Will a Weakened Merkel Doom Macron’s Hopes for EU Reform?

Will a Weakened Merkel Doom Macron’s Hopes for EU Reform?
French President Emmanuel Macron greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel prior to a joint Franco-German cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 12, 2017 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

Negotiations to form a coalition government in Germany broke down this week, leaving Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the country, in a state of suspended animation two months after an inconclusive general election. The possible ways forward include Merkel continuing as chancellor at the head of a minority government, or new elections. Opinion polls, however, suggest that a fresh round of voting would do nothing to significantly alter the electoral outcome or resolve the current impasse, opening what could be an extended period of political uncertainty in a country long known for its stability.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union suffered a drop in support in September, in part due to the surprisingly strong showing of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, forcing her to seek a coalition with the market-friendly Free Democrats and the Greens. How to address the long-term challenges raised by Merkel’s decision to open Germany’s borders to migrants and refugees in 2015 became a sticking point in the failed talks.

Merkel’s precarious position is bad news for French President Emmanuel Macron, who had sold his painful domestic structural reforms as the necessary trade-off for securing Berlin’s support for EU reforms meant to help stimulate both the French and wider European economies. Merkel’s uncertain future and the political paralysis it heralds leave him with a weakened partner in Berlin, jeopardizing those plans.

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