Merkel says Germany’s ‘future’ at stake as she warns of swing to the left

Chancellor seeks to rally support for her conservative party at final rally, saying 'it's about keeping Germany stable.'

Merkel says Germany’s ‘future’ at stake as she warns of swing to the left

AACHEN, Germany — Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday made a final push to rally supporters behind her party and its lead candidate, Armin Laschet, arguing that the country’s “future” was at stake.

Hours before Germans head to the polls, Merkel was in the western German city of Aachen to address the last rally of her conservative CDU/CSU alliance. Final polls predict a very close race, with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) leading on 25 percent and the CDU/CSU on 22 percent. As that gap is within the margin of error, it is still possible for both parties to come first — and even the second-placed party could name the chancellor if it manages to form a majority with coalition partners.

“In some election campaigns you get the impression that it’s perhaps about this or that topic but that in the end it perhaps doesn’t really matter who governs Germany,” Merkel said. “But I want to tell you from my experience that in the political life of a chancellor there are moments where it’s anything but irrelevant who governs, where you have to take the right decision.”

“It’s about keeping Germany stable. It’s about your future,” said the chancellor, who is not running for reelection after 16 years in office.

Although Merkel avoided directly mentioning the SPD and its lead candidate Olaf Scholz, it was clear that her warnings were about a potential shift to the left that Scholz might pursue if elected chancellor. Merkel warned a left-leaning government coalition would “strangulate” businesses with new taxes and isolate Germany on the international stage.

SPD Secretary-General Lars Klingbeil had rejected such warnings at his party’s final rally in Cologne on Friday, arguing that the CDU/CSU was “throwing with dirt” because it had no convincing election program. Although Scholz has said he would prefer to form a government coalition with the Greens and the liberal FDP, he has not ruled out building an alliance with Greens and the far left.


For more polling data from across Europe visit Poll of Polls.

At the event in Aachen, Laschet, speaking after Merkel, accused the SPD of actively “preparing” to build a government coalition with the Greens and the Left party.

He also warned of taking radical steps toward an emissions-free industry. “We need to manage the whole thing in a socially acceptable way or the country collapses,” Laschet told the crowd in front of the abbey in Burtscheid, the neighborhood of Aachen where he was born 60 years ago. His words were met with broad applause and chants, but also some dissenting voices.

Laschet also stressed his European credentials, saying that the EU “was more important than ever in this unstable world” and must therefore be kept together.

This included holding out an olive branch to Poland and Hungary, which are locked in fierce rule-of-law battles with Brussels. “Yes, there is some dissent now about the rule of law. But we will not be able to hold this Europe together without Poland, without Central and Eastern Europe, without the Baltic states, without Hungary,” he said.

Addressing his party’s weak performance in the polls, some of which can be attributed to his own gaffes and mistakes during the election campaign, Laschet sought to project optimism.

He argued that when he ran in the state elections of North Rhine-Westphalia in 2017, “a lot of people voiced doubt whether it would go well because the polls were so volatile.” In the end, Laschet won and became state premier.

He said that back then, Merkel had also come to Aachen for his final election rally, adding: “I’m sure because she’s here today we will also succeed tomorrow.”

What he did not mention is that another chancellor candidate, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, also held his final rally in Aachen four years ago. The next day Schulz admitted defeat.

Source : Politico EU More   

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Germany can no longer avoid its responsibility to European defense

The world is changing at a rapid pace. Let us hope that the new chancellor is ready.

Germany can no longer avoid its responsibility to European defense

Alexandre Robinet-Borgomano is head of the Germany program at Institut Montaigne.

The United States is pivoting toward Asia, and, strikingly, Europe doesn’t have a seat at the table. From the Afghanistan withdrawal to the recent AUKUS military alliance, the U.S. has confirmed its willingness to redeploy its efforts toward containing China’s ambitions. And despite Sunday’s looming election, Germany has yet to define its role within this new geopolitical configuration.

The future of European defense depends on the next German chancellor. And yet, while this should be the issue of the hour, geopolitics is missing from the German political conversation. Ahead of the election, it was not really a subject of in-depth debate between any of the candidates for the German chancellery, even the two front-runners — Christian Democrat Armin Laschet and Social Democrat Olaf Scholz.


For more polling data from across Europe visit Poll of Polls.

Both candidates only approached the European issue through a fiscal lens. While the former wishes to return to the Stability and Growth Pact, the latter pleads for a true fiscal union and real industrial sovereignty for the EU. A similar vision is shared by the Greens, who are also likely to enter the next federal government.

This perception of a strong and economically sovereign Europe is similar to French President Emmanuel Macron’s —  but it avoids one key question: What will happen to European defense and the France-backed project of “Europe puissance”?

There has long been a taboo around power and military interventionism in modern Germany. Case in point: the resignation of President Horst Köhler in 2010, for stating that Germany should “be in a position to intervene militarily to defend its strategic interests or to contain a risk of destabilization in a given region, in particular to secure trade routes.”

The parties running for the chancellery understand this all too well. They are all in favor of a European army, yet none of them openly rallied in support of a militarily sovereign Europe during their campaigns.

Unfortunately for them, this is an issue Germany can no longer afford to ignore. When it comes to geopolitics, the Merkel-style combination of diplomatic centrism and mercantilist logic is running out of rope. It seems illusory to still think Germany can reconcile its security dependence on NATO, while getting its energy supplies from Russia and developing its export industry with the Chinese market.

Maintaining this triptych of contradictory demands without provoking the ire of at least one of the powers involved is risky at best. And with Cold-War-style military polarization taking shape in the Indo-Pacific, Germany must decide where it stands in the new geopolitical dynamic.

Merkel was more aware of this than she let on. Let’s not forget the acceleration of German military spending since 2014, which has now exceeded that of France. Or the Bayern frigate that was sent to the South China Sea in August. What else could that have been, if not a discreet military assertion in the area?

The issue has become all the more pressing after the recent establishment of the AUKUS alliance. France will undoubtedly take advantage of this opening to further push the idea of sovereign European defense — and the EU is likely to back it.

The EU foreign ministers at the U.N. General Assembly this week said they were behind France in this crisis. And despite a relatively hesitant attitude, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also expressed her support.

These statements are significant and indicate that if there is to be polarization in international affairs, the EU will be ready to step up — but only if France and Germany work together to build a robust European defense.

The Merkel era is coming to an end.  From now on, the Franco-German alliance must grapple with the imperative of power. In a country with Germany’s history that will take political courage.

Let’s hope the new German chancellor is up for the task.

Source : Politico EU More   

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