EU divide: Germany set to be ‘pushed to the edge’ by Brussels’ economic policy

The German election could provide a surprising result as Angela Merkel’s successor runs a disastrous campaign. Armin Laschet, an ally of the outgoing Chancellor who has previously been branded the “male Merkel”, has left his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party languishing in the polls. For the first time in 15 years, the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) led by Olaf Scholz overtook the conservative CDU in the polls. A recent poll found the SPD comfortably in the lead with 25 percent of intended voters, while Merkel’s CDU has just 21 percent.

Whatever happens, however, Germany is likely once again to be led by coalition parties – something that has become the norm in Berlin.

One possible outcome is the SPD leading a coalition with the Greens and Free Democratic Party (FPD).

Expert on foreign relations within the EU, Susi Dennison, tells that one key issue will be Germany’s approach to the European economy.

She says that the EU recovery fund during the pandemic “pushed Germans to the edge” of what they would tolerate.

Ms Dennison said: “The recovery package was accepted by the German public, but it pushed them to the edge of what they were comfortable with.

“I think that although Scholz will have more of an ear for the EU beneficiary states such as Spain and Italy, I wouldn’t expect a great deal more lenience than we’ve seen previously.

“Also, the FPD will likely be in the Government and will have a breaking role on that issue.”

Germans have long been politically sceptical of plans for joint European debt, but Chancellor Merkel backed the recovery fund last year as a one-off measure to tackle the economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was met with opposition in Germany though – opponents had sought an emergency court ruling to halt the fund, pending a full decision in their legal case.

But the court declined to grant it, saying a cursory review did not reveal a high probability that the borrowing violates Germany’s constitution.

The court said in a statement: “The disadvantages that result if the temporary injunction is not issued but the [Own Resources Decision] later proves to be unconstitutional are less severe than the consequences that would occur if the temporary injunction were issued but the constitutional complaint later proves to be unfounded.”

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The expert from the European Council of Foreign Relations also thinks Mr Scholz is trying to imitate Ms Merkel’s ability to reach out across the political spectrum.

Ms Dennison continued: “I think Merkel is known for being a consensus builder, I think that is necessary in German politics because of the norm of coalition governments and the practice of building a coalition programme.

“I think we will see a similar approach from Scholz on that front, but there will also be a need from him politically to show that Germans haven’t just elected the same Government again.

“The areas he has been trying to put clear water between himself and Merkel have been around the climate agenda, where Merkel has been seen to have significantly under-delivered.”

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