More of the same?: Germany’s EU politics after the election

It probably won’t be easy to quickly produce a stable governing coalition after the German election. What kind of effect it may have on the EU politics taking into account also the fact that the possible Jamaica coalition might be pretty divided on many issues? Read few comments.

Emily MansfieldAnalyst, Europe, The Economist Intelligence Unit

A Jamaica coalition will indeed be difficult to put together, given the deep ideological differences between the Greens and the FDP — especially on questions of Europe, migration, the environment and the labour market. It will take time to reach an agreement, meaning that Merkel will not be focusing on questions of European reform or Brexit for probably the next few months. Even once the government is formed, the inclusion of the FDP means that there will be serious resistance to Macron’s euro zone reform plans, and especially anything that might look like fiscal transfers or greater risk sharing. The new government is also likely to take a more robust approach to sharing the burden of migrants across the EU, with the strength of the vote for the FDP and AfD likely to prompt a shift in German politics to the right.

Eric Langenbacher, Teaching Professor, Department of Government , Georgetown University

I don’t think there will be any real change in German preferences. The FDP will make it very difficult for Macron to push through his more supranational vision–but that was never really popular in Berlin anyway. One thing to look for is that Merkel and others have talked about winning the AfD voters back. If this means less support for further integration measures or a more selfish/nationalist approach, then there will be repercussions.

Ed TurnerLecturer in Politics and International Relations, Aston University

There could indeed be quite significant implications for the EU.  For the first few months, there will be no new coalition so nothing much will change (e.g. at the October meeting of EU leaders).  But the FDP is distinctly “hawkish” on Eurozone matters – so whether or not it secures the finance ministry, you can expect Germany to take a tougher line on southern European nations.  Also, the CSU will be pushing very hard indeed for restrictions on the number of refugees Germany might take in the future, which has consequences for other EU countries.

Paul Hockenos, Writer, Political Analyst

When it comes to EU reform, Merkel would gladly have the SPD by her side. But this option, for the moment at least, is not on the table. The Jamaica coalition would throw EU reform plans into disarray as the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats stand on opposite sides of the fence: the Greens for a more tightly woven Europe with Germany showing more solidarity, the FDP for a Germany-first EU in which Germany fights for its own interests.

Julian Göpffarth, PhD Candidate, European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science

I think to answer that question, you have to take into account not only what is happening with “Jamaica” in Germany, but also at what the French President Macron has outlined in his Sorbonne speech. His bold visions for further European integration, in part in areas that touch points that have been central to the national sovereignty of EU member states, have already been met with critique and strict opposition in the CDU/CSU and the FDP. The CDU/CSU election manifesto’s vision of Europe was characterized by a focus on stronger cooperation in terms of security and an intergovernmental approach.

For example, both, CDU/CSU and FDP are very unlikely to give in to Macron’s idea of a Eurozone budget. One of the lines that FDP leader Christian Lindner repeated over and over again was that Germany will not pay to finance the French state or compensate financially “for the misconduct of Berlusconi” in Italy. The fact that Schäuble will change from the finance ministry to the Presidence of the German Parliament made it more likely that the new Finance minister will be Christian Lindner. With him as a German finance minister it is very unlikely that Macron’s plans become reality. In this, he us strongly supported by the CSU who strictly oppose anything close to a transfer union or Eurobonds. The CDU is equally skeptical but has shown more openness to gradual changes in the EU treaties. It has already countered Macron’s plans by proposing the establishment of a European Monetary Fund whose main aim would be less to invest in economically struggling member states, but rather to assess the finances of Eurozone countries and offer financial assistance under tight reform conditions. The Greens, on the other hand, strongly support Macron’s plans but as even in their campaign, Europe was not a central topic, they are likely to give into the coalition partners in turn for concessions from the other parties in climate change policy – the core issue of the Greens.

Finally, two political actors who have an indirect say on what is happening at the European level are the Front National on the one hand, and the AfD on the other. The new German government has to reach out to Macron simply because of the pressure that it cannot allow Macron and with him the positive pro-EU momentum he embodies to fail. He has pushed through the contested labour market reforms that Germany has been asking for for many years. The general expectation is now that Germany now has to move on its dogmatic stance on strict Eurozone stability. Everything else would only weaken Macron and potentially help the Front National to resurge. However, in Germany, the AfD will equally benefit from any move that implies that “German taxpayers pay for the failing governments of other member states”. After all, the origin of the party is the Greek debt crisis.

Keeping all these factors in mind, it will be difficult to find common ground. However, what is sure is that there will be changes, simply because it is necessary. Given the sheer weight of Germany, the compromise is likely to look more German than French. Other points outlined by Macron, that are unlikely to take the shape he proposed is the idea of a social Europe including such ideas of a European minimum wage or the harmonization of European social security systems, or the idea of democratizing the EU through the introduction of transnational lists in the European elections. The areas where we can definitely expect bolder steps are European migration policy, European inner security as well as the development of a common European defense policy. All German parties have also shown openness to toe idea of a multi-speed Europe. So the idea that some states go ahead on certain points could be a solution to some of the tensions between France and Germany but also the interests of the other member states who, after all, should not be forgotten in this process.

 

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