January 22, 2018
This week in Talking Europe: We will have a look at the Franco-British summit and see whether Germany will have a government anytime soon.
Entente or Détente: A Franco-Britain Summit
Franco British Military Summit: The French President, Emmanuel Macron, brought the British a long desired gift. During the summit with Theresa May, he announced that the United Kingdom may loan the famous Bayeux Tapestry, meaning it will leave France for the first time in 950 years. The English press loved it, and for Theresa May it was an opportunity to emphasise the strong relations between the Anglo-Franco entente cordiale. This symbolic gesture made it easier for the British to increase their contributions to France in order to prevent migrants from crossing the Channel. Macron heavily insisted on the renegotiation of previous commitments, saying France could no longer be Britain’s “coastguard”. Other outcomes were pledges to participate in the French-led mission in Mali and intensified cultural exchanges between the two countries.
This summit fits in the attempt of the United Kingdom to forge and revive bilateral relations with countries on the continent – it recently concluded a defence treaty with Poland. It remains to be seen, however, how far this strategy will take the British: EU membership limits the ability of individual member countries to strike deals with countries outside of the EU. It is therefore no surprise that the economic and trade relations between France and the UK were not on the agenda. Regarding Brexit, Macron insisted London City would have less access to Europe, unless the UK remains part of the single market. “Be my Guest” he said, emphasising the British are welcome to stay, but need to make a choice of their own. In other words, there need not be tensions, but any détente is one a British initiative.
German Coalition pressure: Last week we discussed how Germany coalition troubles were not over, although an agreement of principles had been reached between the Schultz’s SPD and Merkel’s CDU. Throughout this week the agreement was met with very different responses: although welcomed by most European partners, senior Social Democrats were sceptical. Although the agreement started with a very strong commitment to Europe, they felt it is not ambitious enough on issues such as health insurance, housing and immigration. It is now up to the SPD to decide on the fate of the grand coalition, as tomorrow a party congress will take a vote on the initial agreement. Even if they vote yes, Schultz insisted that all party members vote on the final coalition deal as well. In other words, the struggle to form a coalition is far from over.
Europe’s Week in Links
- Eurozone reform: fourteen economist from Germany and France presented a blueprint for Eurozone reform, containing a compromise between fiscal discipline and risk sharing.
- Combating Fake News: In the week that Donald Trump hands out ‘Fake News awards’, Facebook launches an inquiry into potential Russian links to the Brexit vote and the recent EU vs Disinfo initiative leads to uproar in the Netherlands.
- Expansion to the Western Balkan’s: The EU is aiming to bring in countries such as Serbia and Montenegro by 2025.