Under the German Whip (I)

BERLIN/PARIS | | frankreich

BERLIN/PARIS (Own report) - Strong criticism of German predominance in last weekend's new appointments to EU top positions is being raised in France. The EU's designated Juncker/Tusk/Mogherini triumvirate "undoubtedly" carries the German signature, according to a longtime renowned EU political observer. After having imposed its austerity dictates on the EU over the past few years, Berlin has now actually taken over the designation of EU leadership personnel. This has not only become evident by the rebuff of French proposals for the posts of Commission President and the Council President and the prospect of a "German" successor to the French General Secretary of the European External Action Service (EEAS). An unrivaled number of top posts in Brussels' institutions are held by Germans, including the posts of President of the European Investment Bank and that of the Managing Director of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Germans also hold top posts in the European Parliament. Berlin is particularly using its influence for the posts important for its austerity dictate. Observers are not ruling out future protests and even serious upheavals.

Berlin's Signature

A French EU expert is expressing unusually sharp criticism of last weekend's new appointments to EU top positions. Jean Quatremer, a journalist for the left-liberal journal, "Libération," is known to have a profound knowledge of the political scene in Brussels. According to Quatremer, there is no doubt that the appointments of the EU's new triumvirate comprised of Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and Federica Mogherini bear Berlin's signature.[1] Quatremer also maintains that these current appointments in Brussels represent multiple serious setbacks to French interests. The new composition of the EU top personnel seems intended to consolidate German predominance over the EU.

Pro-German

Quatremer points to the fact that EU Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker, had also been able to win his nomination as leading candidate for the conservatives over his French rival, EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Michel Barnier, with German support. This is an even greater defeat for Paris, because of Juncker's close affinity to Berlin. He prides himself in having been "raised to be pro-German" and is considered to have been Helmut Kohl's protégé. Already in 1988, Germany awarded him the "Federal Cross of Merit with Star and Sash." "You have more than lived up to the hopes placed in you in 1988," praised Chancellor Angela Merkel, November 8, 2013, as she awarded him her country's "Grand Cross of the Order of Merit." Back in the 1990s, Juncker had also been very helpful for imposing the German government's standpoint over that of France. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[2]) President of the EU Commission, Juncker will employ Martin Selmayr, from Germany, to head his cabinet. Selmayr had come to the commission from the EU representation of the Bertelsmann AG. While heading the office of Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, he was often referred to as "the actual commissioner."[3]

Consequences for Paris

In nominating Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to be the next President of the EU Council, Quatremer affirms, Berlin has successfully imposed its will. Paris would have preferred Denmark's social democratic Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, but had to give in to the German choice. Quatremer mocks at the German allegation that one of the eastern EU member states' politicians should finally be given a top position, reminding that northern EU member states have never held such a post. Tusk will also preside over the special meetings of the 18 Euro-countries' heads of governments, even though Poland has not joined the Euro zone. His neo-liberal course is considered advantageous for maintaining Germany's austerity dictate. According to Quatremer, Federica Mogherini's nomination to be the EU's next foreign policy chief will have direct consequences for France. He writes that, in return for Berlin's support for her candidacy, Mogherini has agreed that a German will succeed the Frenchman, Pierre Vimont, in the post of the General Secretary of the European External Action Service, which is directly under her authority and considered very influential. Helga Schmid, a German diplomat, who since the mid-90s had been employed in key posts in the German Foreign Ministry, before transferring to the foreign policy bureaucracy in Brussels, is a likely candidate for that position. She is currently the Deputy Secretary General for the External Action Service (EAS) handling important dossiers, for example, the policy toward Iran.[4]

German Europeans

Quatremer points out that an above-average number of other key positions in the administration in Brussels are being held by Germans. For example, Uwe Corsepius, former head of the Europe Section of the German Chancellery, is today the General Secretary of the Council of the European Union in Brussels, an apparatus with approx. 2,500 employees. The European Parliament's General Secretary is Klaus Welle, also a German, who has introduced far-reaching initiatives. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) The head of the Euro Crisis Funds (the European Stability Mechanism - ESM), Klaus Regling and the President of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer are also from Germany. Hoyer had been the State Secretary in the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1994 to 1998 and from 2009 to 2011 and is as intimately familiar with Berlin's foreign policy projects and objectives as Corsepius. Now that the German Social Democrat, Martin Schulz, has been elected President of the European Parliament, only 3 of the seven parliamentary groups are under German leadership: the European People's Party group, (Manfred Weber, CSU), the Greens (one of the co-chairs is Rebecca Harms of the German Greens) and the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) with Gabi Zimmer, (Die Linke). Schulz had to step down as chair of the Social Democratic group after his election as President of the Parliament.

Authority to Set Guidelines

At the beginning of 2011, the German foreign policy flagship periodical, "Internationale Politik" described how "a German EU Chancellery was virtually evolving" with Angela Merkel as "EU Chancellor." According to the journal, she, Merkel, has long since acquired the "authority to set guidelines" within the union. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) Berlin "nominates the men and women to the top posts of the Union" and "dictates their policies," writes the EU expert, Quatremer, and refers to the fact that Chancellor Merkel recently announced that next year, Luis de Guindos, of Spain, would be the successor of Jeroen Dijsselbloem from the Netherlands at the head of the Euro group. De Guindos, who had been the director of the Lehman Brothers Investment Bank in Spain until its collapse, has made himself a name by supporting a hard-line austerity policy along the lines of the German model. In addition, Berlin has also sought recently to block Pierre Moscovici of France from becoming the EU's Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner, which Paris had laid claim to, as a firewall to prevent a total success of the German austerity steamroller. According to the most recent reports, the German government seems to have been unsuccessful. However, Moscovici is supposed to be issued a "chaperone." It is said that EU Commission President-elect, Juncker will designate a Vice President, who will supersede the Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner in authority. The former Finnish Prime Minister, Jyrki Katainen, is favored for this post. He is reputed to be a resolute advocate of a hard-line austerity policy.

Pose the Question

"Can, in the long run, the European countries continue to accept living under the German whip?" asks Quatremer. "To pose the question, is to furnish the answer." In fact, observers are not ruling out anything from protests, all the way to serious upheavals in the near future. german-foreign-policy.com will report tomorrow.

[1] Zitate hier und im Folgenden aus: Jean Quatremer:L'Allemagne impose son casting à la tête de l'Union européenne. bruxelles.blogs.liberation.fr 31.08.2014.
[2], [3] See Particularly Close to Germany.
[4] See The Most Important Country in the EU.
[5] See Particularly Close to Germany.
[6] See Europe's Chancellor.