European perspective: German federal election

, by Juuso Järviniemi, Laura Mercier, Tobias Gerhard Schminke

European perspective: German federal election
The German parliament building in Berlin. CC “Andrew” // Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On Sunday, Germany held an election to the Bundestag, the lower chamber of the federal parliament. Chief editions from different editions of the JEF web magazine comment on the results.

Laura Mercier: Faced with AfD, let’s keep Europe on track

In September 2016, AfD already made considerable gains in local elections. The rise of the far-right party was confirmed by its rise to the Bundestag, with around 13 percent of the votes. The performance of CDU and SPD, on the wane compared to the 2013 election, is telling of Germans’ expectations towards and strong disagreements on the Chancellor’s and the preceding coalitions’ policies. Above all, the entry of the anti-European AfD party into the Bundestag reinforces the urgency of relaunching the European project.

The numerous elections of this year revolving around European affairs have continuously conveyed an increasing disconnect between European citizens and the EU. The Chancellor faces expectations by her European partners on many fronts, and the coalition that will be built will be revealing of the EU policy that Germany will pursue. A coalition with the liberal FDP seems to be forming, and there is a risk that the German position on several topics such as the reform of the Eurozone will harden.

But this hardening of public opinion shouldn’t turn Angela Merkel away from building a foundation for the future of Europe at a time when “the wind is back in Europe’s sails”, as Jean-Claude Juncker said in his State of the Union speech. The best way for Germany to respond to the rise of the far-right is to strengthen its commitment to Europe even more.

Laura Mercier is the Editor-in-Chief of Le Taurillon, the French version of the JEF webzine.

Tobias Schminke: The disenchantment of the „Aternative for Germany“ has begun

The „Aternative for Germany“ (AfD) has won more than 12 percent in the elections, now they have to deliver! Parliamentary work in a democracy cannot be done by shouting „Merkel out!“. It requires a detailed study of laws and the ability to deliver counterproposals. It is questionable whether a Party like AfD will master this professionalisation within a few weeks. Furthermore, it is important to note that the right-wing party has barely any program. Do they follow a socialist track or are they rather closer to predatory capitalism in their economic policy? Both views are there to be found among the right-wing populists.

What is the AfD’s opinion on the subject of financial equalisation among the federal states or the solidarity tax for the east of Germany? These questions will be a real test for the party’s electorate and for the parliamentary party group in particular. The party will lose the attraction of being „anti-establishment“. The party will occupy the sacred blue seats of parliamentary democracy in the German Bundestag. They themselves will become MPs whom they have so far called „traitors of the people“. Thereby they will be disentchanted and become part of „the system“.

Tobias Schminke is the Editor-in-Chief of Treffpunkt Europa, the German version of the JEF webzine.

Juuso Järviniemi: In Germany, Europe always wins

Unlike in the French and British elections, and the upcoming Italian election, in Germany it was clear right from the beginning that a pro-European ticket would come first. Even though the rise of the far-right AfD was one of the big stories of the election, Sunday night confirmed that Europe can trust German voters.

After the coalition talks, it’s time to start moving Europe forward, as the much-anticipated window for reform is finally open. After years of crisis, we can realistically expect the twin engine to come up with proposals for long-term solutions that rectify structural flaws in the EU system, rather than just patching leaks at the last moment possible.

Whether it’s a “Jamaica” coalition between CDU, FDP and the Greens or some other solution that is ahead of us, we can expect of the incoming German cabinet a constructive approach and willingness to tackle European problems head-on. Inertia and a lack of vision have plagued intergovernmental European politics for years. However, as a European federalist I’m excited to see what the next months bring with them. We should hope that what follows will be a turning point celebrated in the history books our generation will write one day.

Juuso Järviniemi is the Editor-in-Chief of The New Federalist.

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