Mrs Merkel is preparing to step down as Chancellor in what is set to be a momentous shift in German and European politics. She has been at the helm for the past 16 years, guiding Germany and, by extension, the EU. Though she and Germany often refrain from appearing to lead the bloc, several political experts have claimed that France relishes any opportunity to push its way on to the European political stage.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Mrs Merkel have largely been perceived as leading Brussels, while other nations follow closely behind.
With Mrs Merkel’s last week in power coming to a close, some will be looking to Mr Macron as the EU’s next natural de facto leader.
He has been at the forefront of vital Brussels policy, including throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
He said the health crisis proved that the bloc needed to “beef up” its powers in order to grapple with international crises.
More recently, he and Mrs Merkel pushed for an overarching European plan to tackle migration flows from Afghanistan as people flee the Taliban’s control.
However, Dr Alim Baluch, a professor who specialises in German politics at the University Bath, claimed Mr Macron will not have a position of power waiting for him in Brussels.
Asked if the French President would now be seen as the de facto leader of the EU, he told Express.co.uk: “No – Macron will continue the very tight Franco-Germany alliance, and that has always been very powerful.
“It’s most impressive when you have in one country a conservative and then the other country a centre-left chancellor or president.
“The alliance will become even more important because of Brexit, and maybe this will get on other countries’ nerves.
“Maybe Germany and France together have to find a third country – Italy has a big economy and a lot of people.
“So, maybe the rest of the EU feels dominated by the Franco-German alliance and that might, going forward, be a problem.
“Germany is very happy for France to pretend that they are more influential than they are and to have shrill messages when they bark at smaller countries or the UK.
“France wants to punch above its weight and Germany says, ‘Yes that’s great, go ahead.'”
Mr Macron’s aides have said in recent weeks that he is concerned about “political paralysis” after Mrs Merkel’s departure, according to France24.
A protracted coalition building period in Germany could make it difficult for France to push for its ambitious EU reform agenda when it holds the rotating EU presidency in the first half of next year.