Germany’s keeping grand coalition could contribute to European stability

The Yomiuri Shimbun The political turmoil in Germany has come to an end at long last. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s inauguration of her fourth administration and her comeback on the diplomatic stage will certainly have a positive effect on the stability of Europe.

In a vote by party members, Germany’s center-left Social Democrats (SPD) decided to maintain their grand coalition with the Merkel-led alliance of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU). As early as the middle of the month, the next German coalition government will be launched.

It has taken more than five months for a new administration to be created since the election in the lower house of parliament last September. This is an unusual development in Germany. One factor behind this was that both the CDU/CSU — the country’s largest alliance of parties — and the second-largest party SPD lost a significant number of seats in last year’s election.

The SPD had initially planned to go into opposition to rebuild itself, but in light of Merkel’s difficulties in arranging a coalition, the party shifted to maintaining the grand coalition.

The two parties’ combined number of seats in parliament is short of 60 percent of the total. The two largest political parties, which have led politics in postwar Germany, will be tested as to whether they can regain the trust of the people.

The populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which advocates an anti-refugee policy, will become the No. 1 opposition party. It has gained momentum, with approval ratings equaling those of the SPD, which was split internally over whether to form a coalition.

Merkel’s responsibility great

As part of the policy accords for the next coalition government, the number of refugees Germany will accept has been capped at 220,000 a year, at the initiative of the CDU and CSU. It is obvious that the sister parties intend to check the AfD from advancing further.

It is praiseworthy that in their policy accords, they have hammered out a posture of pushing forward European integration through an increase in Germany’s contribution to the budget of the European Union and other measures.

It is undeniable that Merkel has seen her credibility lowered due to the turmoil over forming a coalition. But the responsibility she should assume within the EU is still great.

Germany has chalked up a massive trade surplus, which has caused the country to be considered “the sole winner in Europe.” Many people have doubts about Germany’s obstinate stance of demanding that other EU member countries pursue tight fiscal policies. For the growth of all Europe, increased government spending should be taken up for discussion.

The EU has been coping with refugees and public safety measures through such measures as strengthening its external border control, and also tackling such tasks as reinforcing the integration of the eurozone. Its negotiations with Britain over its exit from the bloc will reach their climax in the latter half of this year.

Merkel is also being asked to work as a coordinator in these tasks, by joining forces with French President Emmanuel Macron.

With U.S. President Donald Trump leaning to his protectionist “America First” policy, it is also important for Merkel to show leadership in international cooperation over such commitments as maintaining free trade and implementing measures against global warming. European stability will be a propelling force in confronting such challenges.

(From The Yomiuiri Shimbun, March 6, 2018)Speech


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