21 Apr 2021 12:46 IST

Germany’s EU views will get Green jolt post-Merkel

The Christian Democrats’chancellor pick Armin Laschet will have to share power with the pro-European Greens

The European Union has less and less need to fear German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s exit after federal elections in September. “Mutti” or Mummy, as she is known in Germany, has been a dominant figure in European politics for over a decade. But Brussels might find an even more cooperative partner in Berlin when she leaves the scene.

Bigwigs from Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats have picked Armin Laschet, the leader of their centre-right party, to run as chancellor for the conservative bloc. The decision should be enough to see off a challenge from Markus Soeder, the leader of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party.

Coalition with consequences

That removes one clear risk for Europe. Soeder has historically taken a hard line on European issues, calling for a Greek exit from the euro zone as recently as 2015 and criticising Merkel’s open-door policy during the migrant crisis. By contrast, French-speaking Laschet has positioned himself as the Merkel continuity candidate. He met French President Emmanuel Macron last year and apologised on behalf of the German government for taking too long to react to calls for EU reforms.

Laschet will initially have less authority than Merkel, who was often able to drag the eurosceptic right wing of her party where it didn’t want to go. But the conservatives, while still the largest bloc with 28 per cent support according to Politico’s poll of polls, are a waning force compared with the Greens. Co-led by chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock, the latter are polling 21 per cent, more than double their vote share in 2017 elections. By far the most likely coalition government after September’s poll is therefore a relatively balanced one between the conservative bloc and the

Sensible reforms

Baerbock’s party wants Brussels to have further powers to raise its own tax revenue and issue bonds. The Greens have also called for greater investment in infrastructure and environmentally friendly technologies. That bodes well for sensible reforms of the EU fiscal rules, known as the Stability and Growth Pact, and potential future common debt issuance. Their domestic policies are also a good fit for the investment-starved German economy’s needs.

Merkel may have played the decisive role in brokering major European deals. But German leadership on the bloc’s major financial and economic projects could easily outlast her tenure.