Outside of France, the French presidential election has been widely portrayed as a decisive moment for the future of Europe and the liberal order in general. And nowhere was the final contest between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen followed more closely than in Germany, where both the political elite and the public felt that the outcome would directly impact their own national destiny.
A few weeks on the nail-biting has already been forgotten, and Macron’s likely huge parliamentary majority is being treated as something not terribly newsworthy. Now Berlin is ready to get things going with the new French president: When Macron visited Berlin one day after his inauguration, Chancellor Angela Merkel showed she has taken into account the concerns that have dominated the French domestic debate, including the need to better “protect” European (and French) workers from globalization, and is willing to help Macron enact domestic reforms by bending the growth and investment agendas. For his part, Macron is aware that Europe could become a campaign issue in Germany, and has rejected the idea of eurobonds – at least for now – which had become a red line in Berlin.
If Germany wants to move forward with France, it will however have to be willing to compromise, especially where its eurozone policy is concerned. To that end, Merkel’s strong-willed finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has already said that Berlin was ready to be flexible in working to address France’s economic challenges. And in fact, Macron’s agenda is hardly radical: the foundation can actually be found in the 2014 Pisani-Ferry-Enderlein report, which Macron helped draft with Germany’s then-Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel.So while Macron’s victory does not change the underlying balance of power in Europe, or the magnitude of the task ahead, there are several reasons to think that the Franco-German relationship may be on surer – and more equal – footing than many think.
First, as Merkel said during their joint press conference: “Only if Europe is doing well will Germany be doing well. And Europe needs a strong France to be doing well.” The German government knows that the success of Macron’s presidency will directly impact the future of the whole of Europe, and therefore Berlin. Germany, whose economy is naturally dependent on the economic prosperity of the continent, cannot remain blind to the difficulties of its biggest neighbor. This situation was utilized by far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon during the presidential campaign, who pointed out that Germany will have to compromise with France in order to avoid the economic and political collapse of the continent.