Sunday

17th Dec 2017

Berlin risks being 'culprit' for stalling EU, warns Green MEP

  • 'An appeal to European responsibilities should come with an agenda,' Reinhard Buetikofer said. (Photo: European Parliament)

German politicians should think more about the consequences for Europe resulting from the current political deadlock in Berlin, Green MEP Reinhard Buetikofer has warned.

"I'm not sure the European consequences of what we do in Berlin are really on the top of the agenda for everybody," Buetikofer - who participated in the failed coalition talks in Germany - said on Thursday (23 November).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 'Macron has been waiting for half a year' to hear about Germany's proposal on the EU's future (Photo: elysee.fr)

"I hope that there will be a lot of phone calls from Brussels to Berlin, and from other capitals too to impress that on people," he added.

Buetikofer was one of 14 senior Green politicians who negotiated with the Christian Democrat Union (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the liberal Free Democrats Party (FDP), in their attempt to form a so-called 'Jamaica' coalition.

The Green negotiator gave a group of journalists in Brussels an insider's view of what he called an "extraordinary experiment".

Talks failed last Sunday, postponing prospects for the next government and raising concerns about Germany's pivotal role in the EU.

Buetikofer noted that many in Europe are losing their belief in chancellor Angela Merkel's "capacity to always find a solution" and that this loss of trust would be a "major defeat" for Germany.

"It's hard for me to assess that, but maybe that's true," he said.

The MEP pointed out that the EU has "a very narrow window of opportunity" to take decisions over its future and that a German paralysis would jeopardise the effort.

He added that "Macron has been waiting for half a year", whilst European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker gave his ideas in September about how the EU could be reformed.

He insisted that before the end of next year, "either we have found agreement, not just between Paris and Berlin, but between all the capitals and the Commission, on how to move forward, or there won't be any progress."

"Would we really want to be the culprits that prevent that from happening?" he asked.


EU 'not a battlefield'

As the talks' failure seems to leave few options other than a minority government or new elections, Buetikofer however expressed scepticism over the idea of a "pact for Europe" to form or support a new government.

"That would not really be stable," he said.

He insisted that "an appeal to European responsibilities should come with an agenda."

"It should be a new direction, not a standstill under a different name or repetition of 'Schaeuble-plus' or 'Schaeuble-minus'," he added, referring to the strict economic policies of former finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

He said that the EU was "not a major battlefield for the CDU", and that before talks failed, the four parties had reached common positions on several issues.

They had close positions on the need to fight money laundering and tax evasion, or to have an "active integration policy" for Western Balkan countries.

"In very general terms", according to Buetikofer, the four parties were also ready to call for a strengthening of the "parliamentarisation and democratisation of the EU" in order to strengthen the rule of law mechanism.

They had also agreed to call for an EU budget where "doing the job was the criteria for how much money we would need, not the other way round."

Splits on EMU

"There was some good stuff in there," Buetikofer said. But "major disagreement" remained on economic issues, and the EU economic and monetary union (EMU).

"It was completely unsatisfactory," the negotiator said. "That was a big defeat."

He explained that there was no common policy on the banking union, on the future of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) - the eurozone emergency fund - or on the need for a facility to weather asymmetric economic shocks.

Brexit played no role

The parties were closer on the need to maintain the European Investment Bank's (EIB) investment capacity, he said. But "that was only possible because some people around the table did not understand that that implied putting more money into the EIB because the Brits are withdrawing their money," Buetikofer noted.

He also said that "Brexit didn't play a role at all" in the negotiations because "everybody agreed on the stance."

He said that is was "ludicrous" to think the UK could take advantage of the situation in Germany in its negotiations with the EU.

The Green politician put the blame of the talks' failure on the liberals.

At one point, he said, the liberals came with a German translation of the agreement reached by Mark Rutte, the liberal Dutch prime minister, to form a coalition with the Christian Democrats, liberals and an evangelical party.

"They asked us to copy-paste some of that language into our papers," Buetikofer said.

The liberals "fled from the negotiating table because they were "afraid to wake up and find themselves in government," he said.

Liberals lacked 'substance'

He noted that the FDP, under its 38-year old leader Christian Lindner, wanted to "impersonate the ambitions of the younger generations to make things change," but that "on substance they were inferior" to other parties.

After the four parties agreed on issues such as the digitalisation of the economy, data protection, the fight against climate change, or education and research, the FDP was left only with an "old" image of tax cuts party, Buetikofer said.

"Their transformative image didn't materialise," he insisted.

The Green politician noted in contrast that the CSU "was tough but [that] its leadership was willing to strike a deal."

He said that depicting chancellor Angela Merkel as a "moderator" in the negotiations "vastly underestimates what she did."

He explained that Merkel used her well-known method of 'framing the conversations, framing the format".

"It's one of her best qualities to play the moderator and to direct the moderation," he said, noting that she used the method she's applied successful for 12 years national and at EU level

But "she came to the end of it", he said. "It didn't work anymore."

'You haven't seen it all yet'

As political consultations continue in Berlin, led by president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Buetikofer said that a minority government - either between the CDU-CSU and the Greens, or between the CDU/CSU and the Social-Democratic Party (SDP) - was "not very probable".

He also said that the possibility of a coalition between the CDU/CSU, the SPD and the Greens, was "close to zero".

He noted however that the option, dubbed the 'Kenya coalition' because of the black-red-green colours of the parties, "has friends here in Brussels".

Another possibility would be a transitional government that would prepare new elections which would take place before April.

But the risk, the MEP said, is that the vote could be "very inconclusive", leading to more delay in having a stable government that could fully participate in EU's discussion.


And Merkel?

"She's taking this in a sporting way," he noted. "She saying: 'You haven't seen it all yet'."

Analysis

EU 'cannot afford' lengthy German deadlock

Angela Merkel's failure to form a coalition government has raised concerns in Europe that the EU's most powerful country will send the block into paralysis.

European Liberals pin hopes on Macron

The French president "will be part of our family", Alde president Van Baalen said at the party congress. But some leaders, like Dutch PM Mark Rutte, seem to be less enthusiastic.

EU glyphosate vote hits German coalition

Chancellor Merkel disowned her agriculture minister over his decision to back a renewal of the weedkiller's licence as the issue pits Social Democrats against Christian Democrats ahead of coalition talks.

Irish crisis may complicate Brexit summit

Snap elections are on the horizon in Ireland over the future of Irish PM's right-hand woman, three weeks before Irish PM is due in Brussels for a crucial Brexit vote.

EU glyphosate vote hits German coalition

Chancellor Merkel disowned her agriculture minister over his decision to back a renewal of the weedkiller's licence as the issue pits Social Democrats against Christian Democrats ahead of coalition talks.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  4. European Friends of ArmeniaPresident Sargsyan Joined EuFoA Honorary Council Inaugural Meeting
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  6. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  8. EPSUStudy Finds TUNED and Employers in Central Governments Most Representative
  9. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  10. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  11. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  12. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'