New German government: what can Europe expect?

Germany has a new government. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and his cabinet comprising members of the coalition with the Greens and FDP were sworn into office on Wednesday. Europe's press is eager to see how the change of leadership in Berlin will impact the EU's course.

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Hürriyet (TR) /

Red traffic light for Turkey

Not too much hope should be placed in the new coalition as regards Turkey's accession to the EU, Hürriyet comments:

“Given the constructive stance of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder regarding full membership for Turkey, it may seem encouraging that Gemany has a Social Democratic chancellor once more, but it is not realistic to expect the same warm vibes from Scholz. The Greens, who were coalition partners during the Schröder era and strongly supported full membership at the time, are also back in government. However the reticence of the Social Democrats is mostly because of them this time.”

Deutsche Welle (RO) /

Stress test for Berlin-Paris axis

Annalena Baerbock's climate policy ambitions will cause friction with France, the Romanian Service of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle suspects:

“France covers 70 percent of its energy needs through nuclear reactors, and has no love for radical ecological dictates such as Angela Merkel's decision to react to the Fukushima tragedy by having Germany give up all its nuclear power plants - perhaps the safest in the world. ... Moreover France, whose economy has been ailing for a long time, has said goodbye to leftist progressivism and its radical environmentalism. In the current presidential election campaign no fewer than three candidates with real chances are courting a growing electorate to the right of the centre. This will also put Emmanuel Macron under pressure.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

A strong Europe must defend itself

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung hopes that Baerbock's promise in Paris that Germany will be a reliable partner for the EU countries was not just empty talk:

“This must also apply when domestic political forces push in a different direction, whether in foreign economic or defence policy. If Germany's main interest is a strong Europe, as Baerbock says, then as the strongest country it must 'invest' accordingly. Right now, China is retaliating against EU member Lithuania because of its stance on Taiwan. A strong Europe must not be divided or forced into a submissive role. It must defend itself. Reinforcing the defences of European democracies must be the the new German government's goal.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

A geopolitical Godesberg Programme

Now the SPD needs a modernisation push on the scale of the Godesberg Programme of 1959, when the party evolved from a socialist workers' party to a mainstream party, philosopher Angelo Bolaffi writes in La Repubblica:

“Olaf Scholz must break with the logic of compromise and delay that characterised the long years of the grand coalition. ... Scholz is called upon to carry out what amounts to a veritable revolution in Germany's political actions on the international stage, a kind of 'geopolitical Bad Godesberg.' Together with Mario Draghi's Italy and Macron's France, Scholz's new German government will have to guide Europe in decisions on military, technological and cultural issues in order to define its own model vis-à-vis the 'adversary' China and the 'ally', the US.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Germany needs to be tougher

The real acid test for Scholz will be in foreign policy, Der Tagesspiegel says:

“It is understandable that the new chancellor is promising continuity here, in striking contrast to domestic policy. But at the same time one would like to hope that he is not entirely serious. ... Merkel's dialogue with Russia and China was right in context, in order to keep damage to a minimum. But it is not sufficient as a future strategy for a conflict-ridden world. ... Germany and Europe must act more robustly to defend their interests. And that's just what the EU partners and the US expect from Scholz. The sooner he takes into account that his government could fail by neglecting foreign policy, the more leeway he will have for successful domestic policies.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

Paris should go along with the new coalition's ambitions

L'Opinion stresses:

“The coalition agreement sets the bar very high. For example it advocates 'the further development of the EU into a federal European state', a term that is taboo in France. ... It's not certain that these audacious ideas will inspire enthusiasm in Paris, where people's love for the EU increases the more it takes on French hues. Their implementation would undoubtedly confirm Berlin's leadership, now endorsed by the coalition which assures that 'as the largest member state, we will assume our particular responsibility in a spirit of service to the EU'. The ball is now in the Elysée's court.”

Echo24 (CZ) /

A cold wind blowing for the Visegrád group

The Central-Eastern Europeans will have their work cut out for them with the Scholz government, Echo24 fears:

“Scholz's coalition will really take the Visegrád states to task - unlike Merkel. Word is that the payment of money from the post-pandemic recovery fund will also depend on the satisfactory resolution of the EU Commission's disputes with Warsaw and Budapest. Merkel's decency and sense of history always prevented her from taking such a brutal stance. ... Nevertheless, even under her leadership the direction was already clear: to push ahead vigorously with projects such as CO2 neutrality no matter what it costs and without regard for the poorer member states in the East. Now that she's leaving, it's as if the fog is lifting over the battlefield.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Berlin and Budapest must treat each other with respect

German-Hungarian economic relations must take precedence over political differences, the pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet demands:

“Hungarian-German relations must be adjusted to the fact that from now on there is a left-wing government in Berlin whose position is radically opposed to that of the Hungarian government on fundamental issues. ... However, the moral advantage lies with those who at least give mutual respect a chance, even if this is unlikely to be a great love affair. One should not forget that in the Hungarian-German relationship in particular, the driving force is the huge weight of economic interdependence, not a passing political whim.”