In any case, changes in the largest and most powerful member state of the European Union mean changes in Brussels. After the formation of the new government, how will Germany position itself with regard to the climate, the rule of law in the EU, immigration, budget policy and (more) European cooperation? Germany has been the talk of the town in Brussels since the election.
By itself, nothing changes: the composition of the European Commission remains the same, as in the European Parliament. At most, other ministers will join the European Councils and the new chancellor will report to other heads of government in due course. Germany is still Germany. But it has already begun to slip under the surface. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is a stepdaughter of Angela Merkel. Who do you turn to for support now that different winds are blowing in Berlin?
The Christian Democrats still represented the largest group (EPP) in the European Parliament and the German CDU/CSU still had the same number of seats, but they morally lost power and influence. In the same way, the similar weight of the German Social Democratic Party is increasing in the Social Democratic faction where the Spanish Socialists have hitherto dominated.
The great fear of many in Brussels is that it will take months for a new German government to be formed. This is not good for Germany, not good for EU decision-making, but there is another lurking danger: next year there will be elections in that other large and important EU country: France. A long formation in Germany could flow smoothly into the election campaign in France. With an unclear path in the two largest countries, many key files will stop, and the European Union cannot afford it.
This concern was expressed by Malek Azmani, MEP for VVD, and Bas Eckhout of GroenLinks. The Liberals and Greens in the European Parliament are looking with additional interest in formation in Germany because their sister parties are up to the task now.
The Greens and the Liberals
“I hope they get out,” says VVD member Malek Azmani. “The new generation has mostly voted for the Greens and the Liberals, so it’s only good that these two get out ASAP.” Bas Eckhout of GroenLinks sees real differences in the economic sphere, but “they both campaigned for ‘change’, so there’s something that connects us.” Both agree that, given the election results, cooperation with the SPD is the obvious choice.
Von der Line
Now that Commissioner von der Leyen has lost her ideological, administrative line with Berlin, she must change her position. For this reason, it appears that she is already seeking further outreach to French President Macron. And if its EPP group in the European Parliament changes course, it should also take that into account. Azmani (VVD) especially hopes that von der Leyen will be more independent who “turns her words into more action, because she can no longer count on automatic support from Berlin”. Eckhout (GroenLinks) also sees opportunities: “If she has to look a little over her shoulder in Berlin, she should come up with her own ideas and seek a majority in the European Parliament for it.”
Publicly, Ursula von der Leyen has not yet commented on the elections in her home country. Nor did she say a word about the outcome on Twitter.
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