Commentary EU summit

EU summit reveals divisions between Germany and France

The EU summit, which took place in Sibiu, Romania, last week was supposed to be a major restart of the EU-27 after Brexit. However, neither are happening, which may not necessarily be bad news for small countries like the Czech Republic.

A few months ago, we were reading about the considerable deepening of relations between Germany and France after the countries had concluded the bilateral treaty in Aachen. After Sibiu, it seems that the opposite is true. The most recent division concerns the selection of a new President of the European Commission, which is to take place after the upcoming European Parliamentary elections.

So far, the successor of Jean-Claude Juncker seemed to emerge from the so-called Spitzenkandidaten. But at the moment, such an idea seems to be naive. The problem is that none of the Spitzenkandidaten who could handle the assignment is a Frenchman. German leader of the EPP Manfred Weber and Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans have the greatest chances. Macron's movement, however, announced during the summit that it would not cooperate with anyone who would insist on choosing the President of the European Commission according to the Spitzenkandidaten´s chances.

The Germans do not like Macron's attitude, but they are well aware that a possible new Commission chief might have difficulty in gaining the confidence of the EP since its composition is likely to change significantly after the elections - pro-European movements and parties are expected to weaken.

It also turned out in Sibiu that the position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel is so weak that she is unable to counter Macron effectively even though Macron is the one who is actually in a much worse position and is struggling with unpleasant issues at home.

Thus, the whole of Europe would have greatly benefited from the early departure of Merkel and the succession of the probable new Chancellor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), whose views seem more anchored in reality than those of Macron and Merkel. It was AKK who wrote to Macron that Europe certainly does not need more of the European Union, but fewer Brussels elites are desirable.

Such a development would be a positive step for the Czech Republic because it rejects the ideas of federalists who are already showing their disappointment at the Sibiu summit´s conclusions. We all remember the very painful endorsement of the Lisbon Treaty, which has undoubtedly weakened the position of the smaller EU Member States. AKK's position is, therefore, more favorable to the Czech Republic than Macron's position.

The inability to find a common attitude to climate change also shows divisions between Germany and France. The Germans are very well aware that their transition to renewable resources possibly leads to collapse. France is trying to take advantage of the situation, and at a summit with seven other countries, it submitted a statement calling on the EU to become an economy of zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

From the Czech point of view, the summit in Sibiu turned out quite well. No progress in the reform of the European Union can be more advantageous than agreeing on a frantic reform, which would ultimately lead to a weakening of Czechia´s position. The Czech Republic could also benefit from the disputes over the response to climate change. Given the structure of Czech industry, a rapid effort to reduce the emissions could have a profoundly negative impact on the economy as the current government cannot be expected to strive to promote eco-innovation. The Czech position is perhaps too pragmatic, but it was precisely such a position that was lacking when the EU acted on the tightening of emission targets for car manufacturers.

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