Angela Merkel finally responds to Emmanuel Macron’s Europe reform plans – but through the pages of a newspaper, and in only the most guarded of terms.
This article was originally published by the German Instiitute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in April 2018.
European attitudes towards China and its Belt and Road Initiative are changing. While the People’s Republic under Xi Jinping is the only country in the world pursuing a global vision, distrust of China’s expanding influence is growing. As a consequence, the European debate about China is becoming increasingly emotional with interpretations fluctuating between alarmism and reassurance. Ideas about the ‘essence of China’ and expectations that the country should fit into the liberal order according to Western standards, however, threaten to limit Europe’s scope of action in dealing with the People’s Republic. In order to develop strategies for a confident German and European policy, China’s current global political approach should be considered systematically. Based on the features of China’s ‘connectivity politics’ (Konnektivitätspolitik), Germany and the EU could formulate policy options that go far beyond the realm of infrastructure.
Here we compare the parties’ positions on the four core EU policy domains: common security and defence, migration, financial, and trade policy.
How does Europe feature in the German elections? How do Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Martin Schulz’ social democrats (SPD), the Greens (Bündnis90/Die Grünen), the business-friendly free democrats (FDP), the left party (Die Linke), and the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) aim to reshape four core EU policy domains: common security and defence, migration, financial and trade policy? A comparison of their election manifestos provides some first answers to these questions.
Nearly all established parties running for the coming Bundestagswahl on 24 September have adopted a narrative that combines a pro-European outlook with an emphasis on the need for European reforms. Only the Eurosceptic AfD bucks the trend with its calls for a ‘Dexit’ referendum.
Germany and the UK are likely to remain dependent on U.S. defense, because the alternatives are currently too daunting for Berlin and London.
It is obvious that the European members of NATO depend on the United States for their defense. And why wouldn’t they want that dependence to continue? Only Russia currently poses a direct military threat to Europe. However, for all its meddling—both military and nonmilitary—in European NATO members, Russia would hardly want to risk a shooting war with the United States, the world’s only military superpower. Plus, American protection allows Europeans to spend relatively less on defense and more on other things.
Yet, because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s vacillating rhetorical commitment to NATO’s mutual defense, it is becoming fashionable for some European politicians to argue that Europeans will increasingly have to look after themselves. Explaining the rationale behind the need for the EU to expand its military role, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told an audience in Prague on June 9 that the United States was “no longer interested in guaranteeing Europe’s security in our place.”
Rebooting the Franco-German locomotive of European integration is a key condition for reviving the fading EU project. Compromises will have to be made on fiscal and defence policies, and it is unclear whether the parties have the political capital necessary.
The election of pro-European Emmanuel Macron as president of France has reignited hopes that the so-called Franco-German engine, providing political impetus to European integration in the past decades, might be revived. While Macron’s election proved a rebuke to the populist challenge, it remains to be seen whether and how it will manage to rebalance the partnership with Berlin, which is overwhelmingly premised on Germany’s growing strength and clout at the European level. While pronouncing herself supportive of the new course in Paris, Chancellor Angela Merkel, like the rest of Europe, remains in a wait-and-see position regarding the ability of President Macron to fulfil his ambitious pro-EU agenda.