The popular German magazine Der Spiegel (the mirror) featured a front page this week showing Merkel, Macron, and Trump, which reflected the current mood of the German media quite well.
It shows France’s President Macron with a fire extinguisher, US President Trump as a fire-spewing wildebeest in the distance and Ms Merkel unknowing what to do next.
A few days later indeed (Der Spiegel’s front pages dates back to 21 April) France’s President Macron, received in full honors in Washington this week, seems to have the US President’s ear whilst Chancellor Angela Merkel cowers in fear (pardon the pun).
Germany, for so long the engine of Europe as well as its unofficial leader under US President’s Obama’s administration, has now seen that leadership role be taken over by French President Macron, and the German media can only watch in agony as they are shifting to playing second fiddle.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="de" dir="ltr">Der Spiegel Fresh view<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EU?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#EU</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/European?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#European</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Trump?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Trump</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Macron?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Macron</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Merkel?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Merkel</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Russia?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Russia</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/fire?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#fire</a> <a href="https://t.co/r0q3v68U4x">pic.twitter.com/r0q3v68U4x</a></p>— Dmitry Zolotarev (@ZolotarevDm) <a href="https://twitter.com/ZolotarevDm/status/987963768205344768?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 22, 2018</a></blockquote>
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The sheer difference in reception between France and Germany by the White House administration (Ms Merkel will receive a simple meeting at the White House with Mr Trump whilst the French first couple got a lavish three-day visit) shows the current shifts in leadership roles, something also noticed by the German press.
While the Germans loved former President Barack Obama for his grace and multilateral instincts, he was at the same time a severe letdown to the hard-nosed French; certainly after they were obliged to call off air strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2013 when the then US President refused to enforce his now famous ‘red line’ on chemical weapons. Even the French leftwing socialists, in power at the time, admitted that this withdrawal was seen as weak by their supporters.
By now the power has shifted with Macron standing side by side next to Trump on Syrian strikes and Merkel playing second fiddle and having to be occupied with problems in her own country rather than being able to lead the world.
Meanwhile, Macron, looking on from Paris as he returns home, sees Berlin and feels a very German feeling known as ‘schadenfreude’ (to derive happiness from someone else’s misfortune).