September 3, 2005

THE PROSPECT OF LOSING ONE'S BITCH:

France profonde: Without the Franco-German "motor," the European machine would grind to a halt. This suits Chirac just fine, but Germany's next chancellor sees it as a major problem (Tim King, September 2005, Prospect)

[W]hen Köhl decided to reunify Germany, Mitterrand was horrified. Afraid that France would be marginalised, he seized on a single European currency as the way to retain influence over German policy. Mitterand made it clear that he would not accept German unification unless Germany gave up the deutschmark and allowed a European bank (under a Frenchman, Paris assumed) to control German monetary policy. Once Köhl agreed, the single currency became inevitable – with Britain left outside the door.

But within two years of the euro’s birth, France and Germany were demanding changes to the fiscal rules they had created but were unable to keep. To the fury of some smaller countries in Europe, the motor had become a steamroller. This is precisely why Angela Merkel wants to broaden the consultative platform, implicitly ending 40 years of Franco-German hegemony. But for Chirac this would spell disaster: French influence, already weakened by the referendum, would fall further. The motor with Germany is his last card. Does Merkel have the strength to resist Chirac’s forceful, sometimes seductive, sometimes bully-boy advances? After all, when Schröder was elected in 1998, many Europeans saw him as an ally of Blair: reforming the Cap, forging a Bonn-London axis. Close to panic, Chirac turned on the charm, and the result is history: regular Franco-German summits, as often as every six weeks, have given Chirac a huge influence over Schröder, enabling him to change the chancellor’s mind literally overnight. In a Brussels hotel in October 2002, Chirac persuaded Schröder to drop German interests in favour of backing him in a “ruthless coup” against Blair, refusing all reform to the Cap. “Without the Franco-German accord,” Chirac quipped merrily the next day, “Europe grinds to a halt.”

Merkel knows Chirac is right, but she, rather than crowing about it, sees it as Europe’s major problem.


There's something wrong with a world where the Frenchman has the German on a leash.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 3, 2005 6:53 AM
Comments

Perhaps she is waiting until after being elected before the seduction dance. Or maybe she will just threaten Chirac - now that would be an interesting conversation!

Posted by: ratbert at September 5, 2005 12:48 AM
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