Macron’s Jupiter needs answers from Merkel
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Emmanuel Macron is approaching the one-year anniversary of his presidency and his radical EU reform agenda is already on the rocks.
The Jupiterian French president, who has made some big vision Europe speeches in the last year (beneath the Acropolis and at Sorbonne university), addresses MEPs in Strasbourg this morning. His expectations on what can be achieved in the EU have been brought back to earth in recent weeks.
Elected as one of the most avowedly pro-EU and pro-integrationist leaders in Europe, Mr Macron has sold himself as a reliable partner for Angela Merkel to create a stronger foundation for the eurozone. Having seen off the far-right Marine Le Pen at home, he has banked on dampening populist anger by instituting more bottom-up European democracy and pushing for digital taxes on Big Tech.
On all fronts, it’s a slog that’s probably proving harder than he anticipated.
The contents of Tuesday’s speech have been kept firmly under wraps. But Mr Macron will try to re-inject some vigour into his grand projet, warning doubters they risk wasting a historic opportunity to get Europe’s house in order before the next crisis — economic or political. Le Figaro reports it’ll be a speech big on “European responsibility, commitment and pride”.
Mr Macron’s biggest ticket item is proving the toughest of all — the eurozone. His demands have shaken up a hornet’s nest in Berlin. Just a few hours after the Strasbourg speech on Tuesday, Ms Merkel’s hardline CDU/CSU MPs will hold a parliamentary debate in an effort to scotch French-backed ideas to create a European Monetary Fund.
“This could be the moment when eurozone reform dies,” Lucas Guttenberg at the Jacques Delors Institute in Berlin, tells the FT.
In Brussels, officials want Mr Macron to use Strasbourg to demand clear answers from Ms Merkel on where she is willing to spend her political capital at home to drive ahead the EU agenda.
“Merkel, as ever, is hiding behind the Bundestag,” lamented one eurozone diplomat. Der Spiegel wondered whether the chancellor is becoming Macron’s “Madame Non”.
Ms Merkel’s political arithmetic is indeed unenviable. She is hemmed in by competing flanks: her party’s right-wing conservatives on one side and the most Eurosceptic force in Germany’s modern history in the form of the AfD on the other. Meanwhile, Martin Schulz, author of the feted “Europe chapter” of the coalition government agreement, is out of the picture.
But the commission and the French need Berlin to agree to a set of priorities by this summer to present to voters ahead of European parliamentary elections next year. “There must be a meaningful first wave agreement on EMU reform by June,” said one senior official.
Will it be forthcoming? It’s more likely to be hatched up in private than in the parliamentary chamber this morning. Mr Macron is in Berlin on Thursday, where he will likely get the clearest indication on where the chancellor is willing to cut him some slack.
Chart du jour: Swedish sensation
Ikea is experimenting with the future in an effort to revive slowing sales growth. The world’s largest furniture retailer — founded in Sweden and headquartered in the Netherlands — is using virtual reality headsets to provide a shopping experience that will keep punters walking through the doors rather than heading online. The FT’s Richard Milne reports.
Bickering over Iran
The EU’s top three foreign ministers have failed to convince their counterparts to back new sanctions on Iran. The impasse comes as Donald Trump is weeks away from pulling the US out of a landmark nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic. Michael Peel has more from Monday’s packed foreign affairs agenda in Luxembourg. The UK and US meanwhile are pointing the finger at Moscow for orchestrating widespread cyber attacks in the west.
Who wants to be the next Martin Selmayr?
Well, probably Martin Selmayr. MEPs have said the official’s controversial appointment to become the commission’s top civil servant should be re-run.
A committee of parliamentarians last night voted in favour of a tough motion calling for the commission to “reassess the procedure of appointment”. They slammed the promotion as a “coup-like action” (Politico). The text, which will be voted on by MEPs tomorrow, piles pressure on Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president. Jean Quatremer reports on Mr Juncker’s threats to resign if his right-hand man doesn’t get more public support from his fellow commissioners.
Why Germany hates the EU’s digital tax
FAZ reports the warning from the head of Germany’s powerful industrial lobby that an EU tech tax to target US companies will fuel a trade war and threaten Germany’s booming economy.
EU gets extra-territorial on terror
Brussels is preparing to hand EU judges powers to demand tech companies hand over the emails and text messages of terror suspects. Vera Jourova, EU justice commissioner, presents the measures on “e-evidence” on Tuesday. The FT has seen a copy of the draft law that will force Big Tech to hand over material to prosecutors within 10 days — or 6 hours in extreme cases.
“A law of shame”
France’s pro-migrant NGOs, charities, and citizens groups have come out in force to protest against the French government’s new laws on detaining and deporting illegal migrants (Le Monde).
A UK centrist party could work . . . but not just yet Janan Ganesh writes:
The implementation of Brexit is still years away, on the other side of a transitional phase. Fifteen months into his US presidency, Donald Trump’s foremost legislative achievement is a corporate tax cut that most of the hated “globalists” would drink up. Over the same period, the most notable policy change in Europe has been Mr Macron’s attempted supply-side reform of France. Exactly what is a voter of the liberal centre meant to be mobilising against at this point, beyond the atmospheric change?
Professor Gabriel’s first day
Germany’s recently dumped former foreign minister is on the speaker circuit. But it’s the lectern at the University of Bonn rather than big bucks after-dinner speeches for Sigmar Gabriel. Süddeutsche Zeitung went along for Prof Gabriel’s first lesson on the dangers of hubris and the decline of the liberal world order.
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