Merkel Party Chief Sets Limit on Macron's European Ambitions

(Bloomberg) -- The head of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party rejected “European centralism,” reining in French ambitions for joint action against debt and economic inequality.

A European minimum wage, a unified social-security system and joint debt issuance are “the wrong track,” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel protegee who leads the governing Christian Democratic Union, said in an op-ed for Welt am Sonntag. Creating a “common market for banks” would be worthwhile, she said.

The response from Berlin to French President Emmanuel Macron’s sweeping plans for strengthening the European Union is the latest sign that leaders of the EU’s two biggest powers differ in tone and substance on how to remedy the continent’s gloom.

Merkel Party Chief Sets Limit on Macron's European Ambitions

Seeking to stop the advance of anti-EU nationalists, Macron’s manifesto would create several new agencies, while Kramp-Karrenbauer emphasizes the need for a strategy that links individual states to the approach of the wider region. “The work of the European institutions cannot claim any moral superiority over the collaborative effort of national governments,” she wrote.

“Our Europe must get stronger,” but the answer can’t simply be to transfer powers away from the national and local levels, the newspaper quoted Kramp-Karrenbauer as saying.

“A new foundation of Europe cannot work without the nation states: They provide democratic legitimacy and identification,” Kramp-Karrenbauer wrote. “It is the member states that formulate and bring together their own interests at the European level. This is what gives Europeans their international weight.”

The German politician also called for the EU to get a common permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council to improve the ability of the bloc to be involved in foreign and security politics. There are currently five permanent seats, held by France, China, Russia, U.S., and U.K.

In proposals more aligned with Macron, she said Europe needs a unified database for tracking immigration, “an accord on gapless border protection” and a European pact for climate protection, which would be hashed out by companies, employees and the public.

Macron’s blueprint for “European renewal” is part of a push by political leaders to blunt the appeal of populist parties, who are seeking to turn European Parliament elections across the EU in May into a referendum on their nationalist visions for the continent.

It’s not the first time Kramp-Karrenbauer has laid down markers. Before CDU delegates elected her in December to succeed Merkel as party chairwoman, she courted German conservatives with a strident tone that departed from Merkel’s measured rhetoric.

“No matter how charming the French are -- in France, it’s always and above all about French interests,” she said in November.

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