The incoming government pledges to press Brussels to take a firm stance on Brexit and the rule-of-law.
Germany’s incoming government plans to urge Brussels to strengthen the rule of law, support changes to the EU treaty, and may be open to changing European debt rules.
These are just some of the messages sent by Germany’s next ruling coalition in Europe on Wednesday, as it proposed an agreement that paved the way for a center-left government under the leadership of the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz to take over.
This agreement will mean that Angela Merkel, the center-right prime minister of the EU’s largest economic sector, will soon be out of power. Merkel resigned after 16 years of service. This raises questions about the extent to which Germany will change its approach to Europe’s core issues.
After weeks of negotiations between the Social Democratic Party, the Green Party, and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), the alliance treaty emerged—the three had never ruled Germany before. Both parties stressed that Germany had a “special responsibility”, in the agreement to serve Europe. The version they serve Europe may differ from Merkel’s. Merkel’s version is often centrist and non-confrontational.
It is worth noting that the alliance’s agreement calls on Brussels to take a tougher stand in the struggle against the rule of law in countries such as Poland and Hungary. Although the European Commission expressed its disappointment over the country’s failure to adhere to democratic norms, it has not used its punitive power, which allows it withhold funds from certain members by rule of law, for a while.
“We call on the European Commission…”, the text says. Berlin would not approve the payment of EU Pandemic Recovery Funds to these countries unless there are preconditions, such as an independent judicial body.
The Union Treaty is a compromise between the FDP’s more reform-oriented fiscal outlook and that of the other parties in terms of EU debt rules. To stabilize the economy, the European Union temporarily relaxed its deficit and debt rules during the pandemic.
On the one hand, the document emphasizes that the EU’s debt rules “have proven its flexibility”-an argument that is often used by those who say there is no need to raise the debt ceiling. It also stated that fiscal regulations can be “further refined” to promote growth, ensure debt sustainability, and encourage green investment.
The text assumes that the EU’s current pandemic recovery fund “is a tool of limited duration and quantity”, which implies a refusal to permanently consolidate debt risks in Europe.
The agreement was centered on a sensitive topic: Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission). Von der Lein is from Germany’s upcoming opposition Christian Democratic League, which raises questions about whether the new government will nominate her for re-election.