Is a Strong France and a Weak Germany the EU’s New Normal?

Is a Strong France and a Weak Germany the EU’s New Normal?
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron take a break on the balcony of Merkel’s office after a meeting, Berlin, Germany, April 19, 2018 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

With French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel staging back-to-back visits to Washington this week, many observers have commented on the stark contrast in the two European leaders’ respective relationship with Donald Trump. But the visits also highlight an emerging intra-European dynamic: A strong France and a weak Germany at the heart of the European Union.

Coverage of the two visits has been dominated by close attention to the interpersonal dynamics between each leader and Trump, and the major policy differences that both Macron and Merkel will try to bridge with the U.S. president. Through a deft blend of bluntness and charm, Macron has managed to forge a personal bond with Trump. By contrast, in her previous meetings with him, Merkel has seemed like a lightning rod for his pent-up frustrations.

So far, the contrasting interpersonal dynamics have not made a difference when it comes to changing Trump’s mind on policy debates. Both Macron and Merkel tried on the Paris climate change agreement, to no avail. They will do the same this week regarding the Iran nuclear deal, with the chances for success seeming slim.

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