The jubilee and memorial year 2009 and the shadows of elections

Germany
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

Looking back: evaluation of the French EU-Presidency’s results

Germany
Institute for European Politics
 
The German evaluation of the French EU-Presidency ranges from “extremely successful”[1] or “breathless Presidency”[2], to a rather strong criticism about the lack of a Franco-German cooperation. Most observers underline that the originally planned priorities could predominantly not be dealt with – apart from the Energy and Climate Package. Issues like the future of the CAP and the planned defense union[3], were either not discussed in Germany[4] or of minor concern. Thus, unexpected events, such as the Georgian war and the global financial crisis, strongly attracted the attention of the French and then EU-President. Thus, the “political” French EU-Presidency that was announced by Nicolas Sarkozy finally became more relevant than it was to be expected:[5] Without the institutional setting of the pending future of the Lisbon Treaty, which designates a permanent President for the European Council, the EU in these times of crisis was in need of political leadership. Then EU-President Nicolas Sarkozy knew how to step into this blank position – a “stroke of luck”[6] as several politicians[7] and German newspapers concluded.
 

United in economic diversity?

Germany
Institute for European Politics
 
Before giving an overview of the German debate about the European Union’s role in the current economic and financial crisis and the implications the crisis has for the global economic and political power constellation a short remark on the prominence of these topics in the general German discourse about the crisis has to be made. The topics touched here are less prominent in the public debate in Germany. Three other questions are fare more prevailing: 1) Is it necessary to bail out bankrupt financial institutions? 2) Should the same be done for companies active in the real economy? 3) How is the money to support the economy efficiently spent and who receives which shares?
 
The evaluation of the EU’s performance is often just a side aspect, but a general trend can be identified among these statements. Most people participating take an intergouvernmentalist view of the European Union in the debate. The debate about long-term implications is even more restricted to expert circles. Most participants agree that multipolarisation will be the major effect of the current crisis.
 
Europe – a continent petrified by the crisis?
 

Transatlantic relations with Obama: renewed but not reinvented

Germany
Institute for European Politics

The new president-elect of the United States of America, Barack Obama, was also the favourite candidate of the majority of Germans. In fact, the Financial Times Deutschland, in cooperation with the opinion research institute Forsa, found out that Obama would win three quarters of all votes if the Germans were his electorate.[1] Thus, support for his agenda is widespread but also fuelled by high expectations.
 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, from the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), offered close cooperation to the newly elected American President. In a phone call to Obama, she pointed in particular to “the challenges that the international community is facing”, such as the Iranian nuclear programme, the stabilisation of Afghanistan, the climate change and the financial crisis.[2] In reaction to Obama’s presidential speech, Merkel expressed that she “anticipates more multilateralism from now on.” However, the expectations on the new President are extremely high and one should not forget that he is ‘only a human’ too.[3]
 

Continuation of ratification process welcomed

Germany
Institute for European Politics

After the European Council meeting in December 2008 which has been dominated by economic and energy issues, the future of the EU seems to be regarded quite optimistically in Germany. Especially the prospect of Ireland holding a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty before the end of the European Commission’s term of office has been warmly welcomed. The German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “was in confident mood: ‘Together with our Irish friends, we have agreed on a process which will allow a new referendum in Ireland and enable the Treaty to enter into force at the end of 2009’”.[1] This agreement, reached at the European Council meeting,[2] is mostly seen as a continuation of the ratification process, and there is not much discussion about the consequences of a second ‘No’ vote.[3] The only party in the German parliament sceptical of a second referendum is the Left Party (“Die Linke”), arguing that such a procedure is everything but democratic.[4] The Left is also the only party in the German parliament arguing for a stop of the current ratification process,[5] having also voted against the law approving of the Lisbon Treaty.[6]