Politics

The End of Merkel’s Europe

One thing is clear: the German elections for the Bundestag will determine the future direction of the EU. The current federal German government steps on the brakes whenever an opportunity arises to work towards a more ecological, a fairer, a more future-proofed Europe. A budget which is far too small for the tasks delegated to the EU and heavily weighted towards concrete, fertilizers and atomic energy. A refusal to allocate more resources to international development. Blocking the reduction of CO2 limits for cars. Preventing a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to make subsidies payable only for the provision of social goods rather than senselessly calculating them simply on land area. The list could be extended.

The election manifesto of the German Greens shines a welcome light on many of these activities of the conservative-liberal coalition, and makes it very clear that with us Greens in government European politics would also be different.  More stringent climate policy targets and support for a European energy transition. A greater say for the European Parliament;  a voice for citizens; proper curbs on tax exiles and tax dumping throughout Europe as opposed to just small tweaks. Policies discussed with the people rather than haggled over in midnight summits that bypass parliaments and the public eye. MoreEurope when it comes to the great coming tasks and challenges, which ignore national borders.

The big and important topic of the European crisis is dealt with not in the chapter on Europe but in the economics section, and that’s fine – in our working group on Europe we have always called for mainstreaming of the European issues in the manifesto. In response to the crisis we want to set out a series of proposals which have already been fully discussed and agreed at a number of conferences of federal delegates in recent years. We refuse to accept the social division of Europe – in my view, this must be one of our main messages. The manifesto calls for more effective regulation of the financial sector, including a European banking union to close the gap between the lack of restrictions on capital movements within the EU and national regulatory competences over banks. In addition, we propose, rightly, a European tax agreement against tax dumping and tax exiles and stronger political controls over economic and fiscal policy at European level.

Unfortunately, on this point we lack concrete proposals for HOW this political economic union can be achieved. We have little to suggest beyond increasing the powers of the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs. I would say we are avoiding the question of what it would really mean for the EU to have a proper say in national budgets and of how to allocate competences in this area between the European Parliament and national parliaments.

The manifesto proposes the creation of a debt repayment fund for the temporary communitisation of a proportion of the existing debts of Euro states, with the aim of reducing interest rates on new credit lines. The commitment to “genuine” Eurobonds has been introduced by us during an amendment session of the party congress – it was not in the original draft. This is an issue where there is a clear distinction between us and the conservative-liberal coalition. But of course this idea is not too popular in Germany.

The central point for our working group on Europe is the analysis of the “Euro-crisis” and we strengthened this point in the amendment session. One may question anyway whether analyses belong in a manifesto – after all, what people want are answers. But especially with respect to the European crisis, it is incredibly important to break the hegemony of Merkel’s crisis discourse in Germany, because it is only by doing so that we can carry people with us and win them over to a different political approach. If people talk about how the “southerners” have been consuming more than their fair share but at the same time ignore how this politically supported process benefited the German banks over many years, they will also regard the crisis countries as bearing the primary responsibility for overcoming their problems. However, in Germany we too have a responsibility to eliminate these imbalances. Whoever speaks only of “failing political systems” in the crisis countries is forgetting that many parts of the system are rotten, built on a hugely unequal distribution of wealth and an inflated financial sector in all European countries. And it is precisely on this point that we Greens have to say that the lessons of the crisis must include the socio-ecological transformation of the economic and financial system.

The manifesto can be read online here with a shorter English version available here.  

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