2 This was a second attempt after the “energy turn” (Energiewende) following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster of 2011. Surprisingly, in 2013 this was not enough to make the left wing of the Greens renounce plans for tax reform as a condition of joining the government. Since then, and because of this, the centrist wing of the Greens gained the upper hand.
3 The FDP returned after its near-death experience of 2013 when, as Merkel’s junior partner for four years, it failed, at 4.8 percent, to pass the 5 percent threshold.
4 CDU and CSU are formally two separate parties. But the CSU fields candidates only in Bavaria, and the CDU only outside Bavaria, which makes them, in their jargon, “sister parties.” Since the 1950s, the CSU has governed the Land of Bavaria, almost always with an absolute majority. In part this was because of its distinctive presence at the federal level, where it aggressively represents Bavarian interests and sentiments, if need be, in conflict with the CDU. In effect, this contains whatever separatist tendencies may still exist in Bavaria.
5 Of the 399 combined votes of CDU/CSU and SPD, Merkel received 364, a difference of 35 and just 9 more than needed for the required absolute majority.
6 Leon N. Lindberg and Stuart A. Scheingold, Europe’s Would-Be Polity: Patterns of Change in the European Community (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1970).
7 Any distinction between Europe, the continent, and “Europe” as an idealized form of the European Union is something that the aficionados of the latter do all they can to blur.
8 Alan Milward, The European Rescue of the Nation-State (London: Routledge, 1992).
9 Fritz W. Scharpf, “Forced Structural Convergence in the Eurozone—Or a Differentiated European Monetary Community,” MPIfG Discussion Paper 16/15, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne (2016).
10 In this respect, if in no other, German domestic politics resembles that of a (potentially) hegemonic country. The same applies, of course, to France—only that the French imagine European interests as identical with French interests, whereas Germans imagine European interests as negating or superseding all national interests, including German ones. As long as both sides tactfully refrain from raising the issue, the two concepts can more or less comfortably coexist.
11 On this and the subsequent election campaign, see Markus Feldenkirchen, Die Schulz-Story: Ein Jahr zwischen Höhenflug und Absturz (München: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2018).
12 Note that Macron had allegedly stated before the election that, “if the FDP gets into the German government, I’ll be dead.” More on this below.
13 Both had worked hard throughout the year to boost their image by meeting with Macron and occasionally lunching with the philosopher Jürgen Habermas, at least once together with Macron himself. Gabriel went as far as to declare Macron a Social Democrat, and Habermas let it be known that Macron was about to abolish “the tragic division between Right and Left in French politics.” When the SPD was getting ready to discard Gabriel as Foreign Minister, Habermas demanded in an article in a weekly journal, Die Zeit, that he be retained in office, on account of his visionary Europeanism. On the antics of Gabriel see Feldenkirchen, Die Schulz-Story (2018).
14 East German per capita income has for many years been at roughly three quarters of the German average, in spite of yearly financial transfers to the tune of about 4 percent of German GDP. The implications of the stubborn persistence of regional inequality even in a federal state like Germany for the politics and economics of the eurozone are rarely ever discussed. See Wolfgang Streeck and Lea Elsässer, “Monetary Disunion: The Domestic Politics of Euroland,” Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne (2014), Discussion Paper 14–17.
15 Johannes Becker and Clemens Fuest, “Deutschlands Rolle in der EU: Planloser Hegemon. Ein Gastbeitrag,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 13, 2016.
16 See Germany’s paying the lion’s share of the costs of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which mainly benefited France, in return for open markets for its manufacturing sector.
17 One may suspect that this was in no small part to prevent an anti-euro majority in the then-upcoming Italian election. If it was, it failed spectacularly. See below.
18 The most prominent exponent of this tradition is Schäuble. With some qualifications, one can say that German “Gaullists” mostly come from the German Southwest, the area close to the French border. Here memories of the occupation after 1918 and 1945 may still linger, giving rise to a desire once and for all to foreclose a repetition.
19 It is a subject in its own right why Merkel didn’t do more to prevent Brexit. Perhaps to please eastern European countries, she refused David Cameron the concessions on intra-EU migration that he thought he needed to win the referendum. Later she left the Brexit negotiations to a high-ranking French official, Michel Barnier, who is apparently eager to make Britain’s exit from the EU as painful as possible. Note that once Brexit will be effective, the northern EU member states will only account for 30 percent of the EU’s combined population, five less than required for a veto under the Treaty of Maastricht. The share of the Mediterranean countries will increase to 43 percent: see Hans-Werner Sinn, “Brexit, Deutschland und die Zukunft der EU,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, February 23, 2018.
20 Wolf Lepenies, Die Macht am Mittelmeer: französische Träume von einem anderen Europa (München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2016).
21 It did, however, prevent at the last minute the European Defense Community (EDC) negotiated in 1952 by France, West Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries. Two years later, the French National Assembly failed to ratify the treaty, out of concerns over French national sovereignty. As a result, West Germany joined NATO and the EDC was replaced with the European Economic Community (EEC), created by the Treaty of Rome in 1957.
22 Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–79 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
23 Germans, who are probably more austere than anyone else when it comes to symbolic displays of power, to this day forgive their French friends events like military parades celebrating the German defeats in 1918 and 1945 by noting, with a smile, that you can’t be angry with them as they happen to be a “grande nation.” The joke is that the French themselves apparently never use that term. What lingers deep in the German collective memory and is only quoted with a little embarrassment is de Gaulle’s speech on his first state visit to West Germany in September 1962, when at a public rally in Bonn he urged those present, in characteristic rhetorical style, to consider themselves as “sons and daughters of eines großen—jawohl, eines großen Volkes” (of a great, yes, a great people).
24 Bruno Amable, Structural Crisis and Institutional Change in Modern Capitalism: French Capitalism in Transition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).
25 Italian political and economic elites also considered the euro a desirable external constraint (in Italian, vincolo esterno) that would help them discipline their unruly citizens, in particular the trade unions.
26 In the first round of the 2017 election, Macron received no more than 24 percent of the vote, followed by Le Pen (21.3), Fillon (a conservative centrist, 20.0), and Mélenchon (19.6).
27 It appears questionable whether the EU could have been enlisted for this with the UK still a member. Note that Macron early in his term indicated his resolve to raise France’s overall defense spending to 2 percent of GDP. The 2 percent threshold had years before been agreed to at a NATO summit meeting in 2014, as a target for all NATO members, after U.S. pressure. The increase was and continues to be highly unpopular in Germany. In August 2017, the then–foreign minister and SPD leader, Sigmar Gabriel, declared the 2 percent target to be outright insane, blaming it on Trump, although in fact it had been adopted under Obama. In the “Merkel IV” coalition agreement, the partners committed to “the target corridor of the agreements in NATO.” There is, however, no budget allocation for this apart from a symbolic 2 billion euros for the next four years.
28 Indeed, for Merkel herself, Macron’s intervention may be a face-saving way out of a self-inflicted predicament. At the EU summit on March 22–23, 2018, she no longer insisted on refugee quotas for Eastern Europe and instead accepted financial contributions for intensified border controls.
29 For a detailed critique of the French proposal in the “pro-European” form of a critique of the emerging “Merkel IV” coalition agreement, see the letter of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Ministry of Economic Affairs to the acting minister of December 20, 2017, and the article of a leading member of the Board, Martin Hellwig, in Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung of March 11, 2018, titled “Viel Vages zu Europa.”
30 Scholz’s response was swift and identical with Schäuble’s over the past decade: A banking union would take many years to set up, and in any case had to wait until the risks residing in the weaker national banking systems had been taken care of. Politically, the issue was the high savings rate of German households and the fear of German voters that their savings would be used to cover the liabilities of poorly regulated financial institutions in other countries.
31 The current budget of the EU as a whole amounts to a little more than 1 percent of members’ GDP. The treaties set an upper limit of 1.2 percent. It appears that this is what the Commission has in mind for the post-Brexit EU.
32 In the Sorbonne address, the proposal reads as follows: “If we want to reduce our differences and develop our common goods . . . , foremost among which is our currency, [they] must be financed. And we therefore need more investment, we need the means to provide stability in the face of economic shocks, as no state can tackle an economic crisis alone when it no longer controls its monetary policy. So for all these reasons, yes we need a stronger budget within Europe, at the heart of the Eurozone. . . . European taxes in the digital or environmental field could thus form a genuine European resource to fund common expenditure. And beyond that, we must discuss partly allocating at least one tax to this budget, such as corporation tax once it has been harmonized.” Obviously in anticipation of German opposition, Macron continued: “The solidarity required for a budget must be combined with increased responsibility, which starts by observing the rules we have set for ourselves and implementing essential reforms. A budget must be placed under the strong political guidance of a common minister and be subject to strict parliamentary control at the European level.”
33 Although it would probably be bigger than what the Commission under Juncker is willing to set aside for the EMU, which seems to be a mere €300 million per year.
34 Shortly before the EU summit meeting scheduled for March 22, 2018, it was made known that the announced presentation of a joint EU reform proposal by Macron and Merkel was canceled. The reason given was that the staff of the relevant German ministries had not had enough time for preparations as long as coalition negotiations were still going on.
35 Perhaps also because the wording of the protocol must have alarmed the northern European member states that had in the past sided with Germany against Mediterranean attempts to turn the EMU into a “transfer union.”
36 Cerstin Gammelin und Nico Fried, “Olaf Scholz im Interview: ‘Politik ist keine Vorabendserie,’” Süddeutsche Zeitung, March 16, 2018. Scholz added that “We cannot and will not pay for all.” This was not lost on international insiders. On March 3, the Frankfurter Allgemeine reported that Pierre Moscovici, former French finance minister and now a member of the European Commission in charge of economic and currency affairs, had gone on notice claiming that Scholz would be exactly like Schäuble.
37 Gatzer, who had after the election left for the board of Deutsche Bahn, will be in charge of the budget, as he was under Schäuble. A secretary of state is a civil servant of the highest rank, reporting directly to the Minister.
38 An additional €8 billion is envisaged, hidden in the text, for helping Länder and local communities with providing for the 2015–16 immigrants.
39 Although Scholz and Schulz have both repeatedly stated that Germany would pay generously. The revenue shortfall following Brexit will amount to about ten billion euros net per year, effective in 2020. Politically higher German contributions can be presented as paying for better immigration controls at the EU’s external borders, signaling to voters that the 2015 border opening won’t be repeated.
40 They also insisted on EU contributions being cut rather than increased after Brexit.
41 Eastern European countries waver between a desire for more national autonomy and fear of being sidelined by selective intergovernmental cooperation between the big member countries.
42 One might imagine Schulz or Gabriel appearing on a supranational European list inspired by Macron in his impersonation of a Social Democrat.
43 For a flavor of the rhetoric, an excerpt from the Sorbonne speech: “And to all the major European parties which explained to us that it would be tremendous to have a ‘Spitzenkandidat,’ a lead candidate, for the European Commission, making the elections more European, I say: ‘Take that reasoning to its conclusion! Don’t be afraid! Have genuine European elections! Don’t make finely-weighed calculations for your erstwhile interests! Let’s do it!’ But then you will all see, at European level, what appeared clearly in France in May: namely that what sometimes keeps you in common parties no longer exists, because your relationship with Europe is no longer the same, within the same major parties, and you no longer believe in the same things. I will not leave those major European parties a monopoly on the debate about Europe and the European elections! Because citizens must overhaul it, via the grassroots, from the bottom up, on the basis of truth.”
44 Obviously following the lead of Macron, the Merkel IV government, as stated in the coalition agreement, intends “to involve the citizens through nation-wide public dialogues in the debate on European reform.”
45 Another sample from the Sorbonne speech: “A few weeks after the European elections, Paris will host the Olympic Games. But it’s not just Paris that is hosting. It’s France and, with it, Europe that will keep alive the Olympic spirit born on this continent. It will be a unique time of coming together, a magnificent opportunity to celebrate European unity. In 2024, the Ode to Joy will ring out, and the European flag can proudly be flown alongside our national emblems.”
46 His self-chosen nom de guerre was il rottamatore—the scrapper.
47 Note that Berlusconi has accounts to settle with Merkel, who was instrumental in his removal from office in 2011. On her decisive telephone call to the then–Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, see Susan Watkins, “The Political State of the Union,” New Left Review 90 (2014): 5–25.
48 In this spirit, the new German finance minister, Scholz, immediately upon taking office appointed one of the two heads of the German branch of Goldman Sachs, Jörg Kukies, as secretary of state in charge of global financial markets. See above, note 36.