Cardinal Richelieu and Napoleon already liked it here: The island fortress Fort de Bregancon, now the summer residence of the French presidents, is a gem on the Cote d’Azur not far from Saint-Tropez. The last German Chancellor to have been invited here was Helmut Kohl in 1985.
French President Emmanuel Macron is now expecting Angela Merkel at the castle. The Chancellor will hardly be able to relax there: A German-French summer retreat on hot topics on the EU and world agenda is scheduled – one day after the special EU video summit on Belarus.
Financial overview from the castle hill
From the high observation point of the rock fortress 35 meters above sea level, the German and the French will first get an overview of how the EU finances will continue after the summer break. In July, the EU heads of state and government agreed after a tough struggle to allow the member states to borrow together for the first time for extensive corona aid programs. Since they also provided for savings in other expenditure in the EU’s multiannual financial framework, the European Parliament has announced its bitter resistance.
This is not the only reason why the entire EU will monitor very closely how Merkel and Macron position themselves near the president’s private beach. A German-French walk on the beach is badly remembered by many member states. Back in 2010, Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy in Deauville in Normandy were looking for a common line in overcoming the financial crisis. What came out of this was seen by EU partners as paternalism.
EU neighbors near the “Mimosa Street”
European neighbors temporarily reside in the immediate vicinity of Fort de Bregancon: The Luxembourg Grand Duke and the Belgian royal family also have their holiday homes in the area through which the “Street of the Mimosa” leads. Merkel and Sarkozy received backing for the EU financial plans from the former budget commissioner of the European Union, the German Günther Oettinger. In a guest article in the “Handelsblatt” newspaper, he predicted a glorious future for the EU common currency, the euro – precisely because of the fiercely contested decision to risk joint debt borrowing by the EU states for the first time.
Under the heading “The euro has what it takes to become a world star”, Oettinger said: “This historic step opens up the opportunity for the common currency to become a ‘big player’ in the international currency world and, in the long term, to break the dominance of the US dollar as the reserve currency. Central banks outside the euro zone will in future be able to hold a significant amount of EU bonds as reserves for the first time – this will make the European Union an important bond issuer and the euro the reference value on the bond market. “
Brexit, Aegean Sea, Belarus – European crisis areas abound
Macron reciprocates with the invitation – rarely given to selected dignitaries – to his summer retreat for a stay in the guest house of the federal government, the Brandenburg baroque castle Meseberg, at the end of June. At that time, he and Merkel laid the foundation stone for the agreement on the EU’s 750 billion euro corona aid package.
In addition to the consequences of this agreement, Merkel and Macron have to deal with a whole range of international crisis areas. On Friday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, plans to deliver an interim report on the current status of talks on the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom. So far he has little tangible evidence to show, which the EU blames for the British lack of willingness to agree.
The situation in Belarus will reappear on the agenda after the EU does not recognize the election result there and prepares sanctions. A conflict between two NATO members must also be defused: In the dispute between Greece and Turkey over gas deposits in the Aegean Sea, Macron sent warships to demonstrate determination. The German Chancellor is apparently taking a more cautious line here.
Concern about the situation in Mali
After all, Merkel and Macron must be extremely alarmed about the situation in Mali. France has historical strategic and raw material interests there and intervened militarily in 2013. The Bundeswehr has several hundred soldiers deployed in the crisis region as part of a UN stabilization mission, it is considered one of the most dangerous and is intended to train the Malian armed forces to fight Islamist extremists and criminal gangs.
So little time for dreamy views over castle battlements on the southern French Mediterranean panorama between Marseille and Nice. And probably also for a walk on the beach. Many in the EU may breathe a sigh of relief.