The French centrist last week laid out a series of proposals for a European renaissance to fend off rising nationalism, but his call received a lukewarm response from other EU leaders. “We will get off to a bad start if she arrives saying ‘I am Mrs Nein’. This is not the spirit of the Franco-German relationship, it is not what the [Franco-German] engine should be like,” centrist lawmaker Richard Ferrand said.
Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU), is “challenging” the French President in a bid to find her feet on the German political stage, Mr Ferrand continued.
“There is probably a positioning problem, a need to restate a number of the CDU’s positions,” he said.
Mrs Merkel’s presumptive political heir offered a tepid response to Mr Macron’s EU proposals, angering the French leader’s allies.
In an opinion piece published by the German weekly Welt am Sonntag called “Doing Europe Right,” Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer echoed Mr Macron’s call for a reform of the bloc’s migration policy, but rejected his idea for a European minimum wage and warned against collective eurozone debts.
“Our Europe needs to become stronger,” she said, before adding: “European centralism, European statism, the collectivisation of debts, a Europeanisation of social systems and the minimum wage would be the wrong way.”
She also called for an internal European banking market to ensure that the bloc’s businesses can secure financing in the EU.
Mr Macron has relentlessly championed EU reform, but apprehension in Berlin of increased burdens on German taxpayers has reined in his ambitions for a pro-EU jolt.
His proposals, unveiled in an open letter published last week in newspapers across the EU, aim to protect and defend Europe’s citizens while giving the bloc new momentum in the face of global competition.
Mr Macron’s plans for Europe strike “more of a chord” with German citizens than Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer’s, Mr Ferrand added.
Mrs Merkel, who faced criticism back home for leaving it to her favoured successor to respond to the French president, on Monday backed Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer’s positions on Europe.
“I think it is important for the CDU to make clear where it thinks we are headed,” she told reporters.
Despite the rift, Paris and Berlin appear determined to deepen Franco-German cooperation.
Mr Ferrand said on Monday that French lawmakers had approved the combined Franco-German parliamentary body conceived in January in Aachen — despite protests from the French extreme left and far right.
“Building such a unique parliamentary institution is a sign of the intensity of our relationship,” said Mr Ferrand, referring to the Aachen Treaty negotiated last year to update a post-war reconciliation pact signed in 1963.
The 100-member joint parliamentary assembly would be able to put forward, but not impose, joint resolutions to the French National Assembly and German Bundestag.