In September 2017, Emmanuel Macron, now the president of France, presented big plans and ideas for the European Union. He aimed to pull the E.U. out of the water like a drowned body, breathe the life back into and revive the ambition that got lost in populism, a rightward shift, the refugee crisis, the Brexit votes and Europe’s blatant failure to take timely measurements on anything. His enthusiastic approach was celebrated as revolutionary – but now, that national conflicts have gotten in the way, what is left of the young French president’s vision?
Just after Macron was strengthening the Franco-German political amity and leadership following his victorious electoral result, said French election remained the only one he and the E.U. benefitted from. The Italian election bestowed the political upper hand to right-wing populists and before that the German 2017 election immensely weakened Angela Merkel and it proceeded to take her six months to form a government, making her unable to properly act inside the European Union.
While France is acting on a high pedestal in Europe, it is not high enough for it to act alone without Germany by its side. So the six months of it not being the usual support were a rough start into Macron’s planned path of reforms. The power was missing, there was a lack of certainty from all sides: France itself and most of the other 27 European countries in the E.U. as well. Europe has never been quick to act or decide on any concern, no matter its importance, but during those six months in which Germany was absent from the international stage, it was like the E.U. had been partly put to sleep and it would take more than Emmanuel Macron and his hinting at future United States of Europe to wake it up.
But even with a functional German government, Macron’s zealous concept of a complete financial union accompanied by a European Minister of Finance to manage the E.U.’s account and investments was quickly gutted by adversaries and a military Defence Union was pushed back to approximately 2025. The wind was taken out of his sails rapidly and surely and although he has shown no signs of stopping his attempts to push through the reforms he promised – the window of possible victories is narrowing: Any projects not approved by the European Parliament until June will be pushed back, as next year’s elections for a new parliament are approaching.
However, major changes could still be on the horizon for Europe.
The current Franco-German pairing of Merkel and Macron is explosive: Macron is aiming big and shooting his shots with determination, all while Merkel is beginning her fourth and last term as chancellor of Germany, looking after her legacy and unafraid to push boundaries, as there is no electorate she has to satisfy.
And while Macron’s visions and upswing may have slowed down, a difficult and interesting time is coming up for Europe, not only for the 28 countries in the E. U., but for intercontinentally as well, as its global power grows with every inch it moves together.