What does Germany's new cabinet portend for Europe?
Germany's first "traffic light" governing coalition comprising the SPD, the Greens and the FDP has unveiled its coalition agreement and the new German cabinet is also taking shape. The media discuss what Europe can expect from the Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, and the liberal Finance Minister Christian Lindner.
A spearhead against authoritarianism
El País is impressed with the coalition agreement:
“Germany will advocate its Europeanism with its social, equality, environmental and digital policies. ... It is no longer enough to manage crises, as Merkel did. A less accommodating and more demanding attitude is now needed, especially towards illiberal partners like Hungary and Poland who do not keep their word. The coalition agreement is the picture of a democratic community confronting the authoritarian alliance forged under the leadership of Moscow and Beijing - a vast and ambitious programme.”
Backing for Athens only temporary?
Athens is demanding that Berlin takes a critical stance towards Ankara. Journalist Babis Koutras is sceptical that the new German government will be able to assert its ideals against economic interests, as he writes in Proto Thema:
“Germany's new Green foreign minister Annalena Baerbock has clearly backed the Greek position and even called for the suspension of construction of six Turkish submarines in German shipyards. ... In Athens, they believe that such a development is too good to be true and that the government will soon go back on this position. Germany's economic interests in Turkey are too strong and the presence of the Turks in Germany too powerful to permit ambitious goals.”
Slipstream the wave of modernisation!
The "traffic light" coalition in Berlin - comprising Social Democrats, Greens and liberals - also holds opportunities for the Czech Republic, Deník believes:
“In the last 30 years we've come closer to Germany, even if we're still further away than we had imagined when it comes to salaries, for example. ... As one of Germany's de facto states in economic terms, the Czech Republic now has a huge opportunity to ride the wave of German modernisation. Let's connect our high-speed trains with the new German ones, let's join the green energy wave, let's profit from the construction and education boom in Germany! Or we can opt for the 'Czech way' and stay as we are. But then we should forget about German salaries for good.”
Bad news for Orbán and Co.
The "traffic light" ruling coalition will counter authoritarian tendencies in the EU, the Salzburger Nachrichten predicts:
“The coalition agreement reads in parts like a reform programme for the European Union. The EU is to develop into a 'federal state'; close cooperation between armies of reform-minded states is to be established; and above all, Brussels is to act 'more consistently and promptly' against any erosion of the rule of law. ... All this is not good news for Viktor Orbán in Budapest, Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw or Janez Janša in Ljubljana. ... The fact that the rest of Europe has stood by and watched [Orbán] and others chip away at the rule of law for so long had a lot to do with Angela Merkel and many others in the European People's Party.”
Against anti-democrats and for more integration
The agreement clearly bears the signature of the Greens and points the way forward for Europe, says Público:
“It is a victory for the Greens under Annalena Baerbock, who will take over the foreign ministry, which suggests a greater potential for conflict in the face of China's and Russia's ambitions and the uncompromising defence of European values vis-à-vis growing populism and threats to the rule of law. The idea of Germany as a great integrating and receiving country, which is also expressed in the agreement that has now been presented, sends a clear message about the path Europe must take.”
No need to fear Christian Lindner
The new German finance minister is made of flesh and blood like everyone else, Protagon reminds readers:
“As far as the economy is concerned, especially with regard to the post-pandemic adjustment measures and the return to fiscal discipline, Christian Lindner's takeover of the German Finance Ministry has caused near panic throughout Europe. ... It should be clear, however, that as much as Lindner wants to appear as a fiscal policy 'hawk', he has nowhere near the clout of a Wolfgang Schäuble. As a German, he will of course play a leading role in the Euro Group and Ecofin [the European Council's Economic and Financial Affairs Council], but at the same time there are Draghi and Macron in Europe and Lagarde at the ECB, with all that that entails.”
Copenhagen welcomes Berlin to EU frugal four
The Danish government will get along especially well with liberal finance minister Christian Lindner, Jyllands-Posten predicts:
“He can use his veto against all laws, and joins the ranks of the tough German finance ministers. ... With Lindner there will be no rash capital transfers to Southern Europe, and with him Germany will effectively - but not formally - join the EU frugal four, of which Denmark is also a member. The mutualisation of EU debt after the first Covid crisis will hardly be repeated. Here too, [Danish Social Democratic] Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen will nod with satisfaction.”
Green values will be a problem for Moscow
The fact that a Green will determine German foreign policy in the future will heighten tensions with the Kremlin, political scientist Yevgenia Pimenova warns in Izvestia:
“This can hardly be seen as a hopeful situation for Russia. For the Greens, the values factor plays an important role in political decision-making. And most of this party's reservations about Moscow are on the ideological front. It is concerned with environmental problems as well as liberalisation in dealing with various minorities. ... Moreover, Ms. Baerbock has already distinguished herself as a rather sharp critic of Russia. It seems to me that we must reckon with the bad news for us becoming increasingly dense.”
Scholz will be less patient with Warsaw
Warsaw should also be prepared for a tougher stance from Germany, writes Rzeczpospolita:
“For Angela Merkel, the priority was to keep the countries of Central Europe - and above all Poland - in the community. ... But Olaf Scholz's government will have a different focus: preserving the EU's identity as a union of democratic states governed by the rule of law, even if that means losing some of its members. ... This means that the game the Polish government has been playing with Brussels for six years will become even more dangerous. ... Now Berlin will no longer be able to convince other EU capitals to show restraint vis-à-vis Warsaw, and a failed header by the Polish government could see Poland with its back on the turf in a Polexit.”
A powerful team
NRC Handelsblad sees the coalition partners' ambitionus joint goals as a hopeful sign:
“The three have their sights set on a more digital, sustainable and social Germany, and for the time being they still seem to want to work together to achieve this. ... The new government is decidedly pro-European. It wants a federal European state and more powers for the European Parliament. ... Germany also sees the importance of an economically and technologically strong Europe in the geopolitical power struggle. ... Coalition agreements are always full of promises and are often hard to put into practice. But if the three succeed in implementing the main points of their programme, Germany will be a different country four years from now.”
A new balance
Ouest-France sees the new coalition agreement as a good basis for European cooperation:
“As far as European issues are concerned, the coalition agreement published on Wednesday will satisfy Emmanuel Macron's camp, since the new coalition shares certain French ideas. Transnational lists in European elections, a right of initiative for the European Parliament, reforms based on the Conference on the Future of Europe, respect for the rule of law. The new government is ready to make changes to the treaties and to advance the strategic sovereignty of Europe. The CDU's reservations about many of these issues seem to have been overcome - at least on paper.”
Poised for a return to economic orthodoxy?
El Mundo is concerned by the prospect of Christian Lindner, leader of the liberal FDP, as finance minister:
“German politics has long been characterised by a pragmatism that not only allows it to forge solid coalitions between parties that are far apart on the political spectrum, but also to endow its governments with exceptional stability and efficiency. ... The key to this is the Ministry of Finance, which is to be taken over by the leader of the liberals, Christian Lindner. This is a message to the 27 member states: it's time to think about a return to economic orthodoxy. There is cause for concern at [the Spanish seat of government] Moncloa.”
Condemned to the slow lane
The new government won't give Germany the comprehensive economic reforms it needs, The Spectator fears:
“We are used to the cliche that Germany is the euro-zone's strongman, with the mightiest economy. ... And yet that view is increasingly out-of-date. Germany is in danger of turning into the weakest major economy in the bloc; as that happens, power will inevitably shift from Berlin to Paris and Rome. Sooner or later, Germans will vote for a Chancellor who will reform the economy, and get the economy moving again. But it won't be Scholz, and it won't be the fractious coalition he unveils today. It will condemn the country to the slow lane.”
Put the past in the past
Berlin must above all take a more visible stance in geopolitics, demands La Repubblica:
“It should be Germany's mission to move beyond the shadow of historical guilt and end half a century of 'inviolable' pacifism. And to assume the leadership of a Europe that needs to redefine its mission in a world that is completely different from the post-World War II world. ... Above all, the future German government cannot confine itself to acting as an inflexible guardian of the European treaties in the name of the economy, when today the fate of Europe seems to depend irrevocably on the primacy of geopolitics.”
Accelerated by crises
Jutarnji list congratulates the parties on reaching an agreement so quickly in view of the problems Europe is facing:
“The healthcare crisis is raging throughout Europe, and threatens to wreak even more damage on the economy. A caretaker government has only limited powers in this regard. Winter is knocking at the door and Europe's energy situation is under threat. ... Vladimir Putin is rattling his weapons on the Ukrainian border and playing psychological war games with the US while Europe looks on helplessly. ... Paris and Rome want to raise the debt ceiling to 100 percent of GDP. And the German 'traffic light' coalition has agreed to stop indebtedness at the local level. There is no time to lose.”