20th Aug 2019


Don't believe the AKK hype - Merkel will last to 2021

  • Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, aka AKK (right), at the European People's Party political assembly in Brussels, March 2019 (Photo: EPP)

It is true that where Emmanuel Macron sets a broad, ambitious vision for a 'European renaissance', Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK)'s reply was more typically German: no to "European centralism" and no support to strengthen the EU's social dimension.

Both leaders converge, however, on their emphasis on a classical inter-governmental approach and on conservative issues like increasing European competitiveness, EU border protection and the ability to act jointly on issues of mutual security and foreign policy interests.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Macron's main intention was to unite pro-European progressives in France and beyond in order to place En Marche as a decisive political force in the next European Parliament (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The major difference comes with the letters' audiences.

While Macron's main intension is to unite pro-European progressives in France and beyond in order to place En Marche as a decisive political force in the next European Parliament, AKK's top priority is to position herself to the right from Angela Merkel, to win back significant numbers of voters her party has lost to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) in recent years.

In a domestic German context, AKK's European 'reply' adds up to a series of recent speeches and initiatives, in which she focused on classical conservative demands like how to restrict migration to Germany or questioned the future of the Schengen agreement, if the EU will not boost resources for Frontex.

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising proposal was a European aircraft carrier, which looks like her vivid bazooka of showing that law, order and defence are firmly on her agenda.

Even an ill-placed joke about gender equality could be seen as a sly effort to win back former CDU territory.

AKK will not be challenged only by the European elections in May, but even more importantly by three elections in the former 'East' Germany in the second half of 2019, where the AfD is much stronger than elsewhere in the country.

By giving up the party chair, Merkel passed this heavy burden of securing the CDU's electoral success to her successor and these elections will predetermine if AKK will make it all the way to the chancellery.

Adding to a difficult domestic backdrop, Merkel's third and final 'Grand Coalition' has hit an all-time low, with 70 percent disapproval among German voters.

Yet, this might not be the end.

Hence, given their poor results in current polls, Merkel's coalition partner SPD has little appetite to speed up the transition from Merkel to Kramp-Karrenbauer and face the unsavoury test of new elections.

Merkel - still standing

And there is another major hurdle in AKK's way: Merkel herself.

Despite the bad numbers for her coalition, she still leads the polls by far with 52 percent of support by voters (as of the latest March opinion polls), and seems to have no interest in leaving office even a minute before time.

Since the German constitution puts very high hurdles to any change of democratically elected leaders, AKK and her conservative cheerleaders within the CDU must wait on the sidelines for Merkel either to leave office by herself or see her finally stumble on the end of her political path.

Both scenarios not very likely given the ups and downs Merkel managed since her inauguration in 2005.

Consequently, Merkel and the SPD are now fateful companions more than ever. Once the curtain falls, both will have to leave the stage.

So, whatever rumours will accompany the next three years of the German coalition, don't believe the hype: chances are good that Merkel's last coalition will last until 2021.

Author bio

Olaf Boehnke is the senior advisor in Berlin to the Rasmussen Global political consultancy.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Germany's CDU lukewarm on Macron's EU vision

Germany's anointed new leader has echoed France in calling for EU reform to combat populism - but with a stronger role for national governments and with little prospect of sharing German wealth.

Lagarde's ECB must modernise

Christine Lagarde will succeed European Central Bank president Mario Draghi at a time of deepening polarisation among eurozone member states. It will take all of her skills as a leader and communicator to safeguard the institution's independence.

UK MPs' maths means election, not no-deal Brexit

Parliamentary arithmetic at Westminster, and societal pressures from the likes of Welsh sheep-farmers, Northern Irish cattle breeders, London business groups and Scottish Conservatives combine to push a motion of no-confidence in the prime minister by mid-October at the very latest.

Facebook has to answer some tough questions about Libra

German MEP and member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, Markus Ferber, warns of four separate threats from Facebook's Libra. A good moment to kick off the debate would be this week's G20 summit.

Six takeaways on digital disinformation at EU elections

For example, Germany's primetime TV news reported that 47 percent of political social media discussions were related to the extreme-right AfD party, when in fact this was the case only for Twitter - used by only four percent of Germans.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests
  2. Is Salvini closing just harbours or also the rule of law?
  3. No-deal Brexit would seriously harm UK, leaked paper says
  4. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  5. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  6. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  7. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  8. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us