'Days of European Unification Over': Prof. on Merkel-Macron Cooperation Treaty

© AP Photo / Michael SohnFrench President Emmanuel Macron, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel take a break on a balcony of Merkel's office after a meeting in the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, April 19, 2018
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel take a break on a balcony of Merkel's office after a meeting in the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, April 19, 2018 - Sputnik International
On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are signing a new bilateral agreement on boosting cooperation. Among other things, the document outlines the negotiations on the reform of the UN Security Council and French support for the German candidacy for permanent membership in the body.

Sputnik has discussed the treaty with Steve Keen, the crowdfunded Professor of Economics on Patreon, based in the UK.

Steve Keen: I think it probably has a lot to do with those two issues. This is something that they both agreed to do back in about March of last year. So it hasn't been whipped out of the air just because of the Gilets Jaunes protests and the troubles that have been occurring in Germany as well. But I think it's possible that the timing is being accelerated as a form of public relations in the European Union to go against those protests. 

READ MORE: Macron, Merkel Arrive in Aachen and Sign New Treaty on Cooperation (VIDEO)

I don't think it will be particularly effective because the original treaty back in 1963 would've been something that both sides would have seen as an important reconciliation but these days it's more about maintaining the European Union when there are plenty of people such as the Gilets Jaunes that are not exactly sure it's a good idea.

Sputnik: How long-standing then do you perceive this cooperation between the two countries then?

French President Emmanuel Macron hugs German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 in Paris - Sputnik International
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Steve Keen: It's going to be permanently; something depends on where this cooperation is going to end, but the usual agenda of the European Union is to extend and Macron has been pushing heavily to go to a more federal system. He is pushing, of course, for taxation at the federal level meaning the entire EU would be a source of taxation for people in the countries that are members of the EU.

Now that agenda is one which is part of his overall programme. That's been dealt a very big blow by the Gilets Jaunes protests and forced him to cut back on national taxes. The idea that he could successfully implement supernational taxes I think is a dead duck.

Sputnik: Now how much do Angela Merkel and Macron's visions for cooperation converge and are there some points of contention? Perhaps you can just explain to our Sputnik listeners what the contentious points are actually?

Steve Keen: I don't think there's any particular contention points between Macron and Merkel. They both want the European Union to be extended and, of course, Macron is in favour of the European military forces, in favour of taxes at the European level and so on. That would be the areas of their commonplace.

READ MORE: Merkel Gave UK No Assurances on Brexit, Talks on Deal May Restart — Reports

I think the problem really is between their vision which involves further union, which is pretty much written into the European Union treaties and the reaction of places like France, Italy and Greece, Germany and so on, who are finding it hasn't worked out anything like the original proposals said it would be and they want to wind it back.

Sputnik: Well, we know that obviously the European Union is going through somewhat of a malaise, it is going through very challenging strategies over the last five, seven years now, and obviously we've got Brexit just going to happen or not happen next in the next two or three months. Now Merkel says that German and French cooperation is aiming to give momentum to the European Union, what's the likelihood of this happening with the said Brexit looming on their horizon, the rise of euroscepticism in so many of the countries within the EU?

Steve Keen: I think it's pretty much a negative. It's also, of course, the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the euro which the European Union tried to bring a bit of a fanfare on the 1st of January and fell completely flat because nobody felt like celebrating it. With people like Juncker in the European bureaucracy it certainly hasn't been anything like a success that was originally envisaged. So I think it is really the liberal centre pushing back against protests against neoliberalism and it's likely to be quite ineffective.

Sputnik: Merkel has called on the European Union countries to share their capabilities in order to build weapons systems independent of the United States, the relationship with the European Union, NATO and the United States has been quiet frosty the last two years with pressure from Donald Trump for countries like Germany to increase their spending, this is why a lot of people are scratching their heads with this one. What are the chances that Europe would be more autonomous in terms of its defence if this was to be delivered then?

Tear gas is thrown by riot police as demonstrators wearing yellow vests try to cross a pedestrian bridge during march in Paris, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. - Sputnik International
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Steve Keen: I think more autonomy is likely to happen but it won't happen in a peaceful, in a quite fashion because you still have commitment at the upper level of the Macron's and the Merkel's and so on for the Union. Because you have a leader in Italy right now who is ridiculing that same objective. So the days of a unified attitude towards European unification I think are over.

Of course, they were really pretty questionable in the first place because Charles de Gaulle was extremely annoyed with the Germans over the way in which the original treaty was twisted to benefit the formation of NATO and a closer union with America, which he was physically trying to prevent. So again this history is nowhere near as clean and neat as Brussels might like it to be.

The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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