What Merkel and Macron are to tell Trump in Davos?

Chancellor Angela Merkel met with her Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz for talks at the German Federal Chancellery, on 17 January. She is back in the international arena after months of problems at home and plans to travel to Davos this week. Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler

Donald Trump, the American President, is to deliver the closing speech at this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of 23-26 January in Davos, which as usually is set in the unsullied Alpine landscape. Perhaps, he has something new to say about how America sees Europe. Most probably though, he is simply to repeat his aggressive rhetoric about the Old Continent’s or rather Germany’s faults, regarding bilateral trade and military spending. The French President Emmanuel Macron and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel are also to attend and speak at the 2018 Forum. In total, some thousands of political, government, business, financial and civil society leaders and super rich will be enjoying the legendary Swiss hospitality.

Obviously, both Merkel and Macron will grab the opportunity to engage Trump about his so far unreceptive attitude against Europe. What they are going to tell Trump will be surely related to the 2017 exchanges, between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In order then to understand the meaning of the three speeches, one has to get acquainted with the important moments in the US-Europe relations during the past twelve months. Let’s dig into that.

Heavy traffic over the Atlantic

All along during last year the European leaders had difficulties grasping, what the Trump presidency means for the Old Continent. In his first participation to a NATO conference, the American president went as far as to tell some Europeans in general and Germany in particular, that they owe much money to the US and NATO. Why? For not meeting their obligation to spend 2% of their GDP on armaments, preferably ‘made in America’. He has also accused Germany of exploiting unwarranted advantages in their bilateral trade.

A striking and direct American uppercut hit against the German Chancellor Angela Merkel personally has also been recorded in 2017. Trump has repeatedly said she is destroying her country, by letting in hundreds of thousands of immigrants. In an indirect way, the US president was thus intervening in German political life, supporting the anti-immigration party AfD, a racist and extreme right group. In the September 2017 general election, Germany’s largest ruling party, Merkel’s conservative grouping of CDU, found out the hard way what it costs to maintain an open door policy for immigrants; AfD won one million voters from the conservatives.

Targeting Germany

Trump, even before winning the most important job of the planet, had targeted the US imports of German products. He actually spearheaded his electoral campaign with rhetoric against free world trade, and blamed the imports of BMWs, Mercedes and Audis as one of main causes for America’s imbalances. Still today, the United States is blaming the global free trade arrangement and questions the rules of the World Trade Organization for allegedly penalizing America. It’s not clear yet how seriously is the US planning to practically undercut free global trade, the platform which constitutes the foundation of German prosperity.

No wonder then why Angela Merkel told her European counterparts not to count on America any more, to fight together with the Old Continent, if threats appear. She clearly and loudly said “We Europeans should take our fate to our own hands”. It was as if the NATO bond between the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean was in serious doubt and the US no longer considered the security of Europe as vital as their own. Under Trump, the foundations and the values of the Western World are thus effectively shaken.

Shattering the ‘common values’

In this line of thinking, Trump’s America has also introduced the idea of founding political decision making on ‘alternative facts’. Trump’s White House initiated this unbelievable practice on the first day he stepped in there, by publicising exaggerated numbers, for the attendance of the swearing in ceremony, and then insisting on that. This preposterous way of thinking may not be related to Europe in a direct way, yet it’s a challenge against the sober and exact patent of German thinking.

Speaking about questioning the European standards for political and economic thinking and doing, Paris the ‘city of light’ seems not to have taken the same offence as Berlin. Actually, Emmanuel Macron the French President, invited Trump to together watch the super-spectacle of the ‘Quatorze-Juillet’ , the 14 July military parade in the Champs-Élysées. Trump, of an evidently clownish nature, greatly enjoyed this French treat. The US withdrawal from the United NationsParis Agreement’ for the environment didn’t stop Macron from offering Trump such an honor, despite the latter still insists NATO is an obsolete organization.

The French disconnection

There is no doubt that Trump’s European policy is targeting Germany, not France. This differentiation of the US mind-set towards Europe will be very probably evident in Trump’s Davos speech. It will also be present in what Merkel and Macron have to say to their audience of global leaders. It’s about time the European political horizon became clearer. Macron is currently rushing to precipitate it.

The weakening of Angela Merkel’s position in the internal political arena of her country, offers the French President the opportunity to try and restore France’s position as the ‘Political Academy’ of Europe. It’s not only that he has set the principles to reshape the future of Europe, in a way the Germans cannot easily follow; during the last two weeks, while visiting Beijing and London, Macron also appeared as the authentic representative of the European Union. He asked his Chinese host, Xi Jinping, to further ease the European investments in China and offered him as a gift a horse of the French National Guard. Then in London he promised Theresa May, the British PM, an EU-UK very ‘special trade deal’ after Brexit.

All in all, what Merkel and Macron have to tell Trump this week in Davos won’t be a well concerted narrative. The European divide will be also seem deepened by the anti-immigration rhetoric of the Visegrád (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) four leaders, who are openly siding with Trump in his xenophobic scheme.

 

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Comments

  1. “We will pay you for you to incur losses. And also that you are afraid of being under constant sight from Russia because of our nuclear weapons “- that’s what Trump will say.

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