The Franco-German alliance at the centre of the European Union could become undone after Angela Merkel steps down in September, according to Europe expert Professor Simon Bulmer. Professor Bulmer believes Ms Merkel’s replacement as German Chancellor will have to mend bridges with Emmanuel Macron’s France over the two countries’ competing visions for the union’s future. He noted the French-German relationship has been “tense” in recent times, something that the incoming German leader will have to address.
Professor Bulmer told TRT’s Roundtable: “The real issue is how far [Ms Merkel’s] successor is able to forge a relationship with France because the Franco-German relationship has been a little bit tense at times recently.
“With the exception of the launch of the European reconstruction fund to deal with the economic fallout of COVID-19.
“So we shouldn’t forget how these constellations of political leaders in the European Union of 27 plays out.
“Often that is a matter of personality.”
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“Macron would become perhaps the best-known political figure in the EU and he is much more of a visionary,” he added.
“So how will that play with the successful candidate?”
Germany and France have long been considered to be spearheading efforts to ensure the survival of the European Union in spite of growing doubts about the stability of the bloc.
But cracks already emerged last year after Chancellor Merkel initially appeared to oppose Mr Macron’s plans for a common recovery fund to help member states suffering because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The pair ultimately reached an agreement and led the negotiations to win over reluctant northern states into accepting the terms of the fund but doubts remained on whether Mrs Merkel’s successor will fare as well when joining forces with France.
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Political author Matthew Qvortrup told the programme there is “no guarantee” that any of the current lead runners in the race to replace Ms Merkel would be the eventual candidate in the Federal Election scheduled for next September.
He described Ms Merkel’s Health Minister Jans Spahn as one possible rogue candidate, naming him the “most popular politician in Germany.”
Mr Qvortrup also tipped Bavarian state leader Markus Söder to do well in the race, describing him as a “hardman” who used to be “completely written off” but is now a “possible contender” for the post.
Mr Söder is the Leader of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, the sister party of Chancellor Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union party (CDU).
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Back in 2018, the German Chancellor announced she would stand down as leader of the CDU at the party convention and would not seek a fifth term this year.
But back in February 2020, Ms Merkel’s chosen successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, resigned throwing the leadership elections wide open.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer announced she would step down as CDU leader following a controversial election in the German state of Thuringia.
Mr Qvortrup added: “For the first time in our post-war history, we will have an election where the outgoing chancellor does not run as a candidate.
“We cannot keep saying; have both x and y.
“We cannot keep saying yes and no at the same time.”