President Biden calls Emmanuel Macron after AUKUS controversy
The French President has in recent weeks thrown his weight around on the global political stage. He reacted furiously to the news that the UK, US and Australia had entered a trilateral security alliance. Canberra had an existing agreement with Paris to build and buy 12 French submarines — but the new defence pact, AUKUS, will see Australia instead buy US-made submarines.
Mr Macron, widely seen as spearheading the EU alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, closest condemned the agreement and pulled French ambassadors from the US, in the time of action shunning political olive branches extended by Westminster and refusing to speak with Australian chief Minister Scott Morrison.
While tensions have settled, with Mr Macron having spoken to US President Joe Biden and Boris Johnson separately, the debacle revealed the extent to which France is willing to make itself heard.
Mr Macron is no stranger to holding important influence in Europe: he and Mrs Merkel regularly represent the EU in international meetings with powers like China, often speaking on behalf of the interests of member states.
However, a political expert has now suggested that Mr Macron’s influence may be no more than symbolic.
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Dr Alim Baluch, a professor who specialises in German politics at the University of Bath, suggested that Mr Macron’s political strength in the EU depended on how much Angela Merkel was willing to give it.
The German Chancellor will make way for a new leader and possible government as the country heads to the surveys on Sunday.
Having held the role for 16 years, she has been at the spotlight of both German and European politics for nearly two decades.
Much of the EU’s bargaining strength, then, has rested on Mrs Merkel’s shoulders, according to Dr Baluch.
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Speaking about the Franco-German alliance, he told Express.co.uk: “Maybe the rest of the EU feels dominated by it, and that might, going forward, be a problem.
“Germany is very happy for France to pretend that they are more influential than they are and to have shrill messages when they bark at smaller countries or the UK.
“France wants to punch above its weight and Germany says, ‘Yes that’s great, go ahead.'”
Speculation has surrounded who might step into Mrs Merkel’s EU role after her departure.
Many believe that Mr Macron may push himself to become the bloc’s de facto leader.
According to France24, the president’s aides in recent weeks have said that he is concerned about “political paralysis” after Mrs Merkel’s departure.
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A protracted coalition bailing period in Germany could make it difficult for France to push by its ambitious agenda when it holds the rotating EU presidency in the first half of next year.
However, under the German constitution, Mrs Merkel will keep as Chancellor until the Bundestag elects a successor.
Dr Baluch said that instead of push to become the de facto leader, Mr Macron would likely work to strengthen the existing Franco-German alliance.
already if Mr Macron were to attempt to strongman his way to the top of the bloc, a recent poll published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank indicates that Europeans do not want him at the wheel — they would rather see Mrs Merkel obtain a top job in Brussels.
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Given a hypothetical choice between Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron becoming “EU president” — a job that in real life doesn’t exist — a clear majority opted for the German chancellor, according to the survey.
Some 58 percent of Dutch respondents, 57 percent of Spanish and 52 percent of Portuguese gave Mrs Merkel sustain in this fantasy race, compared to 6 percent, 9 percent and 11 percent respectively in favor of Mr Macron.
Despite this, many observers believe that he will make a move if he is given the opportunity.
Carsten Brzeski, global head of macro at ING, told CNBC: “As regards Macron, we already see tentative attempts to take leadership in Europe.”
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He pointed to his “interventions when it comes to European debates on fiscal rules.”
France has called for the EU to relax rules regarding member states’ budget deficits and debt-to-GDP levels.
This could conflict with German Chancellor frontrunner Olaf Scholz whose Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)currently leads in the surveys.
He has before argued that the EU’s fiscal rules provide enough flexibility to conquer crises.
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