Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Macron's Europe: Et le service après-vente?

President Macron chose the Sorbonne to give his big speech on Europe yesterday, following by a quarter century the great pre-Maastricht debate on the future of Europe at the same venue between François Mitterrand and Philippe Séguin. Coming only two days after the German vote cast a new shadow over Europe's future, Macron's words put a brave face on inner anxiety. He took care to avoid irritating German sensibilities, although there was a passing dig at the red line that FDP leader Christian Lindner said must not be crossed. In other respects the French president took care to remain well within the vague limits the German chancellor has already indicated she would be prepared to accept: a European finance chief wielding control over an unspecified budget, closer cooperation on immigration and security, candidates for the European parliament on transnational slates, taxation of American high-tech firms doing business in Europe. He also called for harmonization of French and German corporate tax rates, on which I don't believe Merkel has yet committed herself.

The speech was echt Macronism. Lofty in conception, bold in symbolism, vague on details. Macron's method is to indicate a general direction and leave the actual destination sufficiently unclear that whatever end is finally chosen can be declared as a victory. It worked with labor code reform; it might work with Europe. But eventually people will tire of the exercise of marking points on a map and begin to wonder if they've actually moved anywhere. Planning a vacation is fun, but you haven't been there until you can start posting those snapshots on Facebook, as it were. Europe is indeed necessary for France's future, as Macron suggests, but until its fruits start showing up in people's paychecks, it's going to be a hard sell. Macron can be a persuasive salesman, but potential buyers are already asking about le service après-vente.


E. Schmitt said...

I like your definition of Macronism : "Lofty in conception, bold in symbolism, vague on details". I wrote an article about it, and this one completes it perfectly.

thisnameisinuse said...

There’s a very positive article in Der Spiegel: ‘Never Fear! Merkel Should Follow Macron's Lead on Europe’