BBC’s Katya Adler hints why Merkel quitting will spark huge vacuum that will destroy EU

Macron’s approach to Merkel successor discussed by expert

The German Chancellor, who is seen by many throughout the continent as Europe’s unquestioned leader, is stepping down in Germany after more than 15 years at the helm. Most recently, she pushed hard for the EU to avoid a disastrous no deal Brexit outcome with the UK, and brokered a lucrative agreement for the bloc with China. But BBC Europe Editor Ms Adler has retweeted a number of posts from Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at political risk research and consulting firm Eurasia Group, has detailed the troubled road ahead that could be facing the EU without the leadership of Ms Merkel.

He argued that while French President Emmanuel Macron will try to fill the void left by the German chancellor in the EU, “his more disruptive, abrasive style won’t succeed”.

Mr Rahman wrote: “The risks that arise from Merkel’s departure this year aren’t really linked to her succession, but rather the vacuum she leaves behind in Europe.

“For Brexit/UK watchers, this is an important transitional year for the EU – & one worth paying attention to.

“The outcome of Ger elections in Sept is highly likely to be a Black/Green coalition. Positive for Ger & EU.

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“All the contenders to replace Merkel are also mainstream, some just more conservative than others.

“Yet despite this constructive outcome, in short & medium term, Merkel’s departure will leave a large gap in EU no leader can credibly fill.

“@EmmanuelMacron will try, but without Merkel or strong partnership in Berlin, his more disruptive, abrasive style won’t succeed.”

Mr Rahman also poured praise on Ms Merkel’s leadership skills, highlighting how she helped land lucrative trade deal with the UK and China, while also leading from the front with the EU’s huge €750billion Coronavirus Recovery Fund.

He again went on to warn that Mr Macron would not have been able to achieve the same feats but argued many would perhaps not have been reached without the French President’s influence.

The Eurasia Group boss tweeted: “Merkel’s presidency last year is a class example of her deft political skills. Landing deals with UK & China (whose real value is framework & basis for broader political co-operation they provide); on €750bn Recovery Fund & rule of law; & climate

“Of course, there’s a lot of criticism about compromises she brokered. There is some truth to them.

“But very often these critiques pay little serious attention to the counterfactual, for eg, of leaving Pol & Hu behind. I think the price would have been too high to pay.

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“Could @EmmanuelMacron have brokered these compromises? Of course not. But without Macron, many of these ideas would never have been seeded.

“The Recovery Fund was an idea conceived in @Elysee, arguably dating back to 2017 and ill-fated Eurozone budget and Meseberg accord in 2018

“Likewise, strategic autonomy – Paris’ intellectual framework for European sovereignty and geopolitical relevance – laid the groundwork for the EU deal Merkel’s presidency brokered with China.”

Mr Rahman continued: “Of course you could argue Brexit, Trump and Covid-19 were as critical in changing Merkel’s outlook as Macron was.

“But in striking these agreements, Merkel did move away from old German balance between Atlantic (NATO) & E Europe/Moscow to build stronger links with South – and France.

“Macron can therefore claim to have succeeded where his predecessors – Sarkozy and Hollande – failed.

“He did so partly bc he had a strategic vision to sell to Germany (cc @PedderSophie impactful 2019 @TheEconomist interview) which Berlin eventually realised they needed.”

Mr Rahman also sent a huge warning to Mr Macron, warning that while the French President “sees himself as a guiding force in EU post-Merkel”, he will need a “sympathetic partner in Berlin”.

The expert is unsure whether he will actually find one, adding Mr Macron will be fearful of the emergence of a new German Chancellor “who will push hard on European brakes and look inward”.

He argued the President will also be preoccupied with his own domestic problems – namely around the coronavirus pandemic in France and the huge impact on the country’s economy, as well as the Presidential elections in 2022.

Mr Rahman tweeted: “It mattered that unlike previous French Presidents, @EmmanuelMacron was not just demanding German financial/fiscal support.

“Not unfairly then, Macron sees himself as a guiding force in EU post-Merkel. But in reality & practice, he will need a sympathetic partner in Berlin.

“Will he find one? The new Chancellor will necessarily be more inexperienced, more preoccupied with domestic politics & coalition management.

“And as @lucasguttenberg says in his very good thread, they will probably – to begin with – be very cautious on all things EU.”

He continued: “So Macron’s greatest fear – the emergence of a Chancellor who will push hard on European brakes & look inward – is certainly justified.

“Aggravating this, Macron’s own energy & efforts will also largely be absorbed by triple Covid, economic & possible security crises this year.

“And when Germany’s new leader does eventually settle in & come up for air, Macron’s own Presidential elections will be fast approaching (April/May 2022) and all-consuming. So what’s the punchline?

“Looking over the horizon, it’s likely Paris & Berlin are going to be out of lockstep for some time to come.

“Put differently, based on the above, one could credibly argue Europe is going to be poorly or ineffectively led for at least the next 12-15 months.”

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