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Could Christian Lindner become Emmanuel Macron’s fair ally?

Finally we got it, a serious German TV debate on Europe. I was looking for it during the parliament vote, but we had nothing but nice slogans without much substance. And finally it came yesterday night, on ZDF. Great.

I have to confess my main focus was to see how Christian Lindner would behave in such a debate. I found him very good on Spain. It is not the most difficult topic but I liked his formula, Spain like Europe should be a roof put on a diversity that we have to respect and which is the reality of Europe.

Surprisingly, but very interestingly, it was not Lindner but Cem Özdemir, the Head of the Green party, who first shot against Macron‘s proposals to have a Finance Minister and a specific budget for the euro zone. It is very interesting, because if it comes from the Greens it shows how deep this reaction is imbedded in Germany. Then no reason to make of Christian Lindner the devil blocking the reform of the eurozone. Even if I have to admit that his formulation is here quite caricatural, not to say extremely demagogic. He speaks about a ‘‘money-pipeline‘‘ proposed by Macron, and which he categorically rejects because easy money would ruin any serious attempt to reform. And also because there is no money available. I can hear this, even if it totally miss the point that Macon wants to make.

But I fear he is far less credible on his further argumentation. He seems to look at Macron as the pure product of a Colbertist France where any investment suggestion can only be wrong, because coming from this for him odious state model. Well I suppose that with the time Mr Linder may recognise that the current team in France is much closer to his ideas than he thinks.

Naturally the pic of the demagogy is reached when Mr Lindner present himself as the defender of the good clients of he German Saving banks against the bad French, Italian or Spanish banks. First Mr Linder would be well advised to spend some time analysing the quality of the French banks, I am sure he would learn a lot. And second and more important Mr Lindner should not listen to those having told him that the Banking Union was completed (‘‘we have been told‘‘). He should take some time to analyse himself the situation, and as candidate for the Minister of Finance‘s position I am sure he shall find the time, and notice that this draft of Banking Union has to be very much improved if it wants to be the solution to the further possible banking crisis in Europe. And the scandal, that Mr Lindner very rightly underlines, of seeing the taxpayer money still being used in Italy to rescue banks, despite of the existence of the Banking Union, in fact fully underlines the necessity for the Banking Union to encompass all the banks of the Union. There should be, Mr Lindner, no exception, neither in Italy … nor in Germany…

But well the main point that Mr Lindner wants to make behind these easy demagogical formulations is more serious. The German red line is: Europe should not undermine the principe of the sole and full financial responsibility of each nation. Well in my opinion this might not always be the most clever position to defend the very interests of the country benefiting the most from the single market, but this is clearly today‘s German position. With or without Lindner. Then better taking into account the reality instead of dreaming too quickly and too loudly.

Is it then the death of Macron‘s plan for the Eurozone? I really do not think so. Macron is French then he has to make a short and brilliant synthesis and fix loudly and clearly the long term cap to a admiring French public which I belong to. But as Helmut Schmidt told us already 40 years ago, when you are German and have a vision, you better go to the doctor.

Emmanuel Macron will learn how to speak to Germany, how to mobilise Germany on the re-foundation of Europe. He already made a move at the Francfort books fair. Before making everybody nervous, and pollute too much the debate, let us concentrate on what the Eurozone should obviously do in order to be more effective, let us then define how we finance these new steps. Last but not least, let us then define how we make sure that the execution of this policy finally gets a democratic legitimacy before the European people through out the European baby with the blue bath water. And then I would not be surprised that … we would say exactly the same. Step by step. With please an immediate start. And a meeting point in 15 years for a vision which I fully share.

On all the rest Lindner fully agrees and is pleased to agree. Then let us do all this without waiting any longer.

My bet is that far from meaning the death of Macron‘s european ambitious, Lindner will become Macron’s fair ally in order to translate Macron‘s vision into a sequenced reality.

We have in fact here two politicians separated more by a cultural gap than by an ideological one. They have to meet, know each other, and discover the dual meaning of the words they use.

Let us be also fair, even if Macron is committed to difficult reforms in France, and even if he (if we) succeed in implementing them all, we should also understand the scepticism of a neighbour who unfortunately never had the opportunity to see sound economic and financial policy in France last very long. On the other side it is not a reason to let Germany comfortably sleep in its deeply embedded paranoia, or selfish demagogy. At least I was extremely pleased that nobody accused Macron during this TV debate of willing to share past debts in Europe, which Macron never suggested but which so many Germans immediately accused him to have in mind when he was elected. A first progress.

The re-foundation of Europe proposed by Emmanuel Macon is not an utopia, it is the sum of everything which should be made in order to address all the too real weaknesses of our current Europe. Then we do not need here only dreamers but also very pragmatic workers in order to start the implementation of the necessary reforms. I finally tend to think that a conservative Germany might be a more useful partner on this than a too easy social democrat partner. The construction will may be need more time but be then much more solid and resist further political changes.

 

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