Europhile alliance: ‘Mini-Merkel’ cosies up to Macron and joins calls for ‘more Europe’

Germany: Laschet faces ‘battle’ to be chancellor says expert

Mr Laschet, who beat Friedrich Merz in the race to become leader of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) last month, is widely regarded as closely aligned with Germany’s current leader, to the extent that he is sometimes referred to as “mini-Merkel”. And speaking yesterday, he made it clear that, if he gets the nod when the 64-year-old steps down later this year, he will maintain her famously close links with France and Mr Macron and the quest for “more Europe”.

The Prime Minister of the North Rhine Westphalia region said: “Strategic foresight and passion are indispensable in foreign policy.

“Sometimes you have to develop ideas in foreign policy that are not yet realistic in day-to-day business.”

Such an approach has served Mr Macron well when he opted to enter the 2017 French Presidential race with a “pro-European agenda”, Mr Laschet said.

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Mr Laschet lavished praise on the Franco-German Treaty of Aachen signed in 2019, which outlines areas of cooperation with respect to armaments and technology.

He explained: “This is the Franco-German blueprint for steps towards integration, but it is open to everyone.”

A “two-speed Europe”, like the euro and the Schengen area, was also possible in foreign and security policy, Mr Laschet stressed.

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Mr Laschet narrowly defeated Mr Merz in the second ballot of 1001 CDU members, carried out online as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

Speaking afterwards, former German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel argued Mr Merz, whom he believes is better suited to the role of Chancellor, had been treated unfairly.

By pushing back the scheduled vote, Mrs Merkel had simultaneously boosted Mr Laschet’s chances and hampered those of Mr Merz, Mr Henkel claimed.

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He added: “Merkel’s closest advisor Helge Braun, Germany’s Minister of Special Affairs, came out publicly to endorse Laschet, and a number of Prime Ministers close to Merkel, too.

“Since Laschet had a public office he used this to constantly present himself in the media.”

Mr Henkel added: “Merz is one of the few politicians who have a realistic view of the tremendous loss to the EU by Britain leaving.

“Whether Laschet has that, I don’t really know but I doubt that he is able to understand the economic and strategic implications.

“In fact as Germany’s official coordinator for the German-Franco Relations, Laschet is definitely more francophile than anglophile.

“It is not an accident that Macron was among the first to signal his satisfaction with the outcome of the party‘s vote last weekend.”

Mr Laschet replaced Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was unable to convince party members she had what it took to take over from Mrs Merkel.

Mrs Merkel, who announced her decision to stand down last year, has been Germany’s Chancellor since 2005.

(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)

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