Wednesday

29th Jun 2022

Merkel: No need to change Europe policy

  • Merkel victorious after the Sunday elections (Photo: CDU)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday (23 September) vowed to maintain the same course in the eurozone crisis as she starts negotiations for a grand coalition with the Social-Democrats.

"We will continue our European politics, this is the most important message to the people. European politics is part of our core brand and we will continue that in spirit," Merkel said at a press conference in Berlin.

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Asked by an Irish journalist whether she would adjust her stance on austerity as a recipe for troubled euro-countries, Merkel said she had great respect for what Ireland had done.

"This will be important for Ireland. But my European strategy will not change on this point," she said.

Merkel on Sunday won a third mandate as Chancellor by a landslide, making her the only leader of a euro country to be re-elected since the crisis broke out in 2010.

The vote is a strong backing of her eurozone crisis management style, often criticised as being too slow, too hesitant or not generous enough.

But Merkel noted that 10 years ago Germany itself was the sick man of Europe, while now it is an "anchor of stability" after having carried out painful reforms.

"Others can manage what we did. Reforms are not just budget cuts, but also competitiveness and solid budgets restore the trust of investors in our economies," she said.

Merkel added that the vote meant a strong message that Germans "take responsibility for Europe" and back her pro-integration stance.

"It was a strong vote for a united Europe," she said.

"On all market squares I spoke of how important the EU is for Germany not just from an economic perspective but also as a space for democracy for 500 million people. This Europe has to learn how to present a united front in the world to push through European interests," she noted.

As for the success of the anti-euro Alternative fuer Deutschland party - who in only a few months since inauguration managed to get 4.7 percent of the vote - Merkel said she would "analyse the reasons" why they scored so well.

"But this won't influence the CDU's policy on Europe," she added.

Grand coalition talks

Merkel confirmed she had already spoken to the leaders of the Social Democratic Party late on Sunday night in initial talks on a grand coalition, but said they need time until Friday, when the SPD is to hold a party conference, before making decisions.

Speaking at a parallel press conference on Monday, SPD chief Sigmar Gabriel - the man tipped to lead negotiations with Merkel - insisted that the grand coalition should not be taken for granted.

"The result of these talks is open. It is up to her to say what she wants and kind of policies she plans. In any case, the SPD does not rush into a coalition after Merkel ruined her ex-coalition partner," Gabriel said in reference to the liberal Free Democrats, who, for the first time since 1949, failed to make it into the Bundestag on Sunday.

Merkel's challenger Peer Steinbrueck, also present at the press conference, said his party had made a "serious analysis" of the end result - 25.7 percent of the vote - which was much less than they had expected.

"It's clear there is a big disappointment, but there is no point in lengthy lamentations. Merkel won, but now she needs a mojority and the SPD is not rushing into a coalition. For us it's the substance that matter, let's see what she has to offer," Steinbrueck said.

On her no-change stance on euro-politics, Steinbrueck said Merkel will most likely be under increased pressure from fellow euro countries to move ahead on the banking union dossier and to agree on another bailout for Greece.

He added that, after having agreed on a single bank supervisor, Merkel will have to give in on another element of the banking union: a resolution authority deciding on what banks need to be shut down and on a resolution fund - an idea she and her finance minister have so far have rejected.

"Unlike this government, the SPD is in favour of a bank resolution fund as long as it's not made up of taxpayers' money, but of contributions from banks themselves," Steinbrueck said.

He also noted that Merkel will have to "get herself out of the bind" after having agreed in 2012 that banks can be recapitalised directly from the taxpayer-funded European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

"As far as I understand this would be illegal under the ESM rules," Steinbrueck said.

Unlike the leadership of the Greens - who all offered to resign after scoring only 8.4 percent of the vote - and the chiefs of the Liberals who failed to enter the Bundestag, Steinbrueck will stay on as one of the heads of the SPD.

"There were no personnel discussions today and there will not be any until our party congress in November," Gabriel said.

Analysis

Why did Germans vote for Merkel, again?

Germans prefer 'Mutti' Merkel because they trust she can protect their prosperity. But the flipside of this fear of losing money is the rise of an anti-euro party, set to enter the European Parliament next year.

EU opens door to Ukraine in 'geopolitical' summit

EU leaders will also discuss eurozone issues with European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde, as more and more leaders are worried about voters' distress at soaring inflation.

Opinion

The euro — who's next?

Bulgaria's target date for joining the eurozone, 1 January 2024, seems elusive. The collapse of Kiril Petkov's government, likely fresh elections, with populists trying to score cheap points against the 'diktat of the eurocrats', might well delay accession.

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