Germany was guaranteed to not like the result no matter who won. The final choice was between an anti-EU Marine Le Pen and a budget-comingling Emanuel Macron who needs EU treaty changes to get what he wants.
And in France, buyer’s remorse has set in. Unions are already protesting against Emmanuel Macron’s policies.
The word of the day is Zumutungen. Google translates that from German as “impositions” but the actual meaning is quite a bit stronger according to Eurointelligence.
The German political establishment clearly favored Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen during the election campaign, but they are nervous about Macron’s eurozone agenda. As FAZ notes this morning, the relief over his victory still weighs heavier than the reality – which is that Macron and Angela Merkel have diametrically opposed views on the future of the eurozone. Merkel yesterday confirmed her readiness to engage in a dialogue with Macron, but said that eurozone bonds are a no-go. And without Eurobonds – or other forms of a eurozone-level fiscal backstop – none of the Macron agenda would work.
The FAZ article uses a word for which there is no straight translation – “Zumutungen” – which means an excessive and immoral demand that one can conceivably not fulfil. The paper makes the point that François Hollande also favoured the same kinds of reforms, but let go when he realized that there was no support from Berlin. The article notes that Macron’s ideas go way beyond those of Hollande. His eurozone agenda is not about crisis resolution, but economic shock absorption in general, as evidenced by his ideas for a pan-European unemployment insurance. FAZ is appalled by all of this, as well as by Macron’s idea of a Buy-European act. The paper noted that the eurozone finance ministers, at their meeting in Malta, criticised similar ideas by the European Commission.
On day one after Macron’s election, there is a first taste of resistance in the form of street protests against his labor law reforms. Labor reforms have been a particularly traumatic experience for the outgoing government. The radical trade unionists are taking to the streets, while the more cautious headquarters warn against implementing the whole agenda.
Volcanic Forces on Germany
Emmanuel Macron’s lightning conquest of France has put Germany in an awkward spot. French voters have picked an apostle of Europe and an arch-defender of the Franco-German axis. While this is welcomed with jubilation by some in Berlin, it raises thorny questions that others would prefer left unanswered.
He plans Nordic labor reforms, easier collective bargaining rules, and the sort of tax shake-up that German leaders have long demanded. The quid pro quo is that Berlin must agree to eurozone fiscal union, and cut its corrosive current account surplus – now 8.6 percent of GDP and in breach of EU rules.
“If France is not reformed, we will not be able to regain the confidence of the Germans,” Mr. Macron told Ouest-France. “After that, Germany must ask whether its own situation is tenable. It is accumulating surpluses which are neither good for its own economy nor for the eurozone.”
He wants a eurozone finance minister and budget, with joint debt, and a banking union with shared deposit insurance, all legitimized by a new parliament for the currency bloc. It implies a unitary eurozone superstate.
This calls Berlin’s bluff. The German elites often argue that they cannot accept such radical proposals as long as other eurozone states scoff at budget rules and fail to put their house in order.
The Handelsblatt accused Mr. Macron of “Teuton-bashing” over the trade surplus. The German Council of Economic Experts holds defiantly to the national view that trade surpluses are proof of virtue. It sees EMU debt-pooling as a slippery slope towards a “Transferunion”.
Mr. Macron’s plans would require a new EU Treaty, opening a can of worms that several states are determined to avoid. Berlin has no intention of sharing Italy’s debts, whatever France does.
Germany’s top court says EMU fiscal union and debt-pooling would require a change to country’s constitution. “Politically, that is absolutely impossible,” said Heiner Flassbeck, former economy minister and now at Hamburg University.
France is split on deep lines cleavage, Balkanized five ways. The scale of Mr. Macron’s 66:34 victory on Sunday is misleading. Blank protest votes – “Neither Plague nor Cholera” – jumped threefold to 11.5pc. The abstention rate jumped six points to 25.4pc.
The Front National’s Marine Le Pen botched the final weeks of her campaign with confused messages over pensions and the French franc, but she still won 34 percent of the vote. Five years ago this would have been deemed impossible. We now shrug off earthquakes a little too lightly.
Angela Merkel has recently surged in the polls vs. SPD candidate Martin Schulz.
Is there a fundamental reason for the shift?
Yes, Schulz is far more open to Macron’s views than is Angela Merkel. Despite the fact a majority of German citizens do not want Merkel, voters may be stuck with her as a counterbalance to more radical ideas that SPD may be willing to try.
Germany a Loser
Germany a Loser No Matter Who Wins?
- Le Pen: Eurosceptic – Seeks better relations with Russia
- Macron: Pro Europe but seeks a common eurozone budget for investment and financial assistance in case of shocks.
- Mélenchon: A socialist who will not be in favor of reforms France desperately needs
- Vall: After the 2016 Nice attack, he was booed for saying that “France will have to live with terrorism.”
- Fillon: Fillon aims to reduce the public sector and cut 500,000 civil-service jobs. He wants the state healthcare program (securité sociale) to work better with fewer payments. Fillon is in favor of increasing the retirement age to 65. He seeks better relations with Russia.
Of the five, Germany could work best with Fillon. But his pro-Russia stance poses at least a minor problem.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Mike “Mish” Shedlock