Member and neighbour States / Politics

German federal legislative elections: Time to take bold decisions for Europe, Mrs Merkel!

Mrs Merkel,

First you deserve to be congratulated for your re-election and for the brilliant score of the CDU/CSU which obtained 41.5% according to recent estimates. Meanwhile, the SPD got 25.7%. Your allies in the previous legislature, the FDP, obtained 4.8% and will not enter the Parliament. The Greens gathered 8.4% of the vote, while Die Linke (The Left) got 8.6%. Finally, the AfDobtained 4.7% and will therefore not enter the Bundestag either. The plausible coalitions are therefore CDU-SPD or CDU-Greens. Indeed, let us also remember that the Bundesrat, the other parliamentary chamber, is dominated by the centre-left.

These results open the way to a third mandate for you as Chancellor of the German Federal Republic, a position you have held for the past eight years. During all these years, you had to deal with European problems. When you came to power, Europe was in the midst of a political crisis because French and Dutch voters had rejected the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe (TECE) a few months earlier. Conscious of the necessity to foster European integration, you have been an artisan of the reform process leading to the Treaty of Lisbon, which partly preserved the content of the TECE. The German presidency of the Council, in 2007, was one of the highlights of your engagement for the European integration. Then, during your second mandate, you had to deal with the consequences of the global financial and economic crisis and then the sovereign debt crisis. You could have acted (much) quicker, but in decisive moments you faced your responsibilities and did what was necessary to preserve the integrity of the Eurozone. Furthermore, your cautiousness and insistence to respect the EU treaties also permitted to ensure the legality of the adopted measures and, initially, a broad support of the German population (which has unfortunately been waning in the past months).

Now that you are about to start a third mandate, it is time to take bold decisions to fully save Europe! You will face the choice between being the Chancellor who gives a new, strong impulse to European economic and political integration and being the Chancellor who lets the public mood about the EU deteriorate to such a point that the idea of integration would be threatened. We welcome the pro-European orientation of the CDU election programme; now, you have to implement it in order to obtain tangible results for German and, more broadly, European citizens. You and your future allies have acknowledged that there cannot be a strong Germany without a strong Europe, so acting for a better European integration will be in your interest and the interest of your voters.

Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor (and the favourite for her succession). (Wikimedia Commons / Dirk Vorderstraße)

Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor (and the favourite for her succession). (Wikimedia Commons / Dirk Vorderstraße)

The CDU wants a stable euro. This can be the topic of your first major contribution! Until now, you have successfully called for improving the state of public finances in highly indebted countries. This has had some positive results, but you will acknowledge that it is not enough: austerity alone is not the source of growth. Another part of the solution that you have constantly advocated is the adoption and implementation of bold structural reforms to regain competitiveness. Now is the time to re-give some hope to the citizens of countries in economic trouble, now is the time to fully create the instruments of European solidarity that complement the measures of national responsibility. In his State of Union speech, Mr Barroso called the realisation of the banking union a priority. The CDU also wants a better supervision of banks, so why not accept all the mechanisms of a banking union, not only its first pillar (ECB as central supervision authority)? You know that to break the vicious circle between banks’ troubles and States’ financial troubles we need a European solidarity mechanism. The German banking system is not immune to a European crisis and is not in excellent shape, so it would also benefit from a common resolution fund. As to Eurobonds, it is indeed too early to introduce them; only with a European economic government will Eurobonds be a legitimate evolution.

We also welcome the CDU’s wish that more people learn more foreign languages in the EU, to facilitate exchanges between citizens and migration within the EU. Developing a sense of common belonging indeed requires more exchanges between citizens of different origins and cultures. Encouraging the emergence of a European identity can only favour a democratic deepening of the integration process.

And this is where you can bring your second big contribution: as a leader of one of the most important European Member States, you have the political clout to impulse a new step of the European integration. As Mr Barroso noted in his SOTEU speech, this does not mean that everything needs to be done by the EU (the principle of subsidiarity needs to be fully respected), but there are certain things that must be decided at European level. And we believe that a federal union would be the most democratic way of doing so, because European citizens as a whole would decide about European policies without being hostage of national partisan interests. In addition, a federal union with a European economic government would enable German voters to have a bigger say over the reforms needed in crisis battered countries, while voters of these countries would gain some influence on the degree and forms of solidarity in the EU. In addition, a federal Europe would also enable the “more coherent and active European foreign and security policy” that is promoted in the CDU programme.

Mrs Merkel, politics is about tactics but also about courage and leadership. A leader must show the way forward, even if it requires not always popular decisions. There are short-term and longer term challenges for the EU: in both cases, you can contribute to find a solution that will strengthen Germany and Europe. You have the legitimacy for it, and we know that, deep inside, you have the required determination for it. Now is the time to show it.

Pierre-Antoine KLETHI

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