The Strategist

Will Édouard Philippe keep Macron's rating afloat?

09/18/2017 - 14:48

Last week, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe visited Germany, where he held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the future of the Eurozone after the UK's withdrawal from the EU. The talks between Philip and Merkel have strengthen the role of the French Republican premier against the backdrop of the fall of President Emmanuel Macron's ratings. The confident of France’s Head, according to experts, is looking for an opportunity to increase his role in politics, but he also needs to "keep the balance."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wins the election, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will have to take the joint work with her and reform the Eurozone. It was he who visited Berlin this week, where he discussed the future of the eurozone after the British withdrawal from the EU.

At a press conference following the meeting with Merkel, Philippe admitted that "being tough with the British is not the goal, but negotiations will be difficult."

Despite the fact that almost the Brexit procedure has been commenced six months ago, the European Union still has no answers to some questions. Apparently, many of the issues are to be solved by the two most influential economies of the EU, France and Germany.

Earlier it became known that French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are experiencing certain difficulties in the negotiations on reforming the EU. As British The Guardian previously noted, there are "serious differences" in the parties’ opinions. Macron, according to the publication, believes that the financial union needs more centralization, and the EU needs its own finance minister.

He is not alone here. The introduction of the post of EU finance minister is supported by Head of the European Commission Jacques-Claude Juncker.

Merkel, however, believes that the financial union needs as little centralization as possible. Not objecting to the post of finance minister, she wants him to have no real power, but instead act as an executor and coordinator of the decisions taken.

The French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who also speaks well in Goethe and Schiller's language and feels sympathy for German culture, will have to find a compromise. The main task for him is to fulfill President's mandate. "Macron expressed a clear message to Berlin about his determination to change the current course of the French economy and return it to parity with Germany," notes European expert Pierre Vimont on the Carnegie Center website.

It is known that Philippe took his post in defiance of expectations. The former mayor of the city of Le Havre was little known in the circles of the political elite. Analysts expected to see a completely different person - Francois Bayrou, the former head of the Justice Ministry, who greatly contributed to Macron’s victory in the presidential election.

However, according to experts, Macron needed a new face in power, not connected with the former elites, and that's why Philippe became the head of the cabinet.

New Prime Minister has a reputation as a political centrist. Just like Macron, Philippe comes from the university environment. In his youth, he was a socialist for some time, but then joined the ranks of the Gaullist party. Both politicians are well acquainted with each other since 2011. Philippe repeatedly spoke of Macron with respect, saying once that he "thinks about 90% the same way he does."

It is worth noting that after Philippe took over as Prime Minister of the country, many journalists remembered that he used to write books, and with pleasure quoted one of them - "Dans l'ombre" - a political thriller dedicated to abstract politics.

However, if we get back on track, there are many problems in the French economy: economic growth in the country in the last five years remains quite low (0.2% - 1.3%). Eurostat cites data that France's GDP increased by 1.2% in 2016. This is less than the euro area’s average (1.8%) and the EU as a whole (1.9%). Unemployment makes up 10% of the total working population, and 24% of the unemployed are young people.

Perhaps, Philippe needs to find opportunities to overcome the crisis in France, including the budget deficit, as well as harmonize the tax policy. President gives him directions, but he still has an opportunity to have his own profile.

With President’s full agreement and with his knowledge, he has to find his place in politics. Philippe wants to achieve international changes, and in this context his foreign trips are a way to reach this goal.

Perhaps Philippe is one of those rare French prime ministers who can have a serious political role. Just compare him to heads of government under Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, whose premiers were only executors.

Balance in the relations between President and Prime Minister is very delicate yet important. If Macron’s ratings fall, Prime will lose its role as a shock absorber.

Macron is currently losing popularity. IFOP sociological service says that only 40% of the French are support the Macron policy, while 57% hold the opposite opinion.

After four months in office, Macron’s rating is lower than that of any of its predecessors since 1995.

Perhaps acting in difficult circumstances and taking on important policy directions, Prime Minister Philippe will be able to please the French, which will provide President and Prime Minister with a political future.