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
A few days ago, Germany (well most of it) celebrated 25 years of unification. In 1990, the former East-German GDR was incorporated into the West-German Bundesrepubik (FRG). A national spring was promised, however a lot of investment a troubles lay ahead.
Externally, German regained its full sovereignty in a period where global flows were superseding sovereignty more and more. But, after a quarter of a century of growing into a new role, it appears Germany is now being viewed differently. In the Eurocrisis, Germany played the roles of the older brother and the villain. In the refugee crisis, it took a lead as well, without really knowing where to go. Since 1990, German troops were deployed abroad for the first time post-WW2. Despite this, it resisted agreeing with military actions against Iraq and Libya. In the 5 + 1 (or 3 + 3) format, Germany was part of the possibly successful Vienna agreement on Iran, and it also inspired the Normandy format, achieving a Minsk agreement (however shaky) on regulating the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Furthermore, it may become part of a new 3+3+3 process on Syria despite not being a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Finally, the country also did not shy away from conflict with the US on issues of data protection.
Still, doubts are lingering. Some are welcoming a greater German role in global politics, yet others are skeptical. Some are calling for Germany to accept more responsibility, while others think there is already too much of it.
What should the proper message to the Germans be in year 25? What do you wish them to do?
By Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers – Program Director of the Center for Global Politics
The new EU Commission finds itself in the middle of a shooting-out between two increasingly outspoken camps: Should growth be stimulated by quantitative easing, and by state-induced spending programs? Or should austerity policy be continued, accompanied by structural reform in the southern EU countries? This is indeed a question that indicates a divide – mostly between Germany, Finland and the Baltic countries in the second groups, and most of the others in the first. The problems of France and Italy to push their budget deficits below the 3 per cent limit of annual debt against GDP. The southern governments not only encourage themselves, but also Germany to increase spending, forget about balancing the budget (to be reached in Germany in 2015 for the first time in decades), and instead start spending and investing into infrastructure and other goodies. A related fight is going on in the ECB, where a majority supports the line of Mario Draghi to do “whatever it costs” to save the Euro, against some other central bank governors criticizing the lax attitude of the ECB, buying very questionable state bonds ignoring their market value.