Emmanuel Macron, the French President who was elected three years ago in May 2017, has repeatedly warned about the collapse of the European Union project for the last few months. In March this year, when Europe was under the worst phase of Coronavirus pandemic, Macron said, “What’s at stake is the survival of the European project.”
“The risk we are facing is the death of Schengen,” he told leaders of 26 European nations that come under the free-movement Schengen area of the European Union.
Macron has projected himself as the leader of the European Union as far as the group’s foreign policy is concerned and has warned the leaders of other member nations about the crisis the Union faces ahead. The EU is in deep trouble with Britain out of the block and the strengthening of Eurosceptic voices in Italy, Greece, Spain, and France itself. Meanwhile, lame-duck Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is clueless and indecisive on foreign policy issues, is unable to lead the group.
This leaves French President Macron as the only voice that could unite the group and adequately represent the European Union’s interests on the global platform. Macron is also willing to put his neck in to solve the imminent crisis faced by the European Union while Merkel, the current de facto leader of the EU, is more interested in maintaining the status quo which benefits the irresponsible giant, China.
Moreover, Merkel has already announced her retirement in 2021 while Macron, who still has 2 years left, has the chance to get reelected.
Merkel is an old school politician who avoids taking a decisive stand on important issues and the people as well as leaders of other countries no longer want to deal with such an indecisive EU leader. Merkel is also an avid supporter of globalization and global liberalism at a time when the idea is suffering a backlash for it has been gamed by China and other elements with ill-intent. Merkel is infamous for opening Germany’s borders to middle eastern immigrants without a check on the repercussions.
In a world where the majority of the countries including the United States are being led by protectionist leaders who oppose absolute free trade, unchecked immigration, and open-border policy, Merkel defends these ideas and has found an unlikely ally- China, which benefits from this liberal jargon but has nothing positive to offer in return.
And most importantly, Trump and Merkel do not get along well given the fact both stand on the polar opposite sides of the political spectrum. Merkel’s personal dislike for Trump has also been witnessed many times in the last three years. At a time when Trump decides countries’ loyalty towards the United States on the basis of its anti-China rhetoric, the Merkel led EU has helped Beijing escape accountability for spreading the Coronavirus pandemic in the World Health Assembly. The EU also gave China entry into the trade-dispute resolution body which the US and India are not part of; accelerated negotiations on trade and investment deals with China; and refused to take action against Chinese human rights atrocities in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang.
On the other hand, French President Macron has spoken against China and its authoritarian regime many times in the last few months. “Let’s not be so naive as to say [China has] been much better at handling this,” he told the Financial Times in an interview in April. He added, “We don’t know. There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.”
France President Emmanuel Macron who on the plank of being an economic and social liberal swept to power in 2017, has over the past few months, binned liberalism as he finally acts tough against the illegal immigrants. Perhaps owing to various terror attacks in the last two years, be it the ghastly November 2015 Paris terror attacks which killed 130 people or the Nice truck attack in 2016, several knife attacks every year, and encounters with extremist ideologies, Macron has done a complete volte-face when it comes to tackling the illegal immigrants.
Macron is willing to negotiate even with adversaries like Russia on issues and is not afraid to take decisive steps. Just two days ago, he held a video call meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and talked over a range of issues. The president is “confident that we can make progress with Russia on a number of subjects,” a senior French presidential official told reporters, citing “a common interest in the stabilization of Libya and the reunification of its institutions.”
Macron is also willing to work in close coordination with Trump. In April, the leaders held and extensive discussion about the response to Coronavirus pandemic.
“Excellent discussion with @realDonaldTrump,” Macron tweeted. “To better deal with Covid-19, we are ready to coordinate our scientific, health and economic response within the framework of the US G7 Presidency.”
While Macron wants to cooperate with Trump, Merkel wants to make the European Union as the new representative of Western World and herself as the leader of the West, and with the space vacated by Trump and support of liberal media establishment, she is succeeding to a large extent. Merkel is ready to collaborate with China and has ditched the United States.
But despite all these favorable factors, one must not forget that she is sailing against the tide. With backlash against Globalization, rising protectionism, and Nationalist sentiments, saving the idealistic global liberal order is next to impossible. Moreover, under Merkel the EU is could end up as a pawn in the hand of Xi Jinping and help him in the project of global Chinese domination.
Therefore, a leader like Macron, who is not from the old school of politics, will lead the EU in a better fashion as and when its survival is at stake, rather than Merkel, who is responsible for the cracks within the system.