It is no secret that French President Emmanuel Macron considers himself the heir apparent to the European Union throne of influence now occupied by Angela Merkel. With the Merkel’s influence diminishing in Germany, and across the continent, the EU is coming to terms with the reality of life without Merkel at some point in the not-so-distant future. Once she does depart the scene permanently, the EU will find itself at a fork in the road. Down one path is a future where the EU rallies around a strong leader and continues on much like before. The alternate avenue is a future where the EU wanders aimlessly in the wilderness without an effective, charismatic leader to guide, and nurture it.
Macron wants to be that leader. The man who succeeds Merkel and takes the European Union to dazzling new heights with a fresh, progressive vision for the future.
This past weekend’s festivities celebrating the 100th anniversary of the First World War’s end seemed to be the perfect opportunity for the French leader to showcase to the world his brand of leadership. Instead, Macron dropped the ball and reminded the world why the European Union is so dysfunctional.
Macron chose to take a major swipe at France’s most powerful ally, and closest friend, the United States. He called for the creation of an EU army to defend Europe from threats posed by Russia, China, and possibly even the United States. He pressed Europe to denounce nationalism, and become “a more sovereign, a more united and democratic power,” curtailing the historical alliance between Europe and the United States in the process. President Trump called Macron’s proposal ‘very insulting’ and rightfully so.
Macron was not sincere about his desire to see an EU army formed. The proposal acted as a political reaffirmation of his ‘Europe First’ values, as well as a reminder of the similarities between himself and Merkel.
Unfortunately for Macron, the play did not work as planned. The ‘EU Army’ proposal made Trump feel more estranged from his European counterparts and supposed allies. The festivities surrounding the 100th anniversary of World War I’s conclusion were ruined. Macron picked up no political capital at home or abroad.
The plan he’d set in motion for the weekend, packed of sound and fury, ended up signifying nothing when all was said and done.