"Germany's confused attitude is compounded by its reluctance to lead." That was the conclusion of a special report on Germany by The Economist, June 15th, 2013.
At the beginning of 2014 this assessment is still valid. In her third term as German chancellor Angela Merkel is not going to change her European policy, if there is any.
One reason is her character and her life experience. Grown up in the former GDR a socialist - communist one party dictatorship she learned how to survive. One lesson learned is not to speak up and another is to avoid any risk. She will never take the lead - be it in domestic or in foreign affairs.
Her political record is full of examples showing her reluctance to give her party or government clear guidance at the beginning of a political debate. She always carefully watches the internal and external discussions. She has a good feeling for the developing main stream. If a mainstream opinion becomes apparent she will jump on the waggon. A good example for her behavior is the ten weeks of negotiations with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) leading to the Grand coalition. Merkel had won the federal elections edging close to a parliamentary majority. She started first negotiations with the Green Party and the socialists. After she finished talks with the Green Party she started a ten weeks long bazar with the Social Democratic Party, which reached a modest result in the federal elections.
During the negotiations the German public got the impression that the Social Democratic Party was the winner of the elections. The head of the SPD, Sigmar Gabriel, took the lead. There was no news without him paving the way to a coalition of two social democratic parties. Merkel was conspicuously absent in this power game. She just wanted to stay in power at almost any cost. At the end of the day the agreement between the SPD, the CDU and the Christian Social Party (CSU), the Bavarian sister of the CDU, was signed. The junior partner SPD got six ministries, one more than the CDU and three more than the CSU. The opposition parties have only about 20 percent of the seats in the parliament - de facto there is no opposition in the parliament any longer. That is bad for German democracy.
During those negotiations the really important political topics had been avoided. There was no discussion about the future of Europe, about the future management of the so-called Euro Crisis, about how to safeguard energy security, about the future security politics of NATO and Germany, and how Germany wants to sustain the German armed forces in quality and quantity. The burning domestic topics like demography, migration, integration, education or Islamisation were neglected too.
Merkel feels no pressure for change. She still gets the highest approval rate of all top politicians. Her personal approval rates are far above those of her party.
The German public seems to be happy how Merkel managed the so-called Euro crisis with Germany as paymaster for weak Southern European countries like Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
There is no significant pressure in Germany, neither from the German public, nor from the bigger parties, nor from the media for a political change.
Merkel will continue with more of the same. For her there is no alternative to her politics available. There is only the young and still small party Alternative for Germany (AFD) which offers realistic alternatives.
In the view of a sceptical minority Germany is following a dangerous path.
There is no clear answer which type of Europe German people really want. What is future of Europe? Do we want a centralized Europe led by a nondemocratic commission in Brussels with a low degree of national sovereignty or do we want a loose Republic of republics - a Union of the Fatherlands with a high degree of national sovereignty?
This question has to be answered before we take the next steps. The European elections will show a strengthening of the sceptics. The Eurozone’s focus on Germany has weakened the view on the European Union of 28 and the view on more European countries outside the EU like Switzerland and Norway.
Only a united Europe speaking with one voice could have a chance against worldwide competitors like China, India, Brazil as well as the re-emerging United States of America and additional emerging countries. The reality is far away from that objective. The Euro, which was believed to bring Europe together, has split Europe for the next decades.
The Eurozone will remain in big economic and financial troubles. Countries with high degree of foreign debt, a high degree of long-time unemployment and bad governance need much more time and financial support than many politicians in Germany want to make the public to believe. The biggest will be France, if President Hollande is neither willing nor capable to start unpopular reforms. Should France fail to take the necessary decisions the Eurozone will implode with repercussions for Europe and the world.
Chancellor Merkel will try to keep the Eurozone together almost at any costs.
Another construction site is NATO. What should be the way ahead of NATO after Afghanistan and the strategic shift by the USA from the Atlantic to the Asia-Pacific region where two thirds of the human population live?
So far, European NATO-member states are neither willing nor capable to the fill the military gap the USA will leave behind in Europe. At present the USA shoulder about 72 percent of NATO expenses with about 310 million people. The European NATO members with about 500 million people shoulder the rest of 28 percent. Only four NATO member states spend two percent of the Gross National Product- NATO’s benchmark. Most European NATO members are drastically underfinanced.
The third Merkel government has decided not to increase the defense budget. There is the risk that Germany will be forced to further reduce the numbers of its armed forces.
Another big problem for Germany is energy security at affordable prizes for private households and the economy. Merkel’s decision to stop the use of nuclear energy until 2020 was a great mistake. The prizes for energy are skyrocketing. First chemical companies leave Germany to benefit from low energy prizes outside Germany. The renewable energies need more time and more power grids to substitute the waning nuclear energy in Germany.
Merkel will not give up her standpoint as reluctant hegemon. She is afraid that a German Hegemon will enforce resentments against Germany stemming from the 12 years period of the Hitler regime. Posters and pictures showing her as a new female Hitler had a negative impact on her.
The world should not forget that Germany has a broken neck since 1945.
The social gifts coming with the social agreement of the Grand coalition will weaken Germany’s economic efficiency and competitiveness in the mid term. The rate of unemployment will increase as well as welfare costs. The tax income will decline limiting Germany’s capabilities to further support foreign countries and the present status of the welfare state.
That is a message most Germans do not like and therefore rely on Merkel’s promises.
Source: Geostragic Pulse