FEPS Fresh Thinking

First of all the SPD got a very good result from the long negotiation process in deciding which party gets which ministry portfolio. SPD will hold the most important ones – Finance, Foreign affairs, Justice, Environment, Social affairs and Family, Youth and Senior Citizens affairs. It is also a positive sign that European policies are highlighted in the coalition paper as the first priority. Additionally there is a good range of concrete policy proposals concerning social welfare, housing, consumer protection, environment and renewal of democracy. It seems more likely now that on the grounds of this, Germany will finally be able form a new government.


The process from now on will be as follows: The Chancellor, (Angela Merkel, entering into her fourth term) will be elected by the Bundestag at the proposal of the President of the Republic. This will probably be in March before she proposes the new government to be sworn in. A provisional list of names for the different ministries is already circulating. Nevertheless the main posts are definitely decided (Interior, Finance, Economy, Foreign Affairs and Defence)


In the meantime approval needs to take place within the three coalition partners (CDU, CSU and SPD). The conservatives will seek approval by extraordinary party congresses, a mere formality, whereas the SPD will ask its members via a postal vote. Clearly this process stood to be the Damocles-sword in the negotiations. Perhaps the main reason why the SPD got a good result not only in a lot of policy areas but also in posts.


It is important to consider however the two parallel positions within the SPD which have emerged and brought about a nasty rift in the last few months. This became particularly apparent at the party meeting in Bonn, in January, when the mandate to negotiate a coalition with the conservatives was given to the presidium only by a small majority. Strikingly, the youth organisation of the party (JUSOS) launched a twitter and social media campaign under the slogan #NoGroKo – against a grand coalition. They also campaigned for new membership of SPD and a clear commitment to vote against a grand coalition. Nevertheless it is likely that the SPD will get the majority vote of its members for the formation of the grand coalition and the new government.


In the policy details of the coalition paper there are nevertheless some important observations to make, commendably the European chapter features prominently as number 1, demonstrating a new approach towards Europe and a clear confirmation of Germany’s role in the European Union.


Notably, under the header of “New Horizons” it describes that Germany is committed to a “Europe of Democracy and Stability,” a “Europe of Competiveness and Investment,” to a “Europe of Equality of chances and Social Justice” and to a “Europe of Peace and Global Responsibility.” Therefore what appears to be a very progressive programme.


However, it’s not clear how this will be achieved by no considerable reform of the Eurozone and not substantive progressive economic policy proposals concerning the upcoming budget. What is more, the Stability and Growth pact remains the guiding principle as written in the document. A mantra which undoubtedly reflects the handwriting of the conservatives.


As the entire document is detailed, one would have expected more concrete proposals on the reform of the Eurozone, a commitment to having a European finance minister and a stronger statement on the proposal to develop the European Stability Mechanism to a European Monetary Fund. Yet instead of a clear supranational commitment to the European Parliament, the programme postulates that the role of the national parliaments has to stay unchanged!


The first chapter ends with 3 points; one concerning the German-French partnership, reaffirming the two countries as the engine of innovation in Europe; the second one on the German-Polish friendship that should be enhanced; the third regrets the UK is leaving the EU and calls to seek a mutually beneficial partnership in the future. Is this a will to develop therefore only the “heart” of Europe whilst leaving the South, East and the North as a wider circle on the map around Germany and a last reminiscence to the Schäuble-Lamers paper and the “Kerneuropa”?


In any case the SPD should be careful not to underestimate the shrewdness of a Chancellor in their fourth and final term. Angela Merkel will no doubt be seeking to leave her mark in history and part of this is reflected in the coalition paper.



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