VDL faces German power shift: What Merkel exit actually means for EU?

Von der Leyen slams 'unacceptable' treatment of France

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Angela Merkel has dominated EU politics during her 15 years as Chancellor of Germany. Her exit will create a gap in the EU politics, could her ally and political mentee, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, fill this? Here’s what Angela Merkel’s exit will actually mean for the EU.

Before she became the European Commission president, Ms von der Leyen had been the longest-serving member of Ms Merkel’s Cabinet.

First serving as labour minister, and then as defence minister, the pair have had a close relationship in the more than 15 years they’ve worked together.

But with Ms Merkel now stepping down after more than a decade at the helm of Germany politics, it seems it’s time for Ms von der Leyen to fly the nest.

European leaders have been watching Ms von der Leyen at meetings closely.

They say she acts like a former German defence minister when Ms Merkel is present – but when the Chancellor isn’t there, her behaviour changes drastically.

Brussels correspondent, Suzanne Lynch wrote in Politico: “[Ms von der Leyen] is no longer the chancellor’s apprentice.”

Now many have lined up Ms von der Leyen to fill Ms Merkel’s shoes, a move which could have major implications for Europe.

What does this power shift mean for the EU?

Ms Merkel’s exit will mean Ms von der Leyen’s will lose a political mentor and a friend; someone who backed her in some of the EU’s toughest times.

With Ms Merkel’s successor as yet unknown, it seems clear the Commission President’s new closest confident in the EU will likely be the French President Emmanuel Macron.

Many have already started to observe a French “influence” in EU politics.

Last week’s State of the European Union address could have been an early indication of this shift in policies from German to French.

The State of the European Union address (SOTEU), is the annual speech made by the President of the European Commission to the European Parliament in September.

Last week’s speech shocked several onlookers for its pro French policies approach.

One senior diplomat told Politico: “French priorities were there at every turn.”

Ms von der Leyen’s announcement of a defence summit to be co-hosted by herself and President Macron also left many stunned.

Her announcement took many by EU countries by surprise and no doubt a little snubbed, as she hadn’t mentioned it during her meeting with ambassadors ahead of her Strasbourg visit.

Further evidence of a move towards French policies, could be seen in her backing of France, in its battle with the US and Australia over a submarine deal.

Australia seems set on walking away from a submarine deal, worth more than €50 billion with France.

Australia has said it is looking for a way out of the contract, signed in 2016 with a French company, to build 12 Barracuda submarines.

Instead it wants to get nuclear-powered subs from the US.

Ms Von der Leyen told CNN, the US’s treatment of France in this matter and in matters of trade was “unacceptable.”

Ms Von der Leyen’s outspoken backing of France overshadows any support shown towards other EU states.

This has left many dismayed that the EU’s could simply shift from German dominated policies to French after Ms Merkel’s exit.

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