Emmanuel Macron's EU vision meets Angela Merkel's realities

The French president is to lay out his vision for Europe. Angela Merkel is readying for coalition talks with potential partners, the FDP and the Greens. How could Germany's next government react to Macron's EU reform?

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to unveil his ambitious EU reform plans in a speech later on Tuesday at the Sorbonne University in Paris. So what exactly does he have in mind?

Politics | 06.09.2017

Well, nothing less than a historic reconstruction of Europe and the Eurozone judging by his road map, which - among other ideas - calls for the creation of a eurozone finance minister, a separate budget, a EU finance ministry and a European monetary fund.

But how will all that go down with the parties that could potentially make up the new German government?

Read moreAlfred Grosser: Germany and France share similar problems


Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrats  have cautiously welcomed the idea of installing a finance minister, however, there is likely to be disagreement with Macron over how influential and powerful the position should be.

- While Macron says the budget he or she presides over should be in the "hundreds of billions," Merkel has a distinctly smaller budget in mind.

- Pledging to form a stable government, Merkel has refrained so far from drawing red lines over European policy, which gives her and her potential coalition partners enough room to maneuver.

- Macron and Merkel are more likely to see eye to eye on turning the current bailout fund into a wider monetary fund and on border security and defense issues.


The Free Democrats' leader, Christian Lindner , has already made his disdain clear. Paying into a budget to finance the French government's spending or Italy's financial transgressions would be a "red line."

- The FDP is also strictly opposed to the idea of a single EU finance minister.

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- They favor a "multi-speed Europe" whereby the northern, fiscally disciplined member states pursue common objectives and others follow at a later stage.

- Toughness on Eurozone budget discipline and opposition to any fiscal transfers within the Eurozone are central issues for the FDP.

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The Greens: 

On the surface, the Greens, who see themselves as the most pro-European of the major German parties, wholeheartedly support Macron's vision to reform the European Union.

- They reject a division of Europe and want a deeper integration.

- Greens co-leader Cem Özedmir has said that trying to help struggling southern European economies by imposing austerity measures alone does not work in Europe.

- However, the Greens are vague on whether they support a separate Eurozone budget as proposed by Macron.

What that means for a potential German government

Taken at face value their respective party programs would indicate that the Greens want to press ahead with deeper European integration and the FDP wants to hold it back - a conflict that could frustrate coalition talks with Merkel, who wants a "stronger Europe" and is keen to revive the Franco-German engine in and for Europe.

While differences remain, the lure of being part of Germany's next government suggests that both the FDP and the Greens will do their utmost to paper over those cracks and find common ground on European reform.

Read more: Merkel's win comes with EU prestige intact, but power weakened


Colorful shorthand for German coalitions

Coalitions are common under Germany's proportional representation system. To describe complex ballot outcomes, political pundits use colorful symbolism, often alluding to the flags of other nations. Coalition short-hand includes 'Jamaica,' 'Kenya,' and 'traffic light' coalitions.


'Jamaica' option - black, yellow and green

The three-way deal between the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, whose color is yellow will not be happening at national level after the FDP called off talks. The northern state of Schleswig-Holstein currently has a "Jamaica" government, as CDU premier Daniel Günther governs with the FDP and the Greens.


Black-red coalition

Conservative black combined with transformative red is the color code when the Christian Democrats govern in a grand coalition with the Social Democrats. Yellow on these billboards alludes to Germany's tricolor flag of black, red and gold. Black tops the flag, signifying Germany's responsibility for the Holocaust.


'Pizza Connection' in Bonn, before parliament moved to Berlin

When Bonn was still Germany's capital, individual conservatives and Greens met from 1995 in its suburban Italian Sassella restaurant. Since then, the 'Pizza Connection' has become code for speculation over further links. At regional level, in Hesse's Wiesbaden assembly, Merkel's CDU and Greens have governed together since 2014. Baden-Württemburg's Greens-CDU coalition has governed since 2016.


Another untried combination: Black, red, green, symbolized by Kenya's flag

So far, a 'Kenyan' coalition has only emerged once at regional state level - last year in Saxony-Anhalt, when the SPD's vote collapsed, and the AfD took a quarter of the votes. Premier Reiner Haseloff of Merkel's conservatives forged a coalition comprising his conservative CDU, the battered SPD and the region's Greens.


'Traffic light' coalition

The market-oriented liberal FDP, whose color is yellow, has in the past generally ruled out federal coalitions sandwiched between the Social Democrats, whose color is red, and the Greens. A current example is Rhineland Palatinate's three-way regional state coalition based in Mainz and headed by Social Democrat Malu Dreyer.


Center-left combinations in three eastern states

Red-red-green coalitions exist in two German regions: since last September in Berlin city state and since 2014 in Thuringia. It's Erfurt-based government is headed by Left party premier Bodo Ramelow, seen signing (third from left). Berlin's three-way mix is headed by Social Democrat Michael Müller. Brandenburg has a two-way coalition, comprising the Social Democrats and the Left party.