One of that group's members, the Czech Republic, voted in by a landslide last Saturday a euroskeptic ANO ("Yes" in the Czech language) party, firmly opposed to Germany-dictated immigration policies and the European single currency. True to form, that party has been instantly branded as a bunch of "reactionary populists." They will most probably be joined in the new government by even more euroskeptic and "populist" constituencies.
And that now brings us to Germany, the crux of the EU disarray. The country's center-right political leadership came out from September's elections significantly weakened, internally fractured and seriously threatened by right-wing upstarts thriving on Merkel's immigration policies.
Until recently triumphantly feted as "the most powerful European leader," Merkel is now desperately trying to reach out to improbable coalition partners in order to cling to power. But to show who was the new boss, Christian Lindner, the leader of the FDP (one of potential partners), unceremoniously reminded Merkel that she had no right to take any decisions in the name of Germany.
No wonder that the best the Germans could show for their four-party talks last Friday was that they spent five hours together in a "friendly atmosphere." Some achievement indeed for a company mixing up arch-conservative Bavarians and leftist Greens. Summing up the exploratory talks, a stern Bavarian leader observed that they were still thousands of kilometers apart.
A few hours before those show talks in Berlin, the Germans, and a widely suspected German-friendly EU Commission, took care, during the EU summit in Brussels, of the neophyte's reformist zeal volunteered by French President Emmanuel Macron. The French media reports sounded like Macron's excellent and detailed EU and euro area reform proposals had been relegated to that cylindrical file cabinet one usually calls a trash can.
Those proposals were meant to strengthen the euro area, place the EU and the monetary union's decision making in the space of legitimate democracy to demolish the political terrain currently occupied by euroskeptic right- and left-wing political parties.
I have rarely seen in the German media so much vitriol and total caricature of a thoughtful official initiative taken at the highest level of the French state. And that humiliating treatment was not a media invention.
Departing German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, the architect of austerity policies and the Greek tragedy, summed it up in his newspaper article by saying that the EU did not need new layers of bureaucracy that would merely create additional public debt instruments.
The chastised Macron looked and sounded undaunted at the conclusions of the EU summit proceedings last Friday. What he calls his "German friends" have pushed him into a corner and opened him to hostilities of anti-German "souverainistes" (Front National, La France Insoumise, Debout la France and the angry fractions of a deeply wounded Socialist Party) accounting for more than half of the popular vote.
Macron will now have to respond, and the only way he can do that is by adopting a less friendly and cooperative attitude toward his German "friends," whoever they might be when, and if, Germany gets a new government in the months ahead.