Destination of top jobs reaffirm theory of EU as Franco-German deal

Germany’s defence minister set to be European Commission president, while France’s Lagarde will control EU’s economic direction

 German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen: she is seen as a stalwart of the Berlin establishment. Photograph: Reuters/Stephane Mahe

German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen: she is seen as a stalwart of the Berlin establishment. Photograph: Reuters/Stephane Mahe

 

At its core it’s possible to view the EU as an historic compromise between France and Germany. In return for resurrecting Germany politically after the war, France regained control of its economic destiny.

In the early 1980s former French president François Mitterrand tried to go it alone economically, setting an expansionary fiscal and monetary policy to increase employment and bolster wages. It was a short-lived and disastrous experiment, resulting in a period of stagnation and a foreign exchange crisis. It was quickly reversed, with a prolonged dose of austerity.

If anything it proved how integrated modern economies had become; how interdependent Europe’s powerhouse economies had become. Might the UK be about to run over the same trip wire with Brexit?

Either way since the 1980s EU integration has accelerated, facilitating the reunification of Germany, the re-emergence of Germany as a global power and the co-ordination of fiscal and monetary policy under the auspices of the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB).

If you think it is an outdated, perhaps narrow, view of the EU take a look at how the top jobs were divvied up this week.

Germany’s defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, a stalwart of the Berlin establishment, will, barring an unprecedented push back from the parliament, be the next European Commission president, perhaps the most powerful role in the bloc.

France’s Christine Lagarde, one of the most high-profile figures in French politics, will get the ECB’s top job, and control of the bloc’s economic direction.

The Franco-German nexus still holds.

The next two big posts, European Council president and the EU’s high representative for foreign and security policy, will go to Belgium and Spain, insider member states that flank France and Germany.

Whether these appointments adequately reflect the broader reach of the EU after enlargement or the pooling of economic and political sovereignty across 28 member states is questionable.

Whether they will appease the states at the coal face of immigration and/or an increasingly belligerent Russia is also questionable.

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