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Geopolitics

French-German Pact: How COVID-19 Gave Europe A Second Chance

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) comes to a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) comes to a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Lucie Robequain

PARIS — The surprise announcement of a massive pact between France and Germany to lead Europe's response to the COVID-19 crisis marks a historic agreement, writes of Paris-based daily Les Echos. Germany's decision to accept the principle of a common debt for European countries, signals the birth of a new union of solidarity, which is essential to claim the title of superpower. Here is Robequain's piece, translated by Worldcrunch:


It's often said that the construction of Europe is never without great difficulty. We point out its divisions. We mock its weakness, its lack of leadership, which is all the more reason to point out those moments when it develops a backbone. By accepting the principle of a mutual debt within the European Union, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have taken a decisive step in building a united Europe.


This new robust vision has never before been proposed: A union based on solidarity, capable of transcending the particular interests of each individual member. A union capable of holding its own against the two superpowers, China and the United States. In short, it proposes a political project that has been materializing in response to the global crisis caused by coronavirus.


The immense weight of the Franco-German partnership leaves little doubt as to its ability to bring about such change. The financial transfers between rich and poor, northern and southern Europe, were already essential to the smooth running of the EU. Now, they will need an additional 500 billion euros, an amount that was unimaginable even just a few weeks ago.


It is worth noting the major influence German constitutional judges have played, probably in spite of themselves. By challenging the disproportionate role of the European Central Bank, they have forced Angela Merkel to affirm a principle that has never been fully accepted, according to which the euro must walk on two legs — monetary and budgetary — for it to avoid collapse. The fact that Germany will take over the presidency of the European Council on July 1 is also significant. Typically accused of selfishness, the country wants to take on this new responsibility by renewing its commitment to the European project.


After two months of hesitation, this agreement marks the first decisive, and even spectacular, step by the European Union in the face of the crisis. The three previous stages — appealing to the European Investment Bank, the European Stability Mechanism and short-term unemployment benefits — were largely inspired by those implemented in 2009 to counter the financial crisis. This victory marks a culmination of French efforts. It played a central role in initiating the idea of the "coronabonds," rallying northern countries (like Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium) and ultimately convincing the German Chancellor. The French, who in the current crisis, have shown unparalleled severity towards their own president, should at least give credit where credit is due..


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