Proposals by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron for reforming the European Union are to be discussed at the upcoming EU summit in late June. There is plenty of agreement between the two — but also some sizeable differences.
Refugees and migration
In light of the recent refugee crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron agree that EU member states should integrate their data systems and work more closely with refugees' home countries. Crucially, both say efforts should be made to provide young people with better prospects for the future, especially in Africa. There are plans to launch a kind of "Marshal Plan" for the continent. Both leaders also agree that closer cooperation with countries bordering the eurozone, as well as transit countries, is needed.
Merkel and Macron stress that the EU should adopt a united approach to asylum-seekers. Common criteria are needed to determine who is and who is not granted asylum, they say. Both emphasize that over the long term, Europe's border force Frontex must be strengthened and made into a fully operational border police. Frontex, in their view, must some day be able to process all steps of asylum applications.
Merkel and Macron concur that there must be more opportunities for legal migration into Europe to counter "illegal migration."
Reforming the European Commission
Germany's chancellor and the French president both want to reduce the power of EU commissioners. While Macron would like to halve the number of commissioners, Merkel merely favors "fewer than before." She accepts that Germany and France could pay a certain price for this. Merkel has proposed introducing a rota system so that different member states designate commissioners. This would mean that at times, even leading EU members would be left out.
Both leaders somewhat disagree over how the president of the Commission should be selected. Merkel champions a Europe-wide list of candidates who compete against each other. That would make the president's nomination independent of EU member states' governments. Macron, however, is skeptical of this suggestion.
Foreign and defense policy
Merkel and Macron have highly divergent views on European foreign and defense policy. Germany's leader continues to advocate an EU seat on the UN Security Council, and would like to see an independent "European Security Council." This, in her opinion, should be made up of a several EU member states on a rotating basis. She hopes this will allow the EU play a more pro-active role in foreign affairs. Emmanuel Macron rejects Merkel's proposals.
Macron, meanwhile, suggests establishing an EU intervention force to engage in military missions abroad. While Merkel, too, supports the idea of an EU army, she does not want such a force to engage abroad. Macron has left no doubt he considers British troops an integral element of such a prospective EU army – even through the United Kingdom intends to withdraw from the EU in 2019.
When it comes to financial matters, disputes are common. Unsurprisingly, Merkel and Macron have substantially different opinions on how to reform the eurozone. Merkel suggests creating an EU monetary fund, which, in her view, should play an important role in the eurozone on a par with the commission. Such an "EMF" would severely diminish the power of the commission. It would also be able to give loans to ailing EU members. For this, in return, it would be granted the right to monitor member states' fiscal affairs. Merkel also champions an EU investment fund to ensure that member states' economies grow at a similar pace. She also wants the fund to help finance technological and scientific innovations. Merkel wants an investment fund in the "low double digits of billions,” but has not said who will contribute funding and whether the fund will be part of the general EU budget.
Macron, in contrast, advocates boosting the eurozone budget. He wants more money spent to strengthen the EU and prevent future economic crises. He says member states should contribute several percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to the budget — currently, members contribute 1 percent of GDP. To generate the additional funds, Macron wants to introduce a EU-wide corporation tax. Merkel has not yet responded to the idea of such a tax, but has shown reluctance to increase member states' contributions to the EU budget. This is because economic growth means Germany must already contribute more than before.