He's been waiting for this! Power-hungry Macron to seize control as Merkel exits

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The German Chancellor has already announced she won’t remain in office beyond federal elections in 2021. Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger, political editor of German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, argued this will boost Mr Macron’s influence.

In 2022 the French president is himself facing an electoral test, likely from far-right National Rally candidate Marine Le Pen.

Writing for Frankfurter Allgemeine, Mr Frankenberger said: “So how will things continue in the EU and in Franco-German relations when the ‘Merkel era’ is history?

“Close Franco-German cooperation will remain indispensable for European politics and for Europe’s self-assertion on the world stage.

“The substance of politics could have a French accent more than before.

“Whoever will succeed Merkel will need time to gain influence and stature.

“If Macron is re-elected as president next year, he will call the tune; he no longer has to take the British into consideration anyway.”

Polling suggests Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) will face a close challenge, from the German Greens in September’s federal elections.

Which party is able to provide the next Chancellor may depend on post-election coalition-building negotiations.

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“In his early years, Macron fooled many of Europe’s progressives and centrists into believing he was one of them, with his fresh-faced look, calls for modernisation, and new political party – the optics distracting from Macron being little more than a shop-variety populist, with just as few real solutions as any other garden variety populist.

“When it comes to foreign policy, Macron has repeatedly expressed a desire for a rapprochement with Russia, to collectively pivot against potential perils from the Middle East.

“Those looking for decisive leadership against populist threats or human rights abusers might have to look elsewhere – unless they come from the right countries for him.”

Mr Ball argues this will boost the role of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, which may be found wanting.

The commission is currently led by Ursula von der Leyen, a former German defence minister.

The writer described the current commission as “perhaps the most mediocre it has been in living memory”.

He added: “None of the factions of EU politics was sufficiently dominant after 2019’s European parliament elections to be able to put their own first choice slate of candidates into the Commission.

“The result was a long series of wrangling to find acceptable compromise candidates which each faction could just about put up with, rather than anyone who was one side’s dream.

“The result is a Commission staffed up by everyone’s third or fourth choices, rather than especially charismatic or effective leaders.”

Britain formally left the EU in January 2020, and restored its statue as a fully independent trading nation the following December.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.

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