Merkel thinks of a “fourth role” for Europe


Few bars but revealing a precise strategy, with some well-founded fear. Angela Merkel spoke during yesterday’s meeting with the presidents of the parliamentary groups of the Eurocamera. The Chancellor is there to present the program of the EU’s rotating German presidency from July until the end of the year. A question from the German Green Ska Keller is enough to reveal how Merkel intends to manage the geopolitical knots that in this phase, aggravated by the pandemic, are clutching the European Union around the neck, undermining its integrity and autonomy. Let’s talk about the new cold war between the US and China and the increasingly important weight of Russia on the world geopolitical chessboard.

According to Huffpost from sources present at the meeting, the president of the group of the Greens, the German Keller, asks the chancellor how she intends to manage the European Union’s relations with Moscow, Beijing and Washington. Merkel is not upset, as always. With Russia and China, explains the chancellor, it is a question of building a “common foreign policy”, defending independence, indeed the very existence of the European Union but without following Trump’s “bells”. As for the tenant of the White House, Merkel predicts “turbulent relations” because of the “election campaign for the presidential year-end”.

Words that may seem trivial at first glance. But they are not. First, because the chancellor puts the three powers that actually threaten the Union on the same level. It does not automatically queue to the historic transatlantic axis, which has in fact been constituting the EU since it was born. Because that field is now occupied by Trump, a factor that makes the difference for the chancellor.

A fortiori, Merkel aims to keep the EU in a third, or fourth, role compared to the three competing superpowers. And it is also for these needs of a global nature that the chancellor worked personally on the ‘recovery fund’, the new and unpublished common tool of the EU which, in its intentions, must face the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic by going to rebalance the asymmetries among the states of the old continent, favoring the countries most affected by the virus and therefore economically weaker as Italy, Spain and France.

In essence, Trump pushes the EU into a role of equidistance between the US, Russia and China. Or at least that’s Merkel’s plan for the German EU presidency. The need to preserve the historical ties between the EU and the US remains, but one cannot ignore the current tenant of the White House who, according to the chancellor, will take advantage of any argument for his presidential campaign, polluting the field of diplomatic relations with the his hunt for the vote at home. This is why Merkel takes into account “turbulent relations” with Washington.

Certainly, the German presidency of the Union falls at a crucial moment at European and global level. The chancellor expects to be able to finalize the agreement on the ‘recovery fund’ and the new EU budget among the 27 European states in the six months that will keep her at the helm of the Union, the last turning point for her which is at the end of her mandate , unless he decides to apply again for the 2021 policies in Germany. But, in fact, the German semester also coincides with the new electoral test for Trump and the climate of new cold war that the US president has set against Beijing in the midst of a pandemic, a challenge in front of which the EU has oscillated, stunned and uncertain in the reaction. It should be stressed that the same ‘recovery fund’ is full of potential tensions with Washington: the ‘own resources’ chapter, aimed at increasing the EU’s budgetary capacity, provides for the introduction of new taxes such as the ‘digital tax’ which would go to hit the giants of Silicon Valley, from Facebook to Google. Trump has already threatened sanctions for European states that have announced the use of such a form of taxation.

Given its irrefutable political weight in the Union, a Merkel at the helm could addrize the pull of the EU’s international relations as a ‘union’ of 27 and not the sum of national interests. Who knows. And perhaps it could also addrize the reaction, almost nothing, of Brussels on the Chinese repression in Hong Kong, inflamed by protests against Beijing even in times of pandemic. Even on this, the EU is struggling to take the initiative.

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