Sunday 25 October 2009

New German government and Europe: Steady as she goes

The new German coalition agreement, or government programme “Wachstum. Bildung. Zusammenhalt. Koalitionsvertrag zwischen CDU, CSU und FDP. 17. Legislaturperiode“ is a detailed document of 128 pages (pdf).

Policies are entwined between the national (state and federal) and European levels, so a detailed study requires study of the whole programme.

Here I am going to restrict my observations to the specific section dealing with Europe „Deutschland in Europa“,from page 106 to 110.

The general approach towards the European Union is positive (here as shortened bullet points):

• An effective and self-confident EU
• Speaking with one voice for peace, freedom and wellbeing
• More democratic and effective through the Lisbon Treaty
• Initiating EU projects: energy, bank supervision, security and defence policy
• Taking small and mid-sized member states into account
• Franco-German relationship unique (promoting education, climate protection, space, security and defence)
• Friendship and cooperation with Poland underlined
• Democratic, transparent EU close to the citizen; cutting red tape
• Speedy transposition of EU directives, without gold-plating
• Strict observance of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles
• Social Europe through national measures
• Equality for German as a working language of the EU institutions
• Parliamentary scrutiny by the Bundestag and Bundesrat important
• Undistorted competition in the internal market; rejection of protectionism
• Independence of the European Central Bank (ECB)
• The Stability and Growth Pact is important
• Sustainable EU budget policy; concentrating on strategic areas with European added value
• Contributions less than 1% of each country’s GNI (with corrective measures for fair burden sharing)
• No EU tax or (new) EU proportion of national taxes; no to such competences
• Regional funds allocated more decisively for the Lisbon Strategy (for growth and jobs)
• Future EU budget funding towards Trans-European Networks, cross-border education, justice and police cooperation, research and innovation, as well as the common foreign and security policy
• Better control of EU spending
• Strict application of the Copenhagen criteria for EU enlargement, taking into account the EU’s absorption capacity
• Important to tie Turkey closer to the EU, but Turkish accession not automatic
• EU neighbourhood policy important
• More unified EU in foreign policy important, the High Representative an important step
• For and independent European External Action Service (EEAS), where all the member states are represented
• European army under full parliamentary control a long term goal



Germany will continue to deal constructively in the European Union and with the other member states, but the relationship between Germany and France is still seen as important for developing a few newish areas of cooperation.

There is German continuity with regard to most of the policies, but if there are major reform efforts, they are selective, concerning only individual policy areas.

There are no great visions of a democratic European Union or much else beyond the Lisbon Treaty.

Steady as she goes, could be the motto of the new CDU/CSU and FDP coalition when it starts trudging along in EU affairs, led by Angela Merkel and Guido Westerwelle.

There is little to be excited about, but the low-key, constructive attitude is in marked contrast to the destructive signals from the UK Conservative Party’s leadership and supporters…

Ralf Grahn

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