While French president Nicolas Sarkozy is the pol with the bullseye painted on his back after this weekend’s first round of elections, he’ll share the pain with his close associate Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. …even in the unlikely event Sarkozy defeats Socialist Francois Hollande, it’s pretty clear he’d be under great public pressure to either break with Merkel or at least use his leverge with her to secure a moderation of austerity policies.
Art Goldhammer thinks Merkel might be open to change:
If Hollande is elected and goes through with trying to renegotiate the euro zone pact, he’ll find support from countries like Spain and Italy. … And I think [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel has evolved on this, recognizing that an all-austerity approach isn’t going to work. But she’s facing her own election in 2013 and a substantial portion of her party doesn’t want to budge on this. So if I’m correct that she’s evolved, she has a political problem. Hollande’s election might give her some room to maneuver, by building a consensus for more pro-growth policies. Hollande’s election could be a signal of a change in thinking and influence German politics.
French politics and German politics are pulling in increasingly different directions, and the likely outcome is a much greater difficulty in developing a common Franco-German position on the growing number of urgent policy issues filling Europe’s in-box. Even if you think that Merkel and the Germans have put Europe on a one-way trip to failure, a Franco-German impasse is not good news. Europe needs to act, and when France and Germany disagree, it usually can’t. They seem headed for more, and deeper, disagreement these days.
(Photo: Dummies wearing masks representing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy thrown into the Meuse river by CSC Christian union members during an action entitled 'Merkosy' on February 29th, 2012. The CSC protests against the European policies of Sarkozy and Merkel. By Michael Krakowski/AFP/Getty Images.)