Emmanuel Macron visits Berlin Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Macron’s Real Limits

French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel demonstrated the limits of his method. Seemingly compelling oratory does not necessarily translate into feasible policies.

FRANKFURT – When Emmanuel Macron was recently interviewed by two very aggressive journalists, the result was not exactly the “ideal speech situation” cherished by Jürgen Habermas, the towering German philosopher and great supporter of the French president. But, despite being repeatedly interrupted, Macron fared very well. Always concrete and willing, if necessary, to delve into the minutiae of an issue, Macron was clearly on top of his game. He needed no speaking notes, as he also admirably demonstrated in his speech condemning nationalism and populism at the European Parliament a few days later.

His meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin that same week, however, was much different in both tone and substance. Most important, it demonstrated the limits of the méthode Macron: Seemingly compelling oratory does not necessarily translate into feasible policies.

Politics, at its core, reflects the interplay of interests at the national level. And that is precisely where Macron’s ideas about re-designing Europe’s institutional architecture arrive at an impasse. His proposals are too numerous and vague to judge, and they do not account for the state of debate at the national level, where skepticism is on the rise. Being positive about Europe comes at a cost.

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