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The rise and fall of Macron’s European revolution

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The rise and fall of Macron’s European revolution

BERLIN — When Emmanuel Macron was elected French president by a landslide in May 2017, many in Europe sensed a new dawn.

After years of crisis, Europe now had a leader who would deliver it from the malaise and turmoil. The youthful Frenchman had a fiery rallying call (En Marche!) and the vision to rebuild the European house, renewing the battered Continent’s spirit of fraternité. If Europe often appeared to be a nuisance to many national leaders, Macron made clear it was his raison d’être. From the European banner to the “Ode to Joy,” he left no doubt that he is all in.

French commentator Natalie Nougayrède captured the mood a day after Macron’s election in a piece for the Guardian: “The most important takeaway is that Macron won with a strong pro-European message of hope and reform at a time when the very word Europe has become almost a synonym for despondency.”

At long last, it was morning in Europe. And then reality set in.

The last few days have illustrated what’s left of Macron’s vision: not much. Whether it’s the French fuel tax, plans for an EU digital tax or planned reforms of the eurozone, Macron has achieved little of what he promised.

Why that is says as much about Europe as it does about a cocky young Frenchman intoxicated by his newfound power and influence.

The reasons for the failure of the Macron revolution lie both at home and abroad. It was clear from the outset that for Macron to realize his European agenda, he would first have to show that he could reform France. For years, Berlin watched with growing frustration (bordering on panic) as both Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande failed to enact serious reforms in the face of the country’s increasingly difficult economic situation.

Macron knew that to succeed in Europe, he would have to win over Germany and the only way to do that is to fix France. The precipitous decline in his standing at home over the past year, culminating in the “uprising” by the Yellow Jackets, has robbed Macron of the legitimacy he needs on the European stage.

Put simply, a French leader with an approval rating in the low 20s cannot credibly advocate for seminal shifts in European policy, be it on the military or the inner workings of the eurozone.

There’s a deeper reason Macron has come up short, however, argues Jan Techau, the director of the Europe program at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S.

“He’s not the real European he wanted us to believe he was,” Techau said, arguing that Macron is essentially a Gaullist who has put French national interest above all else. “He’s not a European for Europe’s sake but for France’s sake.”

That reality has manifested itself in a variety of arenas, from diplomacy to defense to the commercial sphere.

Last week, for example, Paris reacted with thinly veiled annoyance to a suggestion by German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz that France offer up its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council to the EU.

When it comes to ideas for joint European defense, in particular a “European army,” Macron quickly gets lost in generalities, a sure sign in the eyes of many observers that he’s not really that interested.

Even on artificial intelligence, a field where France and Germany have pledged to work closely to better counter competition from China and the U.S., the two sides appear to be pursuing their own aims.

Macron’s failure to live up to expectations is not just bad news for the cause of EU reform. Many had also hoped that once German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaves office, he would be the one to take her mantle as the EU’s de facto leader. So far, there’s little reason to suggest he can.

“He can’t fill the void and that means it can’t be filled,” said Techau.

Πηγή:www.politico.com

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