Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Coming Franco-German Bust-Up

The partnership at the center of European integration is unraveling just when Euroskeptic forces are coming together. If French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel cannot start rebuilding the political center, next year's European Parliament election will produce the biggest victory yet for anti-EU populists.

BERLIN – The politics of Brexit is descending into chaos. The European Union is fragmenting into northern, southern, eastern, and western tribes. And now the Franco-German marriage at the center of the European project is in danger of falling apart.

In May 2017, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron met for the first time, many hoped for a renewal of vows. Crowds of pro-European well-wishers urged them on. Macron, the fresh-faced reformer, seemed to have a Midas-like political touch. And Merkel was at the height of her power on the international stage, having been deemed the new “leader of the free world,” supplanting the “very stable genius” in the White House, Donald Trump.

Quoting the German author Hermann Hesse, Merkel observed that, “There is magic in every beginning,” but added a caveat: “The magic lasts only when there are results.” Eighteen months later, the magic most certainly has not lasted. Merkel has now handed over the leadership of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and will not seek another term as chancellor. And Macron, far from walking on water, has been trying not to drown in a sea of yellow-vested protesters.

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