In any case, changes in the largest and most powerful member state of the European Union mean changes in Brussels. After a new government is formed, how will Germany position itself on the EU’s climate, rule of law, 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 are still the largest group (EPP) in the European Parliament, and the German CDU/CSU still holds the same number of seats, but they have 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 voiced by Malik Azmani, MEP for VVD, and Bas Eickhout of GroenLinks. The liberals and greens in the European Parliament are watching with extra interest the formation in Germany because their sister parties are there It’s up to you 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 administrative ideological 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 and that “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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