Europe without Merkel

FT World Weekly
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We're looking at Germany. What Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced her decision to step down as leader of the ruling, Christian Democrats. So all we know entering the post Merckel era. And what might it look like joining me on the line from Berlin is up euro chief there guys on in here in the studio as European editor Ben home die. First of all. What's this a surprise? Mrs Merkel's decision to step down. It was actually a surprise. Everybody was watching very carefully the elections in Hesse, which is one of the states in west Germany. They have elections on Sunday, and the CD you the Christian Democratic Union. Michael's party had been doing incredibly badly in the polls. And on the night. They all said did extremely badly their vote share shrank by eleven percentage points, but they actually scraped through which meant that they were able to stay in power and renew their coalition with the greens. And not even after bring in any coalition party. He's so actually the result was nowhere near as bad as some people had been expecting. I mean, there had been even suggestions that the government might have been voted out of office in that direction. It didn't happen. Now if that eventuality had happened everybody was expecting that Michael would step down. But the fact that the CPU clung to power meant. Indeed, I wrote myself it looked like she dodged the bullet despite that she decided to stand down. And that was the thing that surprised everybody that she squeaked through and Ponzi and squeak through and still she decided to stand down. And yet she's also said she intends or light to stay on as chancellor until twenty twenty one. But at the same time, there's now a contest onto lead the CD you so is her position tenable d think and who's emerging as the front runner for the CD you. Well, everything depends on who is elected party leader. Because there are three candidates who've declared one of them is Michael's anointed to add RS, rather undergrad. Cramped Cowan Bauer who's the current secretary general of the you now she is very much Marcle clone. She's very loyal to the chancellor, and she generally has a similar kind of agenda to her. She's very popular in the party. And she is odds on favor of the moment to win. But there are two others who declared Jens bond, the health minister and free with mounts who is a former head of the parliamentary group, and he is a real ideological industry of Michael's and spun this to now if either spun or Mets win, then all bets are off no one really expense medical to be able to survive as chancellor till two thousand twenty one till the next elections. If either Mansell spun our elected posse leader, it would just be completely impossible combination. She would understand that as well. And there's no way that she would persist in trying to cling onto the job of chancellor if one of. Ideological rivals gets the party leadership say ideological rivals. What are the key splits? Welsh fawn for example, walls, her most ferocious critic during the whole refugee crisis. He really was very outspoken against her sort of liberal policy of keeping Germany's borders open during the crisis, which led to an influx of more than a million migrants as we know mainly from the Middle Eastern North Africa. He's been very very critical of that. He's very very hard line on the fact that these people now have to integrate, and if they don't then they should be kicked out. He's sort of taking a very hotline. So almost like AFDC line alternates of Germany, this all the sort of anti immigration line. Although I must say since he became a minister became health minister in March. He's hot down a bit Matt's. Also, he was always very strongly opposed to Merckel and the way she essentially pushed the party to the left or to the the centre-left of German politics bay. Basically, he represents disgruntled older generation in although he's not so old himself. But he'd represents that sort of group of conservatives women the who have resented the way Mackel has tried to modernize the party. They wanted to return to its conservative roots? Now, Ben, obviously one of the characteristics of the Merckel era is that Germany's become more and more. Evidently, the dominant force inside the European Union. So the rest of Europe will be watching this with considerable interest and perhaps some nervousness. Yes. I mean, once again, European is a sort of bystanders to German domestic politics, which is becoming all too familiar. Pose for the last several years through the eurozone crisis. Of course, you could remember moments of critical decision making that depended on voices and debates like in the Bundestag in Berlin. I'm sure leaders across the continental watching incredibly closely to see what comes out of the CD you leadership contest. And then the stability of the government. If mocal really wants to stay till twenty twenty one it's quite likely that will have lots more instability, particularly within the grand coalition from the SPD. So this may well be a German government that does very little the next three years, which will be bad news for your how bad though, I mean, can you actually cope with a period of stasis where nothing much happens? Yes. It could I suppose I've just been in Paris. And I think there's a very strong French view, for example, that this is actually quite a benign period of relative economic growth. And actually, this is the time precisely the time to fix problems, particularly in the yours in for the next crisis, which may not be not far away. And I suppose the other big threat. Of course, he's the populist insurgency, which is really gaining traction across the continent. And I think certainly the view in Paris is that Europe can't afford to just sit there and do nothing has to move, and it has to respond to try and galvanize citizens behind sort of more pro European position and to try and sort of quell this. Insurgency? But I guess the reality is isn't a guy that even under the pretty pro-european. Centrist, Mrs Merkel, the German government had been pretty disappointing as far as the French concerned in responding to some of these more ambitious plans for European integration. Yes. Absolutely. I mean, I think one of the big surprises in a way has been the performance of Schultz. The finance minister here when the coalition treaty was hammered out between the city and the PD in February March that was a very strong European chat to that. Which was basically written by the Fulmer SPD leader Martin Schulz who was himself a former president of the European parliament. It was incredibly strongly pro European very idealistic really sort of buying into the whole macro Mian vision of reform and what's happened since. Then obviously, it was Martin Schulz was kicked out and the currently does, AVI. SP a Turkey not interested in European. Reform more yours and reform all of Schultz's just down to be sort of pale imitation of Wolfgang showing blah in fact, lacking showing blows vision of European integration. So he's been a big disappointment for those who are really hoping that the new German Grand coalition would respond to microns of reform proposals in a positive way. So if anything I suspect, then Ben a new Germany would become actually more introverted because the best you could hope for its continuity from European point of view with a look alike, but if it were spun type figure, you would have a headset used what nationalistic, but a more conservative, more, Germany. I approach I think that's probably right. I mean angular mogul has been chancellor for thirteen years. She's a set at Europe's top table for that long. And even though she has a self been incredibly cautious and conservative in the way that she's handled a lot of European questions. She does have a very strong kind of European. Instinct and sensibility, which perhaps successes won't have to agree that possibly the next chancellor is going to be less pro European than angular Merckel. I suppose the thing that we have to remember though, is that they're not going to be that Euro-sceptic Germany is still a pro European country. It's still very much in Germany's national interests to want to strong Europe. And I don't see us Manipur from the far, right? Fringe with the rise of alternative for Deutschland. Which by the way, looks like it might be plateauing anyway in public support. I don't see a huge shift to the right on the big European question in Germany, and I guess the irony is that even if Germany is losing some of its traditional europhilia, it's never been more powerful in Europe and more central to what's happening inside the and that will only be essentially with Brexit. Oh, that's certainly true, especially with Italy locked in a showdown with Brussels and other Member States and intentions with the east Spain, which seems to. To be fairly politically weak and Britain. Obviously leaving the big question is whether Emmanuel Macron can recover popularity in France, and whether he can bring his reforms to bear to convince Germany and convince public opinion on political opinion in Germany that reform is for real. And therefore, you know, Germany should take his ideas for your zone reform, for example, more seriously and finally guy I mean, maybe it's a little bit too soon to be writing the victories for the mobile era. But what do you think she will be remembered for him and she's been in power long time? I think essentially she'll be remembered for many things I mean, it's interesting when people sort of looked back they look at the great chance of Germany's postwar history people like Konrad Adenauer who really anchored Germany in the western lines helmet Kohl who achieved German reunification, and it's interesting. You know, she's been chancellor for thirteen years. And when you ask people, so what is she going to be remembered for people? Struggled to come up with announcer. And the funny thing is that a lot of people think it and Haman Han than say, the refugee crisis and actually that in a way might be a lasting legacy. I mean, I think she would resent that because it wasn't a hit finest hour. But I think in many ways the fact that she stood up for the idea of open borders for the idea of humanitarianism and for the liberal world order in a way in her response to that crisis. I think that says a lot about her. And I think also says a lot about how she changed Germany because I think that approach would never have happened before she had become chancellor, the German response to the refugee crisis. Will I think be remembered in decades to come as an extraordinary moment in recent European history and Harada was absolutely critical.

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