French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent Central and Eastern European (CEE) visit was notable for what he discussed (stimulating the French economy), and perhaps even more notable for where he visited… and where he did not. While the tour may have accomplished his quest for regulating posted workers (he claimed current numbers harm the French economy), his policy objectives may have been overshadowed by the growing rift in the European Union (EU), and especially amongst the Visegrad countries of Central Europe.
On his three-day tour, President Macron met with national officials from Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. Noticeably absent from the trip were Poland and Hungary, two vociferous critics of the EU under their respective populist governments. Mr Macron’s omission of these countries from his itinerary was not necessarily a big surprise, as the French President has been critical of these countries since his presidential campaign.
Indeed, in May, he claimed that “rule-breaking” EU countries such as Poland or Hungary could face tougher action from EU organs. More substantively, Mr Macron feels that these eastern countries benefit substantially from the EU but refuse to follow its rules when it suits them.
Even though Hungary might be a more visible problem with regard to European values, in reality, Poland is the main troublemaker for France. This hasn’t always been the case, as France and Poland used to be on fairly good terms. Back in the 1990s, together with Germany, they formed the so-called “Weimar Triangle,” a group promoting cooperation between the three by organising meetings amongst political leaders. However, the last of these meetings was in 2011 and, given the stance of the current Polish government, the outlook for further cooperation within the Triangle seems gloomy. The socially conservative, fiscally-liberal Law and Justice (PiS) party, in power since 2015 and led by Beata Szydło, is, in…