Next German Leader Likely to Continue Merkel’s ‘Wobbly’ Policies in Europe

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Germany election
Germany election

The likely Social Democrat (SPD)-led next German coalition government under Otto Scholz will continue the “wobbly” policies of retiring Chancellor Angela Merkel and still be unable take a strong stand on its national and wider European security interests, analysts told Sputnik.

Scholz and his Social Democratic Party (SPD) emerged as the largest party with 206 seats in the Bundestag, the federal parliament. Outgoing Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister Bavarian Party came second with 196 seats.

The Greens led by Annalena Baerbock came in third with 118 seats, enabling the SPD to hold an absolute majority with only them as coalition partners. However, Scholz was expected to seek the participation of the fourth place liberal, free market Free Democrats (FDP) with 92 seats as well, German commentators said.

“The inconclusive outcome of the German political elections on Sunday does not move the needle, former European Union consultant Paolo von Schirach, director of the Global Policy Institute told Sputnik. “Germany was wobbly and unable (in fact unwilling) to define and take a clear stand on its (and Europe’s) national security interests under Merkel. Expect no major changes now.”

Although the Social Democrats looked likely to form a strong coalition without the Christian Democrats, German foreign policy was unlikely to change significantly, Schirach predicted.

The new government would focus on “managing Washington relations with talk on unity followed by no action, ambiguity on Russia, very low profile on China [and] no efforts to boost German defense spending,” he suggested.

“This was essentially Merkel’s ‘pragmatic’ foreign policy,” he said.

The reason for this continued commitment to indecision and lack of clear actions lay deep in the political consensus of Germany and also of Western Europe, Schirach explained.

“The hard truth is that Germany, because of its widely shared semi-neutral proclivities, is hopelessly unable to lead an equally timid and risk averse Europe. Forget about [French President Emmanuel] Macron’s call to arms in the form of an EU [European Union] credible defense effort,” he said.

The long deadlock and drift on European defense and wider strategic issues would therefore continue for the foreseeable future, Schirach advised.

“Sure, with Germany’s concurrence there will be more talks in Brussels, and ad hoc committees reviewing issues and options on the value of an independent European defense effort. But it will be only talk. Europe is unwilling to seriously discuss, let alone act upon, what to do about any current or future security threats,” he said.

Neither Scholz nor his likely coalition partners looked prepared to upset that passive consensus, Schirach observed.

“The new German coalition government will continue to wobble and equivocate, following the fantasy that if Europe just talks peace, stays quiet, and engages in trade with everybody, all will be well,” he said.

SEEKING COMPROMISE

Eurasia Center Vice President Earl Rasmussen felt Scholz and the SPD would indeed seek better relations with Russia, but he agreed that the narrow margin between the leading parties in the election had restricted the likely new leader’s room to maneuver.

“This is a surprise rebirth for the Social Democrats with Mr. Scholz. However, the margin of victory is very small and the establishment of a new coalition may take some time. Moreover, Mr. Scholz appears to be more centrist and is keenly aware of the economic conditions and needs of Germany,” he said.

Therefore far from seeking to separate from Merkel’s party and policies, Rasmussen agreed the new government was more likely to defer to them.

“I think he [Scholz] will seek compromise with the conservative CDU in meeting Germany’s objectives. I believe that he will also seek to improve ties with Russia as well from the economic/business perspective. Obviously this will be influenced by the coalition partners,” he said.

Rasmussen also expressed optimism that Scholz would see the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project through to completion despite possible opposition from his Green allies.

“I see continued support for Nord Stream 2. The project was initially proposed by Germany and is essential to meeting their energy needs in support of economic growth. ….[Therefore] I believe the outcome [of the election] will not have a significant impact on the Nord Stream 2 and its soon to be operational implementation,” he explained.

The alternative to Nord Stream 2 for Germany would be importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States which would be limited and significantly more expensive or increasing coal power usage which would likely not gain support within either the SPD or the Green Party, Rasmussen said.

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