After a historic decade and a half in power, Angela Merkel will not be seeking re-election at the September 26 German election. However, with the results expected to lead to lengthy coalition negotiations, the Chancellor – known as ‘mutti’, or ‘mummy’, in her country – will stay on as caretaker to ensure a smooth handover of power takes place, which will come as good news for France’s Emmanuel Macron.
Mr Macron will soon be turning his attention to his own re-election, with France heading to the polls in April.
The campaign is expected to be a tough fight for the French premier, with parties on all sides of the political spectrum vying to snatch opportunities where Mr Macron presents shortfalls.
But before campaigning in France begins, Mr Macron will seek to resolve some policy issues on which he knows he has German support in Ms Merkel.
French diplomats have said Mr Macron is anxious about the handover of power, particularly how the timing will impact his campaign.
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He is said to be worried that coalition talks could drag on into 2022, when France will need a strong German partner, both to champion Mr Macron’s European agenda during the rotating EU presidency as well as during the election.
Claire Demesmay, France expert at the DGaP German Council on Foreign Relations, said: “In that case, it would be even best for Macron if Merkel remained in office until the presidential election in April 2022.”
She added: “It would be very bad for him if a new coalition were to form at the beginning of 2022 – because the German partner would then be largely absent for agreements.”
Ms Merkel has already said she will be active after the election, saying: “We want to make sure we have a good handover”.
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Elsewhere in the EU, policymaking and progress are expected to grind to a halt early in 2022.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Economist Intelligence’s Principal Economist and German analyst, Emily Mansfield, said: “These coalition talks could take quite a while – potentially some months.
“During this time, EU policymaking is likely to slow – especially as Emmanuel Macron becomes increasingly focused on the French presidential election.”
Ms Mansfield said this slowdown could impact policy from Brexit to the COP26 climate conference to the European Recovery Fund.
She said during the trip: “I advocate working on having another meeting at the political leadership level with myself, the French president and of course the Russian and Ukrainian presidents.”
Ms Merkel also wants to see her legacy as the “climate chancellor” have more meaning.
She could use the opportunity to encourage the EU to move faster on climate protection.
Any delays to coalition agreements being secured could mean Ms Merkel could surpass her former mentor, Helmut Kohl, as the longest-serving post-war chancellor – a record she would set if she can hang on until December 17.