Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

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.

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

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.

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us