What Implications might the Threatening German Government Gamble have for Europe?

The German coalition talks collapsed recently. Achieving a ‘Jamaica’ coalition between the moderate conservatives, the Bavarian ‘real’ conservatives, the liberal party (just returned by the voters to the Bundestag) and the Greens, was apparently way beyond the capabilities of the four parties and over 70 people involved in four weeks of talks.

So as of now, the most influential country in Europe and the world’s third biggest economy is run by an acting government with limited rights. A government with a chancellor ranked as the ‘most influential woman of the world’—a prime example of soft power, a gifted mediator from the Iran to the Minsk negotiations,  a core player in the Euro and migration crises—is currently looking weak, insecure, and shaken. While never quite willing to take on a global role beyond Europe, and being impressed by but unwilling to accept the notion of the ‘last standing liberal power in the world’, German elites are now puzzled by the inability to bring together the only viable combination of parties in the parliament after the September elections.

While recently there were prolonged periods of government-building in both Belgium and the Netherlands, neither country was as relevant for the cohesion and renovation of the EU. A couple of new French initiatives are still waiting for answers from Berlin. And those who are skeptical about liberal orders and societies may cheer: Now even in Germany there seems to be a crisis of liberalism, partly triggered by the populist AfD on the right, and the left party on the, well, left, both of whom accumulated about a quarter of the votes for populist, partly ant-systemic parties.

Which leads to this week´s question: Is all this a risk for Europe?

– Klaus Segbers

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What implications might Lindner´s German government gamble have for Europe?
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What implications might Lindner´s German government gamble have for Europe?
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On Sunday, after seven weeks of “exploratory talks,” the leader of one of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s presumptive junior coalition partner, Christian Lindner of the Free Democrats (FDP), went in front of the microphones to stun the nation: “It is better not to govern at all than to govern badly.” What implications can we expect?
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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 3 weeks ago

    This is a great risk for Europe. If the only possible coalition fails that may lead to a weakening of the role of Germany in EU. Not Belgium nor the Netherlands can lead Europe. The weakening of Germany does not mean that Germany may be substituted by France alone or that a new entente minus Germany may be formed. Thus a chance for the renovation of EU as a coherent world-class geopolitical center may be lost. This may lead to the dismantling of the coherent EU policies and the further rise of chaotization in Eurasia.

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  2. Dmytro Sherengovsky 3 weeks ago

    No doubts Europe is facing one of the most turbulent periods of its contemporary history. The above-mentioned events seem to be a desperate attempt to rethink ‘big European project’. However, they can also be symptoms of more problematic tendency – the lack of trust between the European states and communities inside of states and the rapid development of European provinciality, based on specific local interests, contrary to common goals. These could lead to the inability of European institutions to construct joint position and cause the loose of EU attractiveness as a global player. The risk for predictability of Europe as a trusted partner is increasing. Thus, the renovation of social trust to institutions, increasing the level of responsible governance together with decreasing the influence of European bureaucracy on local levels can play an important role to combat populism and effects of EU disintegration. Otherwise, Mr. Lindner’s thesis about government can turn out to be quite rational (but less responsible).

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  3. Justas Paleckis 3 weeks ago

    Trust in Germany’s power and common sense is so great that the situation in this country after Bundestag elections does not worry Europe much. The Jamaica coalition has never been tested and no surprise that the liberals said: thanks, without us. There are three options: 1) Minority Government (CDU/CSU plus the Greens); 2) Early election; 3) Return to the “grand coalition”, which the Social Democrats do not want. The most probable is the first option, not tested in the Federal Republic yet, but popular in the Nordic countries. Lastly, let’s remember that a couple of decades ago Greens were also regarded as populists, untrustworthy and the coalitions with this party were avoided. Similarly, it can happen in the future with the Left party and even with the AfD. Now if Germany had a situation like in Austria, it would indeed be a risk for Europe. So, there is no big reason to worry so far. But in the long run…

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  4. Thilo Bodenstein 3 weeks ago

    Europe is advised to take brace position. After the failure of the Jamaica talks a coalition government between the CDU/CSU and the SPD is the most likely outcome. It is questionable that a fresh grand coalition enjoys the broad political support that is required for the far-reaching European reforms of French President Macron. Three opposition parties – the FDP, the Left and the AfD – are not supportive of the kind of reforms President Macron has in mind, albeit each party for its own specific reasons. A minority government is also an option, but it would face even more obstacles in parliament. Germany’s political landscape is going through deep changes. It looks like the far-right AfD is here to stay. The room for manoeuvre of any post-September coalition government will be constrained and an unstable government has to cling to the status quo. This is not good news for European stability.

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  5. Tobias Lechner 3 weeks ago

    The spin doctors of the conservative party are quite successful in portraying Merkel as “alternativlos” (without alternative), and in depicting any scenario without her as a catastrophe for Germany and as a risk for Europe. If we look back at the last months, we can observe that Merkel got the worst results for the conservative party since 1949, and now even failed to form a government with two small progressive parties. In some conservative circles, Merkel is seen as part of the problem – not of the solution. However, Merkel’s political fate (and all kind of party gossip) is rather irrelevant for the fate of Germany and Europe. The constitution provides Germany with a stable government even in such times: The acting government can fulfill all duties, and a minority government is not necessarily unstable if we look at the new parliament with many parties. A minority government might be even more dynamic than a too heterogeneous coalition.

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  6. Friederike Kies 3 weeks ago

    Rising populism, scattered discontent, BREXIT…Currently Europe is facing some difficult challenges. Germany, the most influential country in Europe, holds a special role when trying to tackle these challenges. It is unquestionable that a reliable German government is now more than ever necessary. Recently collapsed German coalition talks do not seem to improve this situation. However, is this necessarily a risk for Europe? I do not think that the current “exploratory talks” are necessarily a risk for Europe. Rather, I think they could be seen as a chance:
    A chance – for elected political parties to engage in thorough debates in order achieve a stable and responsible government.
    A chance – to point out current political challenges and analyze the best strategies to tackle these.
    The current political situation in Europe requires a stable German government that can address the hopes and fears of the people. I expect the German elected political parties to be aware of the responsibility they bare and form a stable government not prolonging the current talks any longer than necessary.

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  7. Anastasia Wischnewskaja 3 weeks ago

    What happened in the night on Monday is one of the most embarrassing episodes in the recent German history. The lack of IR expertise in the new FDP (only one out of 80 MPs is a renown foreign policy expert) was known before, but nobody could expect that it will cause a complete inability of the party to realize what international consequences their domestic actions might have. It is a real drama that even democratic German parties have started pretending that they can blank out globalization. I do not think, that it will have immediate causes for the EU structures: the Parliament and Commission are stable, the next election is 2019, and whether the substantial reforms will start 5 months earlier or later does not make any difference – the EU has always been slow. Frictions might emerge if Germany does not have a new government by April-May (which is the case if new elections will be held), when the Mediterranean Sea becomes calm in spring and summer and new stronger decisions on Frontex and migration will be required. However, the biggest damage has already been caused: FDP has sent a clear signal, that out of 7 parties in the Bundestag three do not care about the EU and its future.

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  8. Nikoloz Tokhvadze 2 weeks ago

    Although the current political crisis does impose tangible risks for the EU, among several rather poor options, there seem to be viable solutions too. It is highly unlikely that new election will considerably reshuffle the results for better coalition combinations. it will also exacerbate the crisis and signal panic to market and the EU partners that have not shown much concern so far. On the other hand, even though minority governments have moderately functioned in some EU countries, Germany, having virtually no such experience on national level and being of an entirely different caliber than those EU countries, should be cautions to take risk of destabilizing itself and therefore further impeding the whole European Union.

    Whether this will be an impending demise of Angela Markel, beginning of her end – as aptly headlined in international press, will only time show. She has proven her critics during previous crises too (e.g. the Migration crisis) how prudently she can avoid imminent pitfalls. Merkel’s presence at the European table during next four years can be decisive as her election ‘motto – ‘you know me’ might have just as much soothing effect on key European leaders, as it had on her voters.

    Hence, despite the SPD’s constant waver – “Yes, no, maybe I don’t know can you repeat the question?” – most viable solution for Germany and the EU (albeit the least favorable for SPD establishment) could be Groko 2.0. Two parties could relatively optimally reconcile their differences on European Politics and provide the pertinent response to the Macron’s initiatives.

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