Macron, Merkel: EU treaty change is not taboo

Merkel and Macron at their joint presser on 23 June 2017. [European Council]

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that treaty change should not be an obstacle to carrying out important reforms, during a joint presser at the end of the EU summit on Friday (23 June),

In a show of unity, Macron and Merkel appeared together in the French delegation Council press room, which is bigger than the German one next door.

A larger than usual number of journalists waited for the two leaders, while only a modest number turned up to hear EU leaders Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk summarise the day’s events.

A joint presser between Germany and France’s leaders is not a precedent. Many remember a famous edition between Merkel and then-President Nicolas Sarkozy in October 2011, in which he openly derided his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi.

This time the tone was more sober and Merkel appeared much more confident besides Macron, compared to his two predecessors.

Macron repeated what he had said the previous day, about the ambition of France and Germany to lead the debate for the future of the EU, and prepare joint proposals to be tabled by September.

France and Germany to make joint proposal for future of Europe

French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday (22 June) that with German Chancellor Angela Merkel they would table concrete proposals for the future of the EU and of the Eurozone in three months’ time.

A journalist jokingly asked if the proposals would be ready before or after the 26 September German elections. Opinion polls show that Merkel’s hopes of serving a fourth term are looking good.

When asked if the forthcoming proposals will require treaty change, Merkel answered first, saying that changes are not an end in themselves, and the goal of reform is for the Union to be resilient enough to face global challenges and threats.

“If this is possible to be done with legislative acts, why not? If greater projects are thought, then maybe treaty change is necessary. It depends,” she said.

In his answer, Macron reiterated an idea that he has voiced before, that Europe should protect its citizens. He said that if the roadmap France and Germany will propose in the autumn appears to need treaty change, then it would result from this logic.

“It is neither an end in itself, nor a taboo,” he said.

It is difficult to say if Merkel and Macron are bluffing about treaty change, knowing in advance that their proposals will not go that far.

Treaty change is an extremely taxing procedure that requires ratification in all member states, and it is likely that one or more countries would reject the proposal.

Populism is not the only risk in trying to push trough treaty change. Some member states could reject the idea purely out of self-interest.

Treaty change seems necessary if the Union wants to create a eurozone with its own budget and parliamentary representation, or introduce more effective rules against members who deviate from European values or fail to show solidarity, as the Visegrad group and the refugee crisis shows.

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have been hit with an infringement procedure for refusing to accept a common decision to relocate migrants, and Poland is the only country to be under a “rule of law” procedure for “systemic threats” to its democratic foundations.

“The EU is based on common values,” Merkel said. “If we see that these values are being damaged… we need to speak out.”