Angela Merkel has been in power for just over two months, but it is already clear that Germany’s foreign policy will diverge further from France’s than under her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder.
The election of a leader who grew up in the former communist East Germany and admits to strong transatlantic leanings has raised questions over the future of the Franco-German axis. What this will mean for Europe as a whole is still unclear, but her diplomacy during last month’s difficult negotiations in Brussels over EU budget contributions was credited by some with having saved the meeting from collapse. Karel Lanoo of the Centre for European Policy Studies sees change ahead. He said: “I had the impression at the end of the Schroeder years that there was a kind of artificial preservation of the German-Franco axis which was already at that time out of date. “What I see from Merkel so far is that she would probably look beyond that and the fact that she comes to visit Barroso immediately after visiting Chirac was a very important indication in that direction. I think she will look much broader than the Franco-German axis which is rather anachronistic and, with the EU of 25, policies need to be adapted,” he added. Merkel won more praise for opening a new chapter in Germany’s relations with the United States. During her first meeting with President George W Bush, she pledged support for America’s ‘war on terrorism’ while garnering approval at home for her earlier criticism of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.