When the leaders of France and Germany hold a working dinner tonight at the Elysee Palace in Paris, much of what the European Union represents will be on the table. For German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the dinner will be her last official tête-à-tête with French President Emmanuel Macron. She resigns after the September 26 elections in Germany. During her 16 years in office, and after consulting with four different French presidents, Merkel has ensured that the two most powerful economies in the bloc work together to protect the postwar European peace project.
The future of the 27-nation union hinges on the Franco-German consensus that two of the top candidates to replace Merkel in Berlin visited Macron in recent days to display their pro-EU credentials. And she has done such a good job of holding the EU together during difficult crises that a plurality of French would elect her as EU president over Macron, according to a recent poll.
However, the same poll also found that the majority of Germans do not see their country as the main power in the EU. It is precisely this strange harmony between the two giants of Europe that helps the EU to remain a beacon for democratic values.
France, especially under Macron, has had a strong vision for the future of Europe, such as his idea of a military force on par with that of the United States. Germany, especially with Merkel, seeks simply to defend and solidify the EU against internal divisions, such as Brexit and the euro crisis. The two leaders have accepted a co-responsibility to overcome their differences, which has given them the nickname “Merkron.”
Their respect for each other and their ability to speak as one reflects the same qualities that have suppressed the kind of militant nationalism that led to two world wars and then the need for the EU. Your dinner tonight will focus on some tough topics, like Afghanistan and a terrorist threat in North Africa. Leaders who practice active peacemaking between their countries will make it easier to address these problems.
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