Angela Merkel has championed an era of economic and political stability, in an ocean of everything that constitutes the opposite. Of course, many would argue that this popular view is intrinsically flawed in its gratification of the static, but we can discuss that in another article.
For now, let’s try and look at what we can expect of a Merkel-less Germany:
1. A Centre-Left Government, the first in 16 years
It’s baffling to think that, if you were born in this millennium, you will only be able to remember a single German chancellor. During her long tenure, the power and influence that she accumulated made her the de facto leader of the European Union – as well as, arguably the most powerful woman in the world.
But with that, of course, came an equally long spell for the social democrats in the shadows. This will be their first opportunity in a long time to lead their own coalition, and it won’t be easy.
2. The Uncertain Three-way
The Social Democrats, Greens, and the Free Democrats will lead the new government. Whether this lineup was agreed out of genuine alignment, or a common desire to push the Christian Democrats out of the major picture for a while, one is yet to find out. But what’s for sure is that it will need a lot of work to keep the show on the road.
3. Climate action is a unifying factor
Around 300 negotiators were involved in writing up the coalition treaty for the new government. This will, needless to say, prove a gargantuan challenge to Mr. Scholz, who will need to prove a calm, compromising figure among his very diverse (politically) group of lawmakers. But one policy area that doesn’t seem to be creating division yet, is that of Climate Change – and the need for swift climate action.
This was clearly shown in the early days of this coalition, with Greens’ co-leaders gaining powerful positions, namely a super-ministry for climate and the economy, as well as the German foreign ministry. The coalition treaty also includes binding goals such as an end to coal usage, and, fundamentally, keeping in line with the 1.5C goal, and achieving national climate neutrality by 2045.
Public pressure will also be high, with September’s election being aptly called the ‘Climate Election’, and several indicators consistently showing climate change policy as a dominating factor in public opinion.
Berenberg Bank Chief Economist Holger Schmieding probably put it best;
“The new government will essentially be one of continuity, not change. All those who were hoping that this would be the start of something completely different will be disappointed.
Olaf Scholz may be yearning to demonstrate a clear break from his predecessor and her party. But he must not forget that the German public voted for that style of politics for 16 years, so it would be unwise to drastically change what works, for now at least.
5. A European Identity
Covid-19 is not yet a thing of the past. The Ukrainian border crisis is not showing signs of shoring up. Belarus continues to cause one political emergency after the other. We could keep listing problems, but the salient point is that this looks to be a coalition that thinks Europe must tackle them together – not just within the EU, but with its Western Allies.
Most experts believe we should see a Germany that is more willing to work at putting pressure on China and Russia alongside the US. The relationships Mr. Scholz forges with prominent leaders will tell us more about what the future of German and European foreign policy will look like.
Written by: Gianluca Vella
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