Opinion

Thinking Global

The growing Franco-German schism

May 13, 2013 22:22 UTC

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with France’s President Francois Hollande (R) at the European Union leaders summit in Brussels March 15, 2013. REUTERS/Laurent DubruleTaxicab2

Occasionally a public opinion survey surfaces that signals a seismic event. That is the case with a new report from the Pew Research Center that measures the widening tremors of a political earthquake now shaking Europe.

Although the report leads with evidence that  Europeans are increasingly losing faith in the European Union (which I wrote about here), the more troubling problem is the fast-growing divide between France and Germany. This schism is ripping apart the bonds that have held Europe together for 60 years – just when they are most urgently needed.

There is  a second, powerful underlying message: Germany has more economic weight and political will to determine Europe’s future than it has had since World War Two. Now, though, it lacks a partner that can replace France’s pivotal importance. Beyond that, Germans are increasingly out of step with most other Europeans in their economic optimism, their faith in their national political leadership and their continued support for European institutions.

Some 75 percent of Germans consider their economic situation good or very good, despite Germany’s recent economic slowdown. At the same time, more than two-thirds of those surveyed in seven other countries – Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Poland and the Czech Republic – are dissatisfied with their economies.

Obama’s chance for a legacy

Feb 19, 2013 19:52 UTC

President Barack Obama devoted just one sentence in last week’s State of the Union address to call for a new transatlantic trade and investment deal. However, if negotiated with sufficient ambition and presidential engagement, it is Obama’s best chance yet at leaving a positive foreign policy legacy.

The other global issues Obama catalogued in his speech were largely about avoiding the worst: North Korea, cyber threats, Iran, Syria and other Middle Eastern upheavals.  Achieving what Obama called “a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” however, has all the makings of grand strategy.

It is about nothing less than combining the world’s two largest economies and communities of common interest in a manner that could reshape all global trade and investment standards. It would also reinvigorate the Cold War’s victors, known then as “the Free World,” at a new inflection point of history. Only through common cause can the United States and Europe ensure they continue to write global governance rules even as they lose relative power and influence to countries that are less committed to democratic rights and free markets.

  •