scholz: “It will not always be possible to decide unanimously on everything that has to be decided unanimously today.” This will be discussed at the EU summit on Thursday and Friday. But first, unanimity is required when it comes to the admission status of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. Macron is now too weak to push through. Whether Europe ordered leadership from Scholz or not: the chancellor is required here, also in Germany’s interests.
The old continent still faces other difficult challenges. The EU countries are currently not defensible, do not have a missile defense system and are only partially prepared to defend against cyber attacks. The economic union must therefore urgently be expanded into a defense union. The principles of the rule of law must be checked and enforced not only in the candidate countries, but also in the Eastern European member states.
No European country can deal with the energy crisis triggered by Putin’s brutal actions on its own. There is also a need for more community. If all 27 member states don’t want to take part, those who are willing have to go first. Under Helmut Kohl, Germany showed how it works with the euro.
During his recent trip to the Balkans, Scholz showed that he considers the enlargement of the EU to be just as necessary as its deepening. Both meant a huge challenge for a strong Franco-German management team. In addition to the weakened Macron, the German Chancellor now has to shoulder even more. During the election campaign, Scholz presented himself as a “male Merkel”. Forming the hands into a Merkel rhombus is not enough for a European leadership role. A German chancellor must also want to lead. Kohl and Merkel wanted that; During their chancellorship they were also “Chancellors of the EU” for long stretches. Scholz not only has the chance to follow in their footsteps. Developments in France make it absolutely necessary that he do so.