22nd Oct 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.

Europe's empty fortress

It is too easy only to criticise the rightists and their fixation with barbed wire, Trump for his wall on the border with Mexico, Orban for his xenophobia.

Catalonia shows dangers of jail terms for non-violence

Time and again, across the world, efforts to "decapitate" non-violent movements, and refusals to engage in political dialogue with them, have led to situations like we are seeing today in Catalonia.

News in Brief

  1. Brexit is waste of time and energy, says Juncker
  2. Abortion and same-sex marriage become legal in Northern Ireland
  3. Germany wants internationally controlled zone in Syria
  4. EU parliament refuses to debate Catalonia
  5. Four businessmen charged in Slovak journalist murder
  6. Erdogan accuses EU of 'standing by terrorists' in Syria
  7. Migrants riot in Maltese camp
  8. Spanish PM refuses dialogue with Catalonia president

Defending the defenders: ombudsmen need support

Ombudsmen are often coming under attack or facing different kinds of challenges. These can include threats, legal action, reprisals, budget cuts or a limitation of their mandate.


The benefits of being unpopular

Paradoxically, the lack of popularity may be part of the strength of the European project. Citizens may not be super-enthusiastic about the EU, but when emotions run too high in politics, hotheads may take over.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. MPs vote on Johnson's latest push for Brexit deal
  2. Macron breaks Balkans promise in quest for EU dominance
  3. Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection
  4. UK opposition MPs attack new Brexit deal
  5. Deep divisions on display over post-Brexit EU budget
  6. Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls
  7. EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate
  8. Crunch Brexit vote in UK This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us