Will grand coalition clear the way for EU reform?

In Germany the way is now clear for a new grand coalition. 66 percent of the SPD party members who cast their ballots voted in favour of the coalition agreement with the CDU and the CSU. The upshot: Angela Merkel can be voted in as chancellor again on March 14. Commentators assess whether this will improve the chances of far-reaching EU reforms.

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Le Soir (BE) /

All hopes pinned on Merkel-Macron axis

The opportunity must be seized now that Germany once again has a government, Le Soir urges:

“A sigh of relief was to be heard in Paris, Brussels and all those places inhabited by pro-Europeans convinced that Europe cannot advance without a strong Germany. ... With this constellation of two political stars a narrow, temporary window of opportunity has opened up for Europe. Although there is no guarantee of success, there is the opportunity to attempt a thoroughgoing reform of the European Union. ... And while the 'MM' axis may hold the key to a much anticipated European reform, the only certainty at this point is that it does not have the luxury to wait: it must take the plunge, and quickly.”

Financial Times (GB) /

EU too weak for reform

The Financial Times fears that the grand coalition won't have the strength to reform the EU:

“Despite the guarded optimism in Paris, Berlin is unlikely to be able to deliver more substantial eurozone reform, beyond incremental steps towards completing the EU's banking union. Nor is Germany likely to be able to show leadership over growing authoritarianism in central and eastern Europe and the rising challenges posed by Russia and Turkey. In these circumstances, the EU will also be much less capable of dealing with the next big crisis when it hits, as it inevitably will. ... The economics in Europe look good, but the politics certainly do not.”

Iswestija (RU) /

Merkel facing four tough years

The painstakingly formed new-old governing coalition faces immense challenges, German political scientist Alexander Rahr explains in the pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia:

“For Angela Merkel the main thing is that she has rescued her fourth term in office. If she hangs on until the end she will go down in post-war Germany's history - like Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl, the other long-term tenants of the Chancellery. On the other hand colossal problems await her attention: ... The crumbling EU must be saved, relations with the US patched up, the dispute with Turkey settled. And the relationship with Russia is still stuck in the Cold War era. The economic problems are getting bigger and bigger.The economic problems are getting bigger and bigger. And on top of all that there is the risk of a new wave of refugees.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Dangerous conglomeration in the centre

The SPD's decision is good for Germany and Europe in the short term but not necessarily in the long term, Dnevnik posits:

“Perhaps one needn't go as far as the influential historian Timothy Garton Ash, who wrote in a headline in The Guardian that the grand coalition was the last thing Germany and Europe need right now. But his hypothesis that the political conglomeration in the centre leaves the left and right unoccupied, and thus plays into the hands of extreme political forces, should not be ignored. His warning must be taken seriously. All the more so given that it's likely that the economy has already peaked and that there will be a downturn long before the new German government's mandate comes to an end.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

High time the SPD modernised

The SPD's problems aren't over yet, NRC Handelsblad comments:

“The SPD has prevented a leadership crisis. A 'no' from the grassroots would have been a slap in the face for the party leadership. But as the party will now once more participate in the government, it must make sure that it closes its ranks. ... Many in the SPD believe the party urgently needs a new, clear course. The lesson of the recent election rout is that voters do not want the party to muddle on as before. The way the SPD's social-democratic sister parties in France and the Netherlands were practically wiped off the map in the last elections was a nightmare scenario for many in the SPD.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

A bitter victory for Merkel

Merkel's fourth mandate is a victory with a bitter aftertaste, Le Figaro writes:

“The combat of recent months has left its mark. The chancellor has had to look on as resistance grew within the CDU, while the young troublemakers in the SPD have refused to lay down their arms. The AfD, meanwhile, will make life difficult for her in parliament. There's no doubt about it, Merkel IV is weak. ... Her last mandate was marked by two mistakes: her more than hazardous management of the migration crisis and the related entrance of the far right to the Bundestag. Before that she'd governed Germany like a mother, with neither verve nor a particularly strong will to reform. If she wants to go down in history she's left with Europe. She must give it new elan together with Emmanuel Macron.”