Notes From Berlin — Another Fast Roundup of Current Political Devel­op­ments in Germany

Foto: By Sebastian Bergmann [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

What the decision for another „Grand Coalition” led by Chan­cellor Merkel implies for Germany, EU and the Transat­lantic Alliance.

This weekend, the inter­na­tional community was looking at the head­quar­ters of Germany’s Social Demo­c­ratic Party (SPD) in Berlin, where almost 380.000 ballot cards were counted. When Sunday morning the results were published, you could hear sighs of relief all over the place: A two-third majority of party members voted in favour of another grand coalition with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. But what seems to be a sound majority is looking less impres­sive having in mind that the entire political estab­lish­ment of the SPD was beating the drums for a YES vote.

Never­the­less, Germany is heading towards another center left /​ center wright govern­ment supported by a broad majority in the Federal Parlia­ment. And once more Angela Merkel will lead the govern­ment. Finally, after all political turbu­lences over the last months, Germany is sending signals of stability and conti­nuity to friends and foes.

Any other decision by the Social Democrats would have been self-defeating, giving their histor­ical low in recent polls. It also would have been highly irra­tional before the backdrop of the outcome of the coalition talks in favor of the Social Democrats, both in terms of political agenda and minis­te­rial positions. In spite of their disap­pointing election results, the SPD managed to conquer major offices in the upcoming govern­ment, espe­cially the Foreign Office, the Treasury and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy with it’s huge amount of financial resources.

If Sigmar Gabriel, the acting Foreign Minister, will remain in office, is the most inter­esting question for the next days. The bets are against him, because he’s an approved adversary of the Social Democrats new dual lead­er­ship: Andrea Nahles, the former Minister of Labour and Social Policy, and Olaf Scholz, first minister of Hamburg and desig­nated Minister of Finance. Further­more, Gabriel has publicly chal­lenged the Russia- /​ Ukraine-Policy of the Chan­cellor, demanding a much more soft position towards the Kremlin. But still it’s not clear who may become his successor.

Angela Merkel, who prema­turely has been portrayed as chan­cellor in decline by parts of the media, has once again showed her polical skills. In a surprising move, she promoted Annegret Kramp-Karren­bauer, the Prime Minister of a not too large federal state in the very Southwest of Germany, to become the General Secretary of the Christian Demo­c­ratic Party – the same position she held before pushing away the former Chan­cellor Helmut Kohl. Further­more, she will bring some next-gener­a­tion Christian Democrats into the cabinet, including a potential adversary from the more conser­v­a­tive wing of the party.

Once more, Merkel is calling the shots. She will decide when to hand over the baton – either during or after the current elec­to­rial periode — and she will propose her successor.

The coalition agreement between the two parties puts Europe into the fore­ground. The govern­ment will look for closer coop­er­a­tion espe­cially with the French president. But given the internal turmoil in the EU and the unre­solved political disputes over fiscal and economic policies, refugees and the European policy towards Russia, it seems not very likely that we’ll see big leaps towards a more united and powerful European Union. The outcome of the Italian General Elections may turn out as another stress test for the EU.

At the same time, frictions within the Transat­lantic Alliance are becoming deeper. President Trump’s protec­tionist move towards punitive tariffs is trig­gering a transat­lantic trade war, which will further more weaken the military alliance between Europe and the US.

Unfor­tu­nately, that’s not a very rosy picture concerning the state of the West. The Kremlin may see this as an oppor­tu­nity to intensify its attempt to split NATO and the EU and to promote anti-liberal forces in the West. This is the battle the Center for Liberal Modernity is engaged in.

Ralf Fücks is managing partner of the Center for Liberal Democracy, a new think tank and policy network in Berlin


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