Being the closest political partner within the European Union, the German debate about the French EU-Presidency is quite substantial. All relevant German actors are quite engaged in observing and evaluating the announced priorities, no less due to the fact that the German government was involved in the preparations with the French Presidency from the start. As mentioned above, because of the failed ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland, the focus of the debate shifted from the four official French EU-Presidency’s priorities, to the question of the Reform Treaty’s future.
In this subchapter German actors’ interests and concerns with regard to the French agenda for the second half of 2008 will be analysed according to the following issues of the debate: energy/climate, future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), defence, immigration, Union for the Mediterranean.
Energy and climate policy
Need for stronger reform commitment in the Western Balkans
Germany continues to support the accession of the Western Balkan states to the European Union. As Chancellor Merkel said, “the future of the Western Balkans lies within the EU”. However, while many important steps have been taken already, substantial reforms especially in the areas of justice and administration have not yet been devised. Here, „every state forges its own destiny“. The accession conference with Croatia under the German EU Presidency on June 26th 2007 allowed for the opening of accession negotiations in six further chapters. Yet, with the salient issue of the ecologic and fisheries protection zone Croatian commitment to reform has come under scrutiny – as have the reform endeavours in all Western Balkan countries. Both ruling parties in the grand coalition – Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) – are concerned about the progress and the sustainability of the reforms in the Western Balkan region, brought up by the European Commission’s enlargement strategy paper and progress reports on the (potential) candidate countries.
Delay of the German ratification process
In the aftermath of the Irish referendum, the German government declared their determination to take a leading role in rescuing the Lisbon Treaty, promising to strongly support the French government in their efforts to press on with ratification. However, the government’s plans to serve as a model country were hindered by Federal President Horst Köhler’s decision to suspend the signature of the Lisbon Treaty and to wait for the verdict of the federal constitutional court (“Bundesverfassungsgericht”). The eurosceptic Left Party (“Die Linke”) and the Bavarian CSU deputy, Peter Gauweiler, had appealed to the court, claiming that the Lisbon Treaty would be inconsistent with the German constitution. The German government is, however, convinced that this is not the case and expects a positive verdict, stressing that Köhler’s decision is a “normal procedure” that does not imply any negative statement by Köhler himself.
Since the German parliament has sent soldiers to Afghanistan, there has been a controversial debate in Germany about the meaning and purpose of the mission of the Bundeswehr (German armed forces). The Kunduz Province in northern Afghanistan, which was regarded as relatively safe, has developed into a dangerous area for German soldiers. Since 2002 a total of 43 soldiers of the Bundeswehr have died. In April 2010 seven German soldiers were killed whereby the operation is becoming increasingly unpopular in the German population. A poll conducted by ARD television in April showed that 70 percent of the respondents demand a withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Bundestag, however, agreed on a new Afghanistan mandate for one year in February 2010 and increased the staff ceiling of 850 soldiers to 5,350. In a government statement from Thursday, 22 April 2010, Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic Union – CDU) defended the operation and called voices for an immediate withdrawal, as demanded by the Left Party (DIE LINKE), irresponsible. She also called for more support from society for the soldiers.
Severin Fischer, Meike Löhr and Julian Schwartzkopff
In Germany, the outcome of the Copenhagen conference led to a variety of different interpretations. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German government described the result with “mixed feelings”, while environmental associations and opposition politicians called it a “disaster” with a “disillusioning and insufficient result”. Europe gave up its leading role on climate protection without even fighting for it, Reinhard Bütikofer (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) argued, whereas the Social Democrats (SPD) accused China and the United States of not being cooperative enough. Hubert Weiger, head of BUND, one of Germany’s most influential environmental NGOs, clearly expressed his disappointment about the EU being responsible for Copenhagen’s failure. The EU should have been an example for others, but stranded. Germanwatch, another environmental NGO, argued that the “negotiating poker failed due to the misguided strategy pursued by central actors”. Accordingly, the EU did not take over a leadership role.
Germany more realistic and less enthusiastic of further enlargements; Neighbourhood Policy projects assessed positively
Katrin Böttger and Daniela Caterina
Of the three current accession candidates Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey, only Croatia is expected to be part of the next enlargement round. Macedonia is not mentioned much in the public debate and Turkey is a special case of concern in Germany due to the Turkish minority living in the country. In addition, Iceland is expected to join soon. As for future enlargements, the general opinion in Germany is that it has to be done “by the book”, which means in a controlled and not turbo way. This resonates in the government’s coalition agreement of the new conservative/liberal government which backs an “enlargement policy with a sense of proportion”.
Recently, less favourable voices are on the rise. In general, the German public views a membership of more than the current 27 member states critically. 66 percent of Germans (compared to 46 percent of Europeans in average) are against further enlargement of the EU. For example, at his acceptance speech on the Sonning Prize, the German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger criticised the EU’s enlargement frenzy. However, the former Commissioner Günter Verheugen assumes that the enlargement waves will continue and cannot be stopped since the process has a dynamic of its own.
Croatia – fighting corruption and privatisation seen as most urgent
Gesa-Stefanie Brincker and Jochen Eisenburger
Having originally been one of the supporters of the creation of this new post of a President of the European Council in order to give the European Union (EU) a face and the work of the European Council more continuity and coherence, the German government in the end only supported a rather unimpressive politician to fulfil this important and demanding position. Thus, it became clear that the Merkel government did not want to install a personality ambitious to dominate EU policy making and able to attract a lot of media attention.
Institute for European Politics
The national elections on 27 September 2009 cast a shadow on policy making and public debates in 2009. Chancellor Merkel will run again for the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) while Foreign Minister Steinmeier is the candidate of the Social Democrats (SPD) for the chancellorship. Steinmeier will prefer to lead a SPD/Green/FDP coalition as chances for a red-green majority are quite meagre. If the CDU/CSU/FDP, the so called bourgeois camp (bürgerliches Lager) will not gain a sufficient majority, a ‘grand coalition Merkel II’ with a however weakened SPD is most likely. National elections are preceded by the election of the state president (23 May 2009). The significance is that the two parties of the grand coalition nominated their own candidate so that the outcome will indicate the strength of the two opposing camps (CDU/FDP versus SPD/Greens/Left). Moreover, 13 elections at the regional (Länder) and local level have been scheduled:
· 18 January: state parliament election in Hesse
· 7 June: local elections in Baden-Württemberg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony-Anhalt (partly), Saxony (partly), Thuringia