Germany’s Coalition: A European GroKo?

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel. Photo: Duncan Hull/flickr.

After two months of haggling, a final coalition agreement between the CDU/CSU and the SPD has been hammered out. The 185 page- document is with the title “Shaping Germany’s future” is supposed to set the tone for Germany’s new ‘grand coalition’ (in Germany the coalition is also known as GroKo which stands for Große Koalition). However, the deal sends a clear message: Merkel still holds the reigns and we are not about to witness a volte-face in German policies on Europe and foreign affairs.

The broad consensus established in the coalition agreement means that there is little sign of major innovation or a drastic change in direction in terms of European and foreign policy. On one hand, this can be seen as uninspired as the incoming German government demonstrates no real ambition for leadership in European and international affairs – with the notable exception of the euro crisis. On the other hand, as long as nobody moves, nobody gets hurt; Germany remains a reliable and unobtrusive partner in the world.

Are Domestic Factors Relevant in Deciding to Join a Military Coalition?

‘Stop the War Coalition’ event against a military assault in Iran by the US, UK and Israel. Image:

Atsushi Tago claims that they are. His presentation at the CIS Colloquium series on Thursday (March 15, 2012) aimed to challenge mainstream opinion – including the results of his own previous research – and prove that, apart from solely international factors, domestic factors also matter in explaining why a country chooses to join an ad-hoc military coalition. With the quantitative analysis he presented, he was trying to validate a particular hypothesis: that in an election year, in an economic recession, or in period of domestic riots, a country is less likely to join a military coalition. In view of the upcoming elections in Israel and the US, Tago’s research could be of considerable interest for professionals and academics working with the Iranian nuclear issue.

Tago’s logic is threefold: first, he claims that the true benefits (or detriments) of joining a coalition force are often hidden from the electorate. Therefore, in an election year, governments will be reluctant to participate in armed coalitions for fear that the people will voice their disapproval at the ballot.

The Politics of Abortion: Denmark Versus the Netherlands

Protest in the Hague against abortion
Pro-choice protester in the Hague, Netherlands. Picture: Akbar Sim/flickr

The current debate on agenda-setting provides two explanations for why new issues such as immigration or abortion are politicized in Western democracies. Some argue that new issues are driven by new conflict lines in the electorate; others claim these issues garner political attention by being easily integrated into existing conflict lines or cleavages. Speaking as part of the CIS Colloquium series at ETH Zurich last Wednesday, Christoffer Green-Pedersen positioned himself in the second camp.