Francois Hollande is an ambitious man, who has shown more tenacity than many had expected. Bringing the promised change to France, he certainly does not wish to follow in his predecessor Sarkozy’s footsteps when facing the conservative Angela Merkel. Hollande had to find a way noticeable enough to show even the average voter that he has what it takes to do what Sarkozy never dared: stand up to, yes, even oppose Merkel.
What better example to use, than Merkel’s matter of heart: the European Fiscal Compact, a treaty that is all about austerity. As a socialist, Hollande's demand for an inclusion of growth impulses, as a solution to the ongoing euro crisis is credible enough. As president of the euro zone's second largest economy he is in a position to make demands of this scope.
Merkel, however, never signaled any kind of readiness to cater to Hollande. She is just as tenacious and steadfast as Hollande, if not more. She also was originally an underdog in her party, who has made it to the top through hard work and a bit of luck. And Merkel knows that if she wants to set the tone in this crucial relationship with France’s president, not touching the fiscal pact is of the utmost importance.
It might be more difficult for her than she has planned. When Hollande visited her for the first time on Tuesday, they declared their friendship and tried to grin and bear it. But, the friendship between the two is not what is at stake. Both of them know all too well how important they are for each other, and how crucial their friendship is for the functioning of the EU. This friendship, they will somehow have to manage to keep. As to who has the upper hand in this relationship, well, that’s a different question. Reaching absolute equality in a relationship is something hardly anyone can claim to have achieved, and it’s something that is even more difficult when the two involved parties are equally proud. Neither of them will budge on their positions on the fiscal pact.
But, behind the scenes, it seems as if a leader is already developing. And it seems as if not Hollande, but Merkel will have a hard time holding onto her position. That said, she will certainly put up a fight to keep her status as the queen of the Franco-German duo.
With more and more elections at the federal state level going terribly wrong for the conservative-liberal German coalition, the position of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) at the domestic front become more important. To ratify the pact, Merkel not only needs the SPD to get a two-thirds majority in the elections at Bundestag, but also in Bundesrat.
Especially after the SPD’s success last Sunday in Germany’s most heavily populated state, North Rhine-Westphalia, positions very similar to Hollande's are now present around Germany These Germans want a tax on stock exchange transactions, growth impulses, Eurobonds, and a strong European Banking Authority. They are well aware that Merkel cannot avoid listening to them, if she wants to ratify the fiscal pact in Germany. But, if she goes in to renogtiate she will surely give Hollande the upper hand.
Maybe he will then achieve what Sarkozy never did -- be the leader in this E.U. power couple.