Spotlight: It Takes Two To Tango In Europe
We first had "Merkozy," a marriage of convenience between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy made to counter the European debt crisis. Then the pair was forced to part ways when Sarkozy lost to current French President Francois Hollande. Merkel and Hollande's relationship was always awkward, with one newspaper saying "there was no spark" between them.
If Merkel had a secret hope of reconnecting with her previous ally, it brutally ended yesterday when Sarkozy lost to François Fillon, a former prime minister, in the first round of the center-right primaries in France. The winner of the second round next Sunday will likely face, and defeat, far-right contender Marine Le Pen in next spring's presidential election. Since Merkel declared her candidacy yesterday to run again for the top job in Germany, and Fillon showed strong gains in France, perhaps we'll be seeing an era of "Merkillon" going forward?
If that's the leadership combination that emerges next year, it's likely to be a contentious one. Fillon's economic program inspired by the "Iron Lady," former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, would be encouraged by Germany, which is concerned about France's astronomical debt.
But the foreign policy stance of Fillon, who has long been calling for a rapprochement with Russia especially regarding the war in Syria, could hardly be more different from Merkel's. His recent comments about a French alliance with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin — "not only do I not fear it, I want it" — would isolate Germany on the global stage.