Pressure will grow on her to step up on Europe, not least from Macron, who has been forcing the pace on economic reform and deficit cuts at home in a bid to win support for change at the European level.
French President Emmanuel Macron offered an ambitious vision for European renewal Tuesday, calling for the EU to work more closely on defense and immigration and for the eurozone to have its own budget, ideas he may struggle to implement.
Four months after winning power and less than 48 hours after a German election that left uncertainty over the future coalition in Europe’s biggest economy, Macron sought to set out proposals to re-shape the 28-nation bloc as it copes with the upcoming departure of the United Kingdom and the changes wrought by a digital economy, mass immigration and terrorism.
One of the most striking proposals was for the European Union to boost its common defence systems and have “autonomous capacity for action” through a joint military force.
He also championed the formation of a European civil protection force that would be activated for natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes or earthquakes.
Jack Parrock reports with more for TRT World on Brussels’ reaction to Macron’s speech.
The 39-year-old centrist is under pressure to balance an array of priorities, including boosting growth of 1.7 percent and lowering unemployment now stuck at around 9.5 percent – about twice that of Britain or Germany. “Those are the wrong lessons to draw from the euro crisis”, he said in an emailed statement, adding that “we don’t need new instruments”.
In the past he has said such a budget should amount to “several points of GDP”, but he did not put a figure on it on Tuesday.
On the other side, Hans Michelbach, a lawmaker from Merkel’s CSU allies, said Macron’s ideas were unsuitable to take Europe forward.
Macron campaigned for the French presidency on a forcefully pro-European platform.
But Mr Macron’s danger is that by painting this new Europe in all its integrated glory, he is setting himself a challenge that is impossibly high.
In Berlin on Monday, Merkel said it was important to move beyond catchphrases and provide detail on how Europe could be improved.
“It is not about the slogans but what lies behind them”, she said.
Analysts praised the French president’s vision.
In an address lasting nearly two hours, Mr Macron called for the European Union to work more closely on areas including defence, security, immigration and corporation tax and for the eurozone to have its own budget.
“Europe needs to be an economic and monetary power”, Macron said, adding that an European Union budget is needed to fund investment and absorb economic shocks. It was not immediately clear whether Macron had managed to go beyond slogans as far as Merkel was concerned.
It may take months before a coalition agreement is signed.