Merkel and Macron: The New “2 M’s” Power Couple
With a new French President at her side, Merkel feels invigorated again. She even feels a sense of destiny regarding Europe.
May 17, 2017
Angela Merkel has felt not just lonely on the world stage, but also down as a person ever since Barack Obama departed from the White House.
The always elegant and thoughtful young Mr. Obama resonated with almost every aspect of her brain as well as of her matronly heart.
Indications are that the German Chancellor feels political love again. This was evident in the first joint press conference the two M’s – Merkel and Macron – held yesterday. There was no tiredness or boredom in Merkel’s sideways glances as the French President spoke.
Instead, Merkel looked positively rejuvenated. She seems very appreciative to have an ambitious and principled man in the Élysée Palace who excels with his mental agility and nimbleness. After the ever-impulsive Nicolas Sarkozy and the wet noodle that was François Hollande, this is a welcome change.
Merkel regards Macron as impressive on a personal level not just because he is a true intellect and reformer, but also because he has worked in the real world before entering politics.
Perfect complements of one another
Macron’s big advantage, then, is that he is not like Angela Merkel. Where she is cautious and reactive, and for the most part an unimaginative politician, Macron is the opposite.
It would be a mistake to believe on that basis that the two will not get along. The odds are that they will get along famously. At this stage, Merkel certainly feels secure enough in her own skin that she won’t see Macron as a threat. Quite the opposite.
Merkel, the ultimate, goal-oriented political tactician, will very quickly grasp the benefits of having a strategic-minded whiz kid in the Élysée.
Perhaps the biggest one of them is that, with Macron, she has a shot at a true legacy. So far, history books will regard her as a safe pair of hands who kept various crises from exploding. However, in terms of creating something – not so much.
Those who know her well say that one key reason why she is continuing to run even after 12 years is that she cares deeply about the European project – and realizes just how much still needs to be done there.
Macron was very direct in his response to a question as to whether — after many years of listlessness and standstill, if not mutual frustration — his goal is to preside over another historic period in the French-German relationship. He gave a one-word answer to a very laboriously put question: “Yes.” Merkel, for her part, had an appreciating smile.
The motherly politician
Consider how Merkel has always taken kindly to upstart political leaders of other European countries, especially younger men, trying her best to take them under her wings. Just remember how she reached out to the UK’s David Cameron and Italy’s Matteo Renzi.
Compared to these two, driven by far more vanity than wisdom, Merkel must love that Macron is a man of substance.
But there is another, more fundamental reason why she is bound to like him a great deal – and this is where the afore-mentioned twist in the German reaction pattern to Macron will settle in.
Filling the UK vacuum
To a sober-minded politician like Merkel, the arrival of Emmanuel Macron taking over as French President could not have been better timed.
It occurs at the very moment when the UK seems not just to be dooming itself by exiting the EU, but also by giving in to economic and political pipedreams. One can easily imagine Merkel and Macron – the 2 M’s — taking pensive walks at the beaches of Le Touquet, his home town.
From the German perspective, the UK has long been a much-needed force of economic realism in the EU’s councils. The big fear is that, without a market-oriented UK, it would become lonely for Germany (which itself needs every boost of market-thinking it can get).
A doubly lucky turn?
Merkel’s worry has been having to deal with a France that, out of its weakness, would opt for all sorts of shady deals.
The arrival of Macron – assuming he will manage to obtain at least a working majority in the parliament for his reform project — may put those worries to rest.
If any of that true French surprise pans out, then even an SPD at the top of the game would not pose a serious threat to Merkel’s reelection prospects.
Macron’s advantage is that he isn’t like Merkel. She is cautious and unimaginative. Macron is the opposite.
Merkel feels secure enough in her own skin that she won’t see Macron as a threat. Quite the opposite.
Merkel has always taken kindly to upstart political leaders of other European countries, especially younger men.
To Merkel, the arrival of Macron taking over as French President could not have been better timed.