Mr Macron was elected to the Presidency in 2017, defeating National Front leader Marine Le Pen, a nationalist and fierce critic of the EU. Running on a strong pro-EU stance, he was determined to re-engage voters, especially young voters, with the European Union.
Whilst his efforts are commendable, his proposed reforms for further integration within the eurozone is struggling to meet the approval of the most powerful economy in the European Union, Germany.
The forthcoming reform of the Eurozone is in essence about how the 19 member states with the single currency can prepare themselves against crises like the 2010 disaster in Greece. It is designed to ensure that such a crisis would not lead to the fall of the entire monetary system.
Among other things, it includes a joint European deposit insurance for financial institutions under the so-called banking union. It will also include a joint budget for the Eurozone and an EU Finance Minister. In other words, Macron wants these countries economies to be linked even further.
Germany however, is less keen on this issue. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who despite being an ally of Macron’s and a keen proponent of Europe, has been stalling a decision on whether to support him. This has mainly been due to the fact that her Government spent 5 months in limbo after the election and the recently formed Coalition needed time to fully comprehend the implications of Macron’s reforms. It has been argued that the German Chancellor’s disastrous election result would have strong implications for the EU, and it seems we are now seeing this form.
The main controversy for Germany on Macron’s proposed reforms, is that both savings banks and cooperative banks are fearful that German deposits may once again be used to stabilise less solid banks in Southern Europe.
And now it has been revealed this week that a draft resolution for German lawmakers drawn up by top conservatives rejects plans floated by the executive European Commission to make use of a specific EU legal provision to beef up the currency zone’s bailout system by creating a European Monetary Fund (EMF).
The position paper has said that the move towards a European Monetary Fund could have a “significant financial effect on the [German] national budget” and insisted the process be controlled by the national parliaments of the eurozone member states, including the Bundestag.
It also rejected an idea put forward by the European Commission to create the monetary fund through a majority vote of the 19 eurozone states in the European Council. The CDU/CSU said the fund could only be set up through EU treaty change, which is a condition that critics said sharply reduced the chance of it being created.
This places the German Chancellor in a slightly awkward position. Her Finance Minister, Olaf Scholz, who is from her Coalition Partner the Social Democrats (SDP), has admitted that not all of President Macron’s reforms will be feasible. But part of the agreement to form government was to move towards a more integrated Europe and form a “New Dawn” for the Bloc. So the question for the German Chancellor will be how does she manage the competing interests of her Coalition Partner, her party, President Macron and the European Union.
What is set to make the issue more difficult is the a report released by the Macroeconomic Policy Institute today which warns “recession probability” in Germany has risen from 6.8 percent in March to a massive 32.4 percent between April 2018 to June 2018. Such a realisation may prove to make the German Conservative Party less willing to tie its economy to perhaps less competent European neighbours.
It’s likely that there will need to be some heavy discussions surrounding the eurozone reforms when the bloc meets in June this year for a summit. But what this shows is the division at the heart of the European Project. Germany, alongside France is at the heart of the European Union. Once the United Kingdom leaves, it will be these two countries that will have the strongest influence in how it is managed. The wider question is what happens if Germany no longer wants to continue integration. Mr Macron needs to understand that the European Union cannot blindly step towards the United States of Europe without considering the thoughts of its members, he also needs to understand that no longer can he rely on Germany.