Thursday

30th Mar 2017

German coalition draft: More powers for EU foreign service

Germany's upcoming government will not change its eurozone policy, but wants more powers for the bloc's foreign service and a "special relationship" with Russia, according to a draft coalition agreement to be signed off on Wednesday (27 November).

The 177-page document lists all domestic and foreign policies to be implemented by the new "Grand Coalition" led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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Few changes are foreseen on the euro-crisis front, despite input from the Social Democrats. Germany is to remain an "anchor of stability" in the eurozone, promote EU integration and "social fairness."

But the Social Democrats are backing Merkel and her hawkish finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble - who is likely to retain his post - in their stance that debt should not be shared across the euro-area and that each country should be liable for itself.

Fiscal discipline remains a priority, even if combined with a vague promise of "European solidarity and democracy."

"National budget competence and supranational, joint liability are incompatible," the draft reads.

Any loans from the eurozone bailout fund (ESM) can only be disbursed if the stability of the eurozone is endangered and if the Bundestag agrees. And only in return for "reforms and strict measures to consolidate budgets in the recipient countries."

The new government will continue to promote Merkel's plan to have binding contracts for all eurozone countries with the EU commission in order to boost their competitiveness, reduce their deficits and debt - all in return for "solidarity."

In order to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of EU institutions, the new German government is in favour of a strong European Parliament combined with close cooperation with national parliaments.

"The EU commission needs a tight and efficient college with clear competences for the commissioners," the draft reads.

The idea of EU referendums, floated in earlier working papers, is no longer mentioned. But the current draft does insist that the EU should only act where needed.

"The EU should focus primarily on big tasks for the future - this is where we need a strong, democratic and decisive EU."

More powers for Ashton's successor

The new German government promises to table new initiatives on "strengthening and deepening" EU foreign policy after the December summit, which should touch upon these matters.

"The EU council should deal once a year at the level of heads of state and government with matters of foreign policy, security and defence," the draft reads.

The new coalition government wants to strengthen the post of the High Representative for foreign and security policy, currently held by Catherine Ashton. With her mandate coming to an end next year, Germany wants to improve the way her diplomatic service (EEAS) reacts to and seeks to prevent crises.

EU ambassadors abroad should focus more on "functional" rather than "representative" tasks. Foreign policy, trade and development aid should also be "better linked" and decided in closer cooperation between the EU commission and the EEAS.

"We are in favour of further linking civilian and military instruments of the EU and improving military capacities for crisis prevention and conflict resolution," the draft reads.

The EU should only intervene in its geographic neighbourhood, while conflicts further afield - a hint at Afghanistan or Mali - should be left for other regional organisations like the African Union.

Drones - a tool used by the German military in Afghanistan - will continue to be used and the new German government wants to "push forward the European development of unmanned aerial vehicles."

The new government also backs a controversial law allowing drones to fly in EU airspace and wants it introduced as soon as possible.

Enlargement

Germany continues to support enlargement in the Western Balkans, as long as the accession criteria are "strictly" met.

Turkey continues to have an "open-ended" negotiation process with the EU, according to the German draft.

"In Turkey itself there is a discussion about the EU membership question. If the EU does not have the capacity for a new enlargement or if Turkey will not be able to respect all its membership commitments, a way needs to be found to keep Turkey as close as possible to the EU structures and further develop its privileged relationship with the EU and Germany."

Russia

The Eastern Partnership - a policy initiative for the six countries on EU's eastern fringe - Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan - only has one paragraph in the Germam coalition agreement saying that association, free trade agreements and visa facilitation deals are the "best instruments" for them.

By contrast, Russia has almost a page in the draft document in a sub-chapter with the title "open dialogue and broader cooperation with Russia."

It combines calls for modernising the Russian state with a push for EU visa freedom for Russian businessmen, scientists, civil society activists and students.

The new German government wants to push for "more coherence" in EU's policy towards Russia. With Poland involved in a special three-way dialogue with Germany and Russia, the Grand Coalition pledges to "take into account the interests of our common neighbours" when dealing with Russia.

In this context, they count on Russia to make some headway in solving the frozen conflicts in the eastern neighbourhood, "expecting progress" in particular the splinter region of Transnistria where Russian troops are massed on the Moldova-Ukrainian border.

German parties agree 'Grand Coalition'

Merkel has clinched a deal on a "Grand Coalition" with the Social Democrats, but the centre-left party still needs the approval of its members.

MEPs call for reset in relations with Belarus

A group of 72 euro-deputies have written to EU leaders, asking them to stop funding Europe's last dictatorship and increase their support for democracy activists instead.

Interview

Let's not lecture Trump, says top German MP

Europeans need to propose "projects of common interest" to the US president to preserve "Western unity" on Russia, Norbert Roettgen, the chair of Bundestag's foreign affairs committee said.

Interview

Let's not lecture Trump, says top German MP

Europeans need to propose "projects of common interest" to the US president to preserve "Western unity" on Russia, Norbert Roettgen, the chair of Bundestag's foreign affairs committee said.

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