The post-Merkel era is about to begin in Germany, as the “traffic light coalition” of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) have agreed to form a new government led by the SDP. Olaf Scholz.
Success was anything but assured given the great divergence in the ideological positions of the parties. The new government will seek to bridge the gap between the environmental orientation of the Greens, the free market orthodoxy of the FDP and the redistributive social democracy of the SDP – and all this after 16 years in which the Christian Democratic Union of Germany ( Angela Merkel’s CDU) has dominated the highest levels of German politics.
The coalition agreement divides the ministries as follows: the SDP gets the Chancellery and six other ministries (including the Home and Defense ministries), the Greens get five (including the Foreign and Foreign ministries). newly created economy and climate protection) and the FDP gets four (including the all-important finance ministry).
The resulting cast provides an interesting mix of old and new fonts.
First of all, the new coalition government will be more vigilant on climate issues, as the environment is not only at the forefront of the concerns of German voters, but is also an area of relative agreement between the partners of the coalition – at least in theory. Germany’s coal exit deadline was extended from 2038 to 2030 in a last-minute compromise in negotiations; a carbon floor price of 60 euros per tonne has been agreed; and the target ratio for renewable energy production increased from 65% to 80% by 2030. However, the country’s overall emissions target remained intact, targeting a 65% reduction by 2030 ( 1990 levels). In addition, the Greens have given way to the approval of new gas-fired power stations intended to facilitate the transition to the production of renewable electricity.
The SDP rewarded its working-class base with an increase in the minimum wage from 9.60 to 12 euros per hour and new rent controls intended to cushion rising housing costs.
The FDP got its number one priority from the finance ministry, with FDP leader Christian Lindner set to become the new finance minister. The political imperatives of the FDP were also evident in the coalition deal’s pledge of fiscal prudence and, more specifically, the promise to reimpose constitutional bans on borrowing that were temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. An FDP-controlled finance ministry will effectively curb pandemic-era efforts to pool EU fiscal resources, and this is an area where the new coalition is expected to closely reflect the legacy of Merkel. Notably, the agreement described the EU pandemic stimulus fund, which was a major victory for continentalists, as “an instrument limited in time and in amount”.
German foreign policy is set to evolve from the Merkel era’s preoccupation with trade and investment. The SDP and the Greens both support a more idealistic approach to foreign policy, which advances human rights and democratic values. In the EU context, this will find an echo in the struggle of the European Commission (EC) against states like Poland and Hungary, which are accused of reneging on democratic standards. To this end, the coalition government specifically calls on the EC to use its punitive rule of law instruments and threaten non-compliant countries with non-payment of funds related to the pandemic. Such wording represents a significant departure from subsequent policies of the Merkel government, which tended to minimize the East-West divide and seek compromise above all.
The coalition deal addresses other controversial EU topics, including the possibility of reforming EU treaties to turn the EU into something resembling a federal state – a business that would almost surely be dead – born of a Hungary / Poland veto, or, if not, a possible failed national referendum. In addition, the agreement provides for a qualified majority voting mechanism on foreign policy which, if implemented, would eliminate the need for consensus building in all EU foreign policy decisions. In military affairs, the agreement calls for “increased cooperation between the national armies of EU members wishing to integrate, in particular in training, capabilities, operations and equipment”. And on the issue of migration: “a fundamental reform of the European asylum system”.
Overall, the coalition’s European policy would mark a radical departure from the Merkel-era’s aversion to intra-EU conflicts and its refusal to pursue reforms that would result in a two-speed integration process. As a mission statement, the difference is glaring; However, it should be borne in mind that the effective implementation of such a laundry list of ambitious reforms is anything but assured.
SDP / Greens zeal is also found in other major world relations of Germany, notably China, whose bilateral relations should be governed by “partnership, competition and system rivalry(Emphasis added). The most immediate consequence will be the likely death of the EU-China investment treaty that the Merkel government drew up in its final act. But there are other terms in the agreement that will undoubtedly be of concern to the Chinese authorities; for example, by promising to reintegrate human rights issues into German Chinese politics and by supporting Taiwan’s greater participation in international organizations.
In the future, each party will have an incentive to make the new government work and in doing so, to bring its style of governance out of the shadow of the CDU. This imperative will be particularly pronounced for the SDP, which has failed to forge an identity – at least in the eyes of voters – during several “Grand Coalitions” led by Angela Merkel. That said, the ideological differences between the three are very real, especially between the FDP and the other two parties, and these differences could easily trigger the premature end of the coalition, which is the first of its kind as a national tripartite organization. government. Either way, there is no shortage of divisive issues on the immediate horizon – the resurgence of COVID-19 in Europe and how to respond to it in the first place – it stands to reason that the government will need to address itself. job.
This article was published by Geophysical Monitor.com