GROKO TURNS THE PAGE FOR POST-BREXIT EU

CoCoP: COMMUNICATING COHESION POLICY

Written for JESPIONNE

Ingrun Von Holmes

Germans are ready to unravel the boxes of their top-quality beer to celebrate the grant coalition that has been a pain in the neck for Germany as well as the entire European Union.

Everything shows that white smoke has been emitted from the German Bundestag, but let me call it grey like the sky I see from my window right now in Berlin.

European elections are only one year far, and now it is a crucial momentum for Germany as a pioneer of European integration to stand out.

March 2018

The “Große Koalition” treaty has replaced the SPD’s previous doubts to cooperate again with Angela Merkel bringing about cautious optimism for the next day. I can see on the news the SPD leader winning much more than anyone else. He even claimed to get vital Ministries despite his extremely low result in the elections. That makes me think of what Germans say “gut gemacht”! However, the EU agenda is barely touched. On the one hand, we have the AfD waiting for this topic to be taken on board to divide people.

On the other, pro-European Social Democrats understand that it might be too late to discuss the EU openly now; let alone that Jusos, the SPD’s youth organization, has managed to register 24,000 new members since the beginning of the year in an attempt to empower internal opposition. As for the CDU/CSU, there are complaints about handing over more privileges to SPD than necessary. However, the German duo can’t wait to make a toast for the new “deal”!

Within this festive though uncertain atmosphere, the director of Bruegel, Guntram Wolff, expresses his concerns that the treaty fails to reflect the German public opinion. Despite the “New beginning for Europe” coalition agreement’s ambitious character, still “money makes the world go round.” The planning of the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and the EU budget will prove in practice how much pro-European such a coalition will be. Who and how much is Germany willing to pay for Brexit and to what extent will it support solidarity in the EU?

While it is evident that both agree on the Franco-German close cooperation for the sake of Europe, no one touches the hot potato of the Eurozone budget and the EU finance minister. Merkel and Schulz want a European Union that realizes Macron’s dream with the silent consensus of Germany. They both want the coalition to succeed, but no one can afford to pay the cost for further European economic and political integration. Now I can understand why Ulrike Guerot, the founder of the European Democracy Lab think tank, does not recognize “where the hype comes from.”

In any case, it always takes two to tango. Besides politicians, it is you and I that create Europe’s future. At the end of the day, we, the citizens, shape the future of the EU. Either conservative or social democrat, grab your computer, close your eyes and imagine the world you want to live in. Don’t hesitate! Write your thoughts down on a word document and send them to Merkel or Schulz. You might think: “Would that make any difference?” Well, absolutely!

European elections are only one year far, and now it is a crucial momentum for Germany as a pioneer of European integration to stand out. If everyone thinks the same way as you do by sending a mail with their concerns, European elections in 2019 will be completely different and you will reap the benefits in the long-term. And when the GroKo delivers its first genuinely pro-European results, then, yes, we can all make a toast; to Europe!

Reference Article

Reference Article

By MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG for POLITICO

BERLIN — Europe is in GroKo fever.

European politicians, intellectuals, think tankers and business leaders have all hailed the hoped-for rebirth of Germany’s “grand coalition” as a game-changer for the EU in recent days.

“La GroKo allemande,” a headline in France’s Libération declared, is “the chance for Macron’s Europe.”

If all goes according to plan, the thinking goes, Germany’s two biggest parties will have agreed to remarry by the end of the weekend, bringing Europe a big step closer to a new dawn, as Berlin seizes the initiative on European reform to lead the Continent forward.

With austerity king Wolfgang Schäuble out of the way, German Chancellor Angela Merkel eyeing her legacy and über-Europhile Martin Schulz trying to leave his own mark, what could go wrong?

A lot.

“I don’t understand where the hype comes from,” said Ulrike Guérot, founder of the European Democracy Lab think tank and a professor of European politics at Austria’s Donau Universität. “It’s wishful thinking to expect a coalition that so far has been at one another’s throats will come together suddenly on a substantial European agenda.”

Indeed, Europe’s GroKo expectations appear to be based on little more than vague hope.

When Merkel, a Christian Democrat, and Social Democrat leader Schulz declared last month that they had inked a framework for a “grand coalition” (GroKo in Berlin-speak), Europe looked like the big winner.

The German duo even devoted the first chapter of their preliminary agreement to the EU, under the headine: “A new beginning for Europe.”

In Brussels, the document was greeted with excitement. After months of nervous waiting, it finally looked like Berlin was on track to pick up the baton of European reform.

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Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sounded positively Trumpian after reading the German blueprint. “This is a very significant, positive, constructive, future-oriented, results-oriented contribution to Europe’s policy debate,” he said.

German observers were more circumspect.

“I don’t think the paper reflects the sentiment amongst the German population,” said Guntram Wolff, director of Bruegel, a Brussels-based think tank. He cautioned that the paper was “so vague that one can read whatever one wants into it.”

On close inspection, the GroKo’s big plans for Europe look to be little more than warmed-over boilerplate cut and pasted from ceremonial addresses past — long on earnest pathos but short on specifics.

“For Germany, a strong united Europe is the best guarantor for a bright future in peace, freedom and prosperity,” reads a typical passage.

Far from being a sign of common purpose, the GroKo partners’ platitudes about Europe may hint at something else: division.

Merkel might be convinced that Europe requires a major overhaul, but backbenchers in her conservative bloc, especially the Bavarian Christian Social Union, are more skeptical. They are particularly wary of any steps that could bolster the far-right Alternative for Germany, a party that was born out of frustration over the German government’s willingness to bail out Greece.

That might explain why Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats have largely avoided the subject of Europe as they enter the final phase of their coalition talks. Issues such as migration, workers’ rights, and health care have dominated the discussions.

Party leaders on both sides seem to have little appetite to open a debate on a eurozone budget, finance minister or any of the other reform proposals that have been floating around the EU in recent months.

The dirty little secret of German politics is that the population doesn’t care that much. Europe has become a rhetorical prop — everyone is for it, at least in the abstract.

In a survey last month of Germans’ views of the most pressing political issues, the question of fixing Europe didn’t even register.

That may be because many Germans don’t think the EU is broken. Germany, with its strong economy and perpetual export surpluses, is the prime beneficiary of European integration.

While most in the country welcome measures to strengthen the EU’s external borders and other efforts aimed at keeping migrants at bay, they have less time for proposals such as one for a Europe-wide bank deposit insurance. Reforms that could put German treasure at risk remain politically tricky, even outside conservative circles.

The repercussions of the euro crisis may have convinced Europe’s elites that closer integration in the eurozone is the only way forward, but the bailouts in Greece and periphery countries have only deepened the German public’s skepticism.

That, critics say, is because Germany’s political leadership has dodged the debate.

During last fall’s general election campaign, the subject of Europe’s future was hardly mentioned. Even the SPD’s Schulz, who spent most of his career in Brussels, paid only lip service to the issue.

When asked why Europe was not more of a factor in the campaign, a senior adviser to Merkel told POLITICO, “This isn’t a European Parliament election.” The underlying message was clear: Europe doesn’t win votes.

A reminder of that reality came during the SPD’s special convention in Bonn last month. Schulz, in an effort win over delegates to support a new grand coalition, told his audience that “Europe was waiting for Germany.”

“If we don’t put Europe on a new course now, Europe is going to lose support,” he said, adding that it was imperative for Germany to lock arms now with France to take the EU forward.

The speech was a dud. When Schulz told delegates that French President Emmanuel Macron had called him the day before to express his support for the GroKo, many in the audience snickered.

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Angela Merkel / Syrian Refugees /German Chancellor / Josef Janning / European Council on Foreign Relations / Berlin / European Security / Brexit / Greece Financial Crisis / Person of the Year / Politico / Mathew Karnitsching

May 1 st, 2018

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