The risks that arise from Merkel's departure this year aren't really linked to her succession, but rather the vacuum she leaves behind in Europe. For Brexit/UK watchers, this is an important transitional year for the EU - & one worth paying attention to
Thread 1/
The outcome of Ger elections in Sept is highly likely to be a Black/Green coalition. Positive for Ger & EU. All the contenders to replace Merkel are also mainstream, some just more conservative than others. See @NazMasraff & @COdendahl very good analysis & threads for more 2/
Yet despite this constructive outcome, in short & medium term, Merkel’s departure will leave a large gap in EU no leader can credibly fill. @EmmanuelMacron will try, but without Merkel or strong partnership in Berlin, his more disruptive, abrasive style won't succeed 3/
Merkel's presidency last year is a class example of her deft political skills. Landing deals with UK & China (whose real value is framework & basis for broader political co-operation they provide); on €750bn Recovery Fund & rule of law; & climate 4/
Of course there's a lot of criticism about compromises she brokered. There is some truth to them. But very often these critiques pay little serious attention to the counterfactual, for eg, of leaving Pol & Hu behind. I think the price would have been too high to pay 5/
Could @EmmanuelMacron have brokered these compromises? Of course not. But without Macron, many of these ideas would never have been seeded. The Recovery Fund was an idea conceived in @Elysee, arguably dating back to 2017 & ill fated “Eurozone budget” & Meseberg accord in 2018 6/
Likewise, “strategic autonomy” - Paris’ intellectual framework for European
“sovereignty“ & geopolitical relevance - laid the groundwork for the EU deal Merkel's presidency brokered with China 7/
Of course you could argue Brexit, Trump & Covid-19 were as critical in changing Merkel’s outlook as Macron was. But in striking these agreements, Merkel did move away from old German balance between Atlantic (NATO) & E Europe/Moscow to build stronger links with “South” - & France
Macron can therefore claim to have succeeded where his predecessors - Sarkozy & Hollande - failed. He did so partly bc he had a strategic vision to sell to Germany (cc @PedderSophie impactful 2019 @TheEconomist interview) which Berlin eventually realised they needed 9/
It mattered that unlike previous French Presidents, @EmmanuelMacron was not just demanding German financial/fiscal support. Not unfairly then, Macron sees himself as a guiding force in EU post-Merkel. But in reality & practice, he will need a sympathetic partner in Berlin 10/
Will he find one? The new Chancellor will necessarily be more inexperienced, more pre-occupied with domestic politics & coalition management. And as @lucasguttenberg says in his very good thread, they will probably - to begin with - be very cautious on all things EU 11/
So Macron's greatest fear - the emergence of a Chancellor who will push hard on European brakes & look inward - is certainly justified. Aggravating this, Macron’s own energy & efforts will also largely be absorbed by triple covid, economic & possible security crises this year 12/
And when Germany’s new leader does eventually settle in & come up for air, Macron's own Presidential elections will be fast approaching (April/May 2022) & all consuming. So what's the punchline? 13/
Looking over the horizon, it's likely Paris & Berlin are going to be out of lockstep for some time to come. Put differently, based on the above, one could credibly argue Europe is going to be poorly or ineffectively led for at least the next 12-15 months 14/
This is why Merkel's exit from German/EU politics is @EurasiaGroup top Europe risk for 2021; full report here:… 15/
With no effective Ger/Fr “leadership safety net“, there are many issues that could stall/be negatively affected/fester this year, eg - implementation of Recovery Fund; reform of EU fiscal rules; EU/China deal; tensions with Turkey in Eastern Med; the reset with Biden etc 16/
This is not an exhaustive list of challenges EU now faces, but a few examples where Merkel’s leadership & partnership with Macron has been pivotal. This era is now coming to a close & a period of transition, uncertainty & a yet unknown Franco-German dynamic awaits on other side
Of course the EU is bigger than Fr & Ger. But the painful truth is nothing meaningful can happen without their prior & substantive alignment. The full argument is here, in my first piece for @POLITICOEurope this year ENDS…

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More from @Mij_Europe

30 Dec 20
Big win for Berlin & a strong finish for Merkel's EU presidency - delivering on all 4 of her priorities - & her 10 odd years at helm of EU
1) Delivering on EU's landmark Recovery Fund & preventing a damaging, precedent setting split among EU27, that could have delayed/derailed EU's recovery next year & arguably strengthened authoritarianism, especially in Poland, at a time it is waning
2) Delivering a Brexit deal with enough cosmetic flexibility for Johnson to sell his deal today, avoiding a messy, unnecessary, costly no deal, while securing Berlin's objective of keeping UK within EU's regulatory orbit via strong LPF & retaliatory provisions
Read 5 tweets
24 Dec 20
A few thoughts from me on today's deal

There will be lots of “we won/they lost“ spin this/next week. None of it matters. The deal will go through on both sides

More interesting is mid/long run outlook for UK/EU relations. I'm unfortunately more pessimistic than my poll 👇🏾 1/
Based on outlook of British politics, I'm sceptical the deal will serve as a platform for closer economic ties - arguably even over longer term

Instead, today's “zero/zero“ deal could prove to be the “high point“ - from which both sides are forced to subtract. A few reasons 2/
First, there will be pressure on Tory Govt's (under @BorisJohnson or @RishiSunak) for symbolic/substantive acts of “divergence“. This will bring friction. Second, the Tories (& certainly BJ) will continue to seek domestic political advantage in “taking on Brussels“ 3/
Read 7 tweets
23 Dec 20
On Brexit negs: EU side is pretty adamant that on 🐠, 25/6 (incl Pelagic) is final offer. But Brits haven't killed it; Frost is talking to Boris on this today

Def not all doom & gloom. Some good progress has been made on LPF non-regression chapters, social, env & tax 1/
While COM keen to wrap up a deal today/tmrw, EU capitals are tad more relaxed - their view: get substance right; we'll accommodate process/legal constraints after

So maybe tonight/tmrw we get a “general understanding“ it's moving in right direction; deal in Xmas/NY window 2/
Member states are, however, on standby to meet tomorrow in case there's a deal today.. 3/
Read 4 tweets
9 Dec 20
The French Govt has adopted its draft law on “strengthening Republican values” which has already provoked so much anger – & distortion, frankly – in parts of Muslim world & US media. At least now we can have a debate on what’s actually in the bill. Some thoughts post presser 1/
The text mentions no religion by name & will apply to all faiths but the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, presenting the law at a presser this afternoon, made it clear that “radical Islamism” – not Islam - was the intended target 2/
“This text is not aimed at any religion or at the Muslim religion specifically,” Castex said . “It’s a law of emancipation from religious fanaticism.” 3/
Read 9 tweets
6 Dec 20
So where is mood today? I'd say more optimistic in Bxl than London; with caveat that @10DowningStreet is more upbeat today than it was a year ago when it did the deal on WA

But opposition today arguably more formidable—Govt now brushing up against France, not Ireland 1/
France is only member state that has threatened to use its veto. This threat, repeated again today by @CBeaune in Journal du Dimanche, is not just aimed at UK, but also France’s “softer” EU partners (especially Germany) 2/
To those who argue/believe (incorrectly) that no intra-EU27 differences exist on Brexit, here's my piece sometime ago on the subject. We're now seeing these subtle divergences between Paris & Berlin at play in end game 3/…
Read 5 tweets
3 Nov 20
.@MehreenKhn is entitled to her opinion - but not her own facts. She attributes stuff to @EmmanuelMacron which he never said. He actually ruled out a complete ban on headscarves 1/…
Moreover, his anti separatism plan was approved beforehand by mainstream Muslim leaders and intellectuals in France. There's also not a word in her piece about the 38 djihadist attacks in France in 8 years 2/
I would agree that comments from some other ministers are VERY unhelpful. Ditto Macron's formulation in his hommage to Paty that France will not refrain from publishing cartoons. Made it sound like a state enterprise. His comments in Al Jazeera interview muuch better... 3/
Read 4 tweets

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