The Lovely European Dream for Macron is Over

This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Macron’s Delusional Influence

Grumbling on Macron is now a French national pastime. Grievances follow along the line of: “Macron makes France a new Italy.” “Macron is no longer a partner of Germany to save Europe and the eurozone, he has become a risk factor.” Or else: “France has the potential to duel with Germany for the economic leadership in Europe. But it now threatens to relegate to the third class where Italy is already living.”

The German journalists got it right this Tuesday. The biggest economy of the eurozone is deeply disappointed in the bowing by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, on Monday evening in an attempt to calm the popular anger in his country.

Allies of Italy?

German newspaper commentators no longer regards France as an allies of Germany when it comes to the future of the eurozone, but as an allies of Italy, the head economist of ING bank, Carsten Brzeski, tweeted.

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It should be clear, the disillusionment about Macron is great in Germany. That does not have to be surprising. In the eyes of the German media, the Frenchman was a prodigy who kicked it out of nowhere to become president of his country and would finally work on the structural reforms that Berlin had been pressing for so long and which his predecessors had always extended.

The ‘Yellow Vests’

This image remained reasonably intact, thanks to the numerous reforms that Macron – despise social protest – managed to hunt through parliament during his first year in the Élysée. The triumphant reception of the French president in the Bundestag was less than a month ago.

The ‘Gilets Jaunes’ or ‘Yellow Jackets,’ a few weeks ago, put France on alert. After Macron first had to swallow his fuel price increase, he now switches to the time-honored French recipe to curb political uprising by increasing purchasing power with money that is not there.

The ‘Gilets Jaunes’ or ‘Yellow Jackets,’ a few weeks ago, put France on alert.

For example, the ‘Yellow Vests’ movement in France led to two important U-turns. France, which proudly organized the Paris climate summit, is now unilaterally renouncing its policy of making polluting diesel more expensive. And in the same breath it is turning back its efforts to finally comply with the European agreements of the Maastricht Treaty. The budget deficit threatens to explode again to 3.5 percent of GDP.

Maintaining a Healthy 2019 Budget

A healthy budget was at the heart of the German-French agreements to give the eurozone a future again after the financial crisis. The deal that Macron made with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel was that France first had to have its affairs in order economically and financially. These reforms then had to create goodwill with the German public to work more closely together in Europe, because Merkel could then explain that Germany would not pay the bill again.

That is why the derailed budget deficit in Paris is the end of that European dream. It means that the EU has not found the answer she thought she could find after the Brexit and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. In 2017, the revolt of angry voters failed. In the Netherlands, Wilders did not break. Macron got it from the extreme right Le Pen and Angela Merkel survived in Germany, although she sustained damage.

Left-Wing Populists in Italy

In 2018, however, Orban won by an absolute majority the Hungarian elections and in Italy the Left-wing populists of the Five Star movement and the right-radical Lega came to power. When the European Commission – in accordance with its mandate – criticized the Italian budget because the gap was deepened to 2.4 percent of GDP, the Italians backed the ball back. According to Luigi Di Maio, the figurehead of the Five Star movement, the Italian budget was just an example for Europe.

The France of Emmanuel Macron now follows that Italian example, to the horror of the Germans. With the disappearance of the French reform force, goodwill is also evaporating among the German population, and with it the capacity to turn the euro into a truly solid building. Germany lost its main partner in the eurozone Monday night for maintaining a healthy European budget.