September 22, 2013
The CDU / CSU won the elections, but at the time I write did not reach an absolute majority. While the coalition partner makes a difference – likely Greens or SPD – some early hypothesis may be drawn in any case.
In principle, there are several reasons why the Merkel III governement could speed up some EU files like financial solidarity, large projects and a further institutional round:
– first, electoral time does not lend itselves to foreign policy initiatives: they were on hold
– second, a stronger position of leadership allows taking the lead indeed
– third, Frau Merkel already admitted during the election evening that a third bail-out of Grece should be considered
– finally, during the same ‘elephants’ round’, leaders of other parties indicated that they would support the government’s EU policy ‘out of responsibility’. Since the Bundesrat will not be controlled by CDU/CSU, other parties do matter. Apart from some specific issues like energy policy, an SPD or Green coalition would not alter the current EU policy very much.
However, even stronger reasons point to continued policies of ‘as much Europe as absolutely needed, as little commitment as possible’ :
– Angela Merkel’s cautiousness, often lamented in the EU, has been vastly supported inside the country. It is about her personnality, not just policies.
– For important questions, it is the Kanzleramt that decides, not the foreign ministry
– Greesn lost votes on promising more taxes, SPD didn’t win many on wishing more Europe: neither would wish to be seen as the party of foreign interests
– the CSU sister party has always been slightly more nationalistic than the CDU, it does request coalition negociations on a government programme (it’s main request is to introduce highway tolls to be paid only by foreigners: against EU law, said the SPD)
-Eurosepticism finally arrives in Germany, as ‘Alternative für Deutschland’. It does not advocate leaving the EU, but leaving the Eurozone, and nearly entered the Bundestag, only six months after its creation. The Union parties will see it as a dangerous competitor, both in the long term (potentially doing to the CDU was Die Linke did to the SPD: ruining its chances of a majority), and in the short term (EP elections in May 2014).
Indeed, German elections open an interregnum until the new EU Parliament supports a new European Commision, after Summer 2014. Until then, expect reactions to crisis, and finishing current business, but few clears plans for the future.
Unless the EPP parties loose heavily next May, Frau Merkel will play a decisive role in choosing not only the next German Commissioner, but also the next Commision President. The caliber of these personnalities will indicate if the current Council-led course continues or there is more integration of the eurozone.
This interegnum is also a window of opportunity for other countries, and for other parties: to adapt to new realities and make proposals to Germany and to voters. This is especially the case for France’s Hollande, who cannot hope any more about strong socialist allies.
The EU did progress a lot under Kohl (CDU) and Mitterrand (PS), who picked a certain Jacques Delors. Times are different, but maybe Merkel and Hollande could achieve the same?