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  1. Weakened Angela Merkel faces challenges in reshaping Europe: Experts

Weakened Angela Merkel faces challenges in reshaping Europe: Experts

Weakened mainly because of a far-right surge in German federal election, Angela Merkel will face serious challenges in promoting deeper European integration with French President Emmanuel Macron, experts have said.

By: | Published: September 26, 2017 6:41 AM
Angela merkel,  German federal election, Clingendael, Social Democratic Party, Emmanuel Macron Angela Merkel (Reuters)

Weakened mainly because of a far-right surge in German federal election, Angela Merkel will face serious challenges in promoting deeper European integration with French President Emmanuel Macron, experts have said. “Merkel has secured a fourth term as chancellor, but emerged weakened, facing difficult coalition talks and reduced chances to proceed with a compromising attitude towards Macron’s demands for a more integrated Europe,” Xinhua quoted Adriaan Schout, coordinator of European Union (EU) affairs at Clingendael, as saying on Monday.

European Union (EU) affairs at Clingendael is a Hague-based institute for international relations. “Germany’s liberals, who are most likely to become coalition partners, have a critical attitude towards a more integrated European Union, making it difficult for Merkel to support such plans,” Schout noted.

In Sunday’s election, Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party along with its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) recorded its worst election result since after the Second World War, winning only 239 seats (33 per cent) in the 598-seat Bundestag, down from 311 seats, according to preliminary results.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) led by former European Parliament president Martin Schulz, came second, gaining around 21 per cent of the vote. But following the result, Schulz pledged to abandon the so-called “grand coalition” with the conservatives, which has governed Germany over eight of the past 12 years.

The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) came third, gaining about 13 per cent of the vote, above what pre-election polls had predicted. It is the first time after World War II that a far-right party has entered the German parliament.

The result points to the direction of more internal tensions and more polarization within Germany, making it more difficult for Merkel to mesh with Macron’s demands for reforms to deepen the EU and the eurozone, explained Schout.

“The result of the German vote reduces the chances of major reforms as French President Macron has pledged,” said Zsolt Darvas, senior fellow at the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel.

The French president, who has pledged to bring about a “radical reform” of Europe, is expected to fully develop his ideas in a speech at Sorbonne University in Paris on Tuesday.

He has made calls for a eurozone budget that would finance investments and stabilize the European economy during crises, as well as a eurozone finance minister and parliament.

“Emmanuel Macron has a long list of reform ideas, but I’m afraid little progress will be made. The idea of a permanent Eurogroup president might be enhanced, but the position will not have the scope the French president has pledged,” said Darvas.

As far as the prospect of a eurozone budget, Darvas called it a “no-go idea.”

“Even before the elections, Merkel was sceptical about the idea of a common budget, referring only to the possibility of a small budget,” he said.

If the FDP becomes a coalition partner, it will be difficult for Merkel to realize such a move, said Darvas.

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