Correponsal in Berlin
In matters of diplomacy, every little detail has a meaning. And the details of Sánchez’s fleeting passage through Berlin revealed a very different visit to the bilateral ones that Merkel has maintained in the last two weeks with Macron, Rutte and Conte, also to gradually weave the negotiation on the European Reconstruction Fund.
The meeting did not take place this time in Meseberg, the bucolic palace in Brandenburg, just half an hour from Berlin, in which Merkel receives the guests with whom she wishes to establish a special climate of closeness, more intimate and relaxed than the Chancellery from the German capital, always colder and subject to protocol. Furthermore, on this occasion the two heads of government did not appear before the press except in a few brief statements in which they did not admit questions, a level of poor transparency very unusual in the German government.
Without going any further, twenty-four hours before Sánchez’s arrival, Merkel and Italian Conte spent an hour on the clock responding to journalists both Germans and Italians on their agreements and disagreements, in a relaxed exercise of clarity typical of a family chat. Sánchez, however, found the right ways and the right tone for the approach. Not only did he flatter the hostess, acknowledging that he considers it “fortunate to have someone like Chancellor Merkel leading this critical moment as we are living”, but he was also completely open to relax their positions as long as the Reconstruction Fund is approved this month.
“Of course, the government of Spain will everything that is necessary to reach an agreement in July. July has to be the month of the agreement, because there will be no recovery if there is no unity and in that sense I think we have to put all our efforts into it, “he offered for the sake of rapid consensus, and warned against the closed positions advanced by countries like Austria, whose chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has declared that “there will be no debt union with us.”
“I am well aware that there is a very difficult negotiation ahead, there are conflicting interests and there are also different visions of what the European project should be. And none is better than the other, they are all legitimate. But the lesson to be drawn from the decades of European construction is that the union has never been built on vetoes, but on a desire to agree and dialogue, “said Sánchez.
Merkel, for her part, agreed on the need to close the deal before the end of the month. Sources from the Berín Chancellery hint that if it is not achieved on July 17 and 18, perhaps another meeting should be called of heads of government before the summer break. “Time is short,” insisted the German chancellor, who recognized that “there are still very distant opinions” but did not lose hope of “finding united solutions”.
During this brief appearance, Merkel did not mention one of the sticking points. This Merkel it is not the Frau Nein that we met in the previous crisis, to start with because Germany takes the presidency of the Union in turn and will adopt, accordingly, a more neutral role, of building bridges. Among the suggestions for Spain, together with Italy, to convince the “frugal”, Germany proposes that the transfers be linked to national competitive programsad, or that the repayment of the debt is made in a period of 20 years, instead of the 30 that the European Commission has proposed. Merkel insists on the need for control clauses on where the money from the Reconstruction Fund will be spent by the countries that benefit from it. It is at these points that it takes on its full meaning. “Spain will do everything necessary to reach a quick agreement”, in which Sánchez’s will is intuited, but not exactly at the will of his coalition partners.
Also trying to please, and surely achieved that goal, Sánchez sang praises to the German market social economy model, which in his presentation he extended to the rest of Europe. “We have to anticipate many of the changes that have accelerated », he paraphrased Merkel, “and if we respond to them promptly we will make our economies more resilient. For example, climate change. For example digitization. And the preservation and strengthening of the single market, trade relations and prosperity-sharing that we have built over the past few years. “
The German chancellor, on the other hand, omitted this, her own speech, and referred again and again to Michel’s latest proposal, from the European Council, to which the Spanish Foreign Minister has been making butt in public. Finally, Sánchez historically located the crisis to which the pandemic has dragged us, surely for justify the assignments that it seems willing to make. “The chancellor often says that Germany is facing its greatest challenge since World War II,” she compared, “of course in Spain we have not found such an unprecedented situation since the Civil War, in the last century.”