Although it is still unknown who will be the new chancellor of Germany, it already seems that it will not be easy to assume the role of Angela Merkel. This is only feared because the future ruling coalition may consist of at least three parties with completely different directions. Not to mention, it is not even clear when the new German government can stand at all.
It is also particularly difficult to settle disputes at the EU level in another member state of the community, France will hold a presidential election in April and a parliamentary election in June that may tie the hands of incumbent President Emmanuel Macron for a few months. At the same time, it could crash through the ambitious reform ideas that Macron outlined for the French presidency in the first half of 2022.
As a result of the power vacuum, a number of problems may escalate, which have already afflicted EU leaders in Brussels.
The chaos of Britain’s exit from the European Union
One of the first tests the future chancellor will have to deal with is Brexit. The UK is currently waiting for the EU to make a decision on the package of proposals put forward by the British government in July, which envisages changing the Northern Ireland protocol.
However, it is already clear that the EU will not be able to meet the needs of the British, but the British government is not expected to concede on this issue either.
Especially in light of the lack of that According to the British government, they have all the legal grounds to initiate the procedure under Article 16 of the Brexit agreement. This paragraph allows signatories to temporarily derogate from the provisions of the Agreement on a temporary basis if they cause permanent economic, social, environmental or commercial difficulties. This may be due to the fuel-buying panic caused by the current shortage of drivers.
So far, Schulz and Lachette haven’t said much about the problems of Brexit. The official position remains that this is the competence of the European Commission.
It is also not known whether any of them want to deal substantively with the trade disputes that arise in the case of Article 16. However, it is also possible that due to the protracted alliance negotiations, Angela Merkel will have to play the role of administrative chancellor in solving the problem.
Rule of law disputes
Another important and complex area could be addressing the differences between the EU, Hungary and Poland over rule of law standards. In this regard, there is a belief in Berlin that Angela Merkel has allowed the problem to deteriorate, so a correction is now needed.
Meanwhile, the European Commission is also under increasing pressure from the European Parliament to take stronger action against the two Central European countries and not to receive EU funds from the Recovery Fund.
The problem is that the EU does not currently have the authority to judge the rule of law in every member state. The mechanisms currently available can only be used in case of fraud and misuse of EU funds and are primarily aimed at protecting European taxpayers.
However, the discussions in the European Parliament are not so much about the allocation of resources as about the state of the rule of law in Hungary and Poland.
Angela Merkel has so far managed to hold the union together, but in many cases she has had to make serious concessions to normative expectations. However, it is questionable to what extent Schulze or Laschet, who are less firmly rooted in European politics, will be able to handle these discussions.
Laschet admitted before the election that there were debates about the rule of law in the European Union, but According to him, Europe could not hold together without Poland, Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltic states and Hungary. Scholz, who, according to the current situation, has a better chance of chancellery than Laschet, has not yet announced his position, Within the Social Democratic Party, Hungary has received a number of criticisms in recent months.
Hungarian parliamentary elections due to the development of the spring, which may increase conflicts between Brussels and Budapest, may be more developments.
The issue of joint debt
Certainly one of the biggest challenges facing the future German chancellor has to do with European fiscal policy.
As the provisions of the Stability and Growth Pact governing the debt policy of EU members will come back into force in 2023, Member states must decide early next year what changes they want to make to the rules. There is indeed a difference between individual candidates for the position of chancellor on this issue. Like Laschet Merkel, who is not a major advocate of reform in this area, Schulz would be more inclined to make a more serious change in EU debt policy, although he also favors pragmatic solutions.
From this point of view, it could be critical which party wins control of finances in the next German government.
If FDP chief Christian Lindner becomes head of Germany’s finance ministry, it will certainly be difficult for France, Italy and Spain to persuade him to prepare to relax the provisions of the Stability and Growth Pact.
In this case, it will be more difficult for Scholz to break the resistance of the so-called stingy countries, including Austria, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. Therefore, even within the European Union, no major breakthroughs are expected.
However, time is short, as the commission will have to inform member states by April of the budget rules, but the formation of a new German government could take weeks or months, also limiting room for maneuver.
Cover image source: Carsten Koall / picture alliance via Getty Images
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