Macron hasn’t been particularly welcoming to Merkel’s position. His criticism of the European Parliament’s demand that it nominate the commission chief implicitly challenges Weber’s claim to the role as leader of the European People’s Party in upcoming legislative elections – even if his grouping emerges as the winner.
Meanwhile, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has called for an ECB president with similar “courage” to Draghi – a veiled criticism of Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, who often opposed the Italian’s policies.
Those salvos may also reflect a cooling in Merkel’s relationship with Macron. The two have struggled to find common positions on key political issues from trade to EU integration. Merkel said in a recent interview that France and Germany had differences but that both countries usually find a “middle ground”.
A problem for Merkel is that both of her country’s leading contenders for the top EU jobs are a hard sell. Weber has struggled to make a mark pursuing a role that is supposed to wield the political clout of the bloc. The chancellor’s influence in lobbying for him among leaders is also curbed by the role of the European Parliament in approving it.
Weidmann has the gravitas to lead the ECB, and his candidacy would offer Merkel more leverage among colleagues. But he also incites strong opinions, as suggested by Le Maire. An official from a different euro zone country, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that his government would oppose the Bundesbanker adamantly.
The ECB and commission jobs will both be vacant in November, and the possibility of a carve-up between France and Germany is controversial. European Council President Donald Tusk this month called for a “geographical balance as well as a demographic balance” in the region’s top jobs.
Merkel’s most recent signal of her determination came in an interview with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. She said that as a member of the country’s conservative CDU party, she supports Weber’s bid, but that doesn’t mean Germany hasn’t got other suitable candidates for top EU posts.
That may hint at seeking the ECB for Weidmann, or a less controversial German alternative such as European Stability Mechanism chief Klaus Regling.
Some euro-region officials speculate that Germany would probably have to give up one of the roles held by its nationals if it does manage to clinch the ECB. As well as the ESM, the country also leads the European Investment Bank among major positions.
In the meantime, the lack of news about a possible solution to the impending French-German standoff in the prelude to the summit suggests no solution is imminent.
Merkel has acted to stem speculation, stoked by Juncker, that she could step up herself for a top job such as Tusk’s. She said last week that she’s “not available for any political office, wherever it is, and that includes Europe”.