Political Overview Merkel and Schulz disagree on Syria, agree on Greece, polls stable, Obama in Berlin

Chancellor Angela Merkel called US President Donald Trump in support of the recent US strikes in Syria. A day later, Ms Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, added that its was Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s use of chemical weapons to blame for the escalation. Germany would use all its resources to support UN efforts to solve the conflict. Also Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) voiced support for a diplomatic solution, calling the US strikes “comprehensible”. The SPD chancellor candidate Martin Schulz chose harsher words. In an op-ed, he warned of a “confrontation between superpowers” resulting from the US strikes; the EU should involve herself more. Most voters side with Mr Schulz: only 26% of respondents supported the strikes. Also on Eurozone economics, Mr Schulz aims to align with voters, suddenly calling Grexit a possible option, and refusing to promise an end of Ms Merkel’s authority policy. Meanwhile the fiscal hawk and Federal Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble embraced French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.


Greece’s membership in the Eurozone is dependent on “the extent that reforms will be implemented” by Athens. “We also have to ask ourselves, which mistakes we — as the so called free west — have done in the past. … Now a military confrontation between the super-powers Russia and the US is looming.”

On 6 April, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny visited Ms Merkel, discussing economic cooperation and Brexit. Ms Kenny called peace in North-Ireland “fragile”; German voters worry less: 76% (+20) believe the economic damage for Germany will be little, only 18% (-16) that it will be large. On 10 April, Ms Merkel met the heads of OECD, IMF, World Bank, WTO and ILO in Berlin for the 9th time. Together, they discussed the global economy, trade and Germany’s G20 Presidency.

National polls see Ms Merkel in the lead again by eight points compared to Mr Schulz (48% to 40%). Party-polls are stable: The SPD scores 32% (+/-0), CDU 35% (+1), the far right AfD 9% (+/-0), The Left 8% (+/-0), the Greens 7% (+/-0) and the FDP 5% (+/-0). When asked about favoured coalitions, most favour a continuation of the current grand coalition (49%), second comes CDU/CDU/Greens (31%), third an SPD/Greens/Left option (24%), with the options including the FDP scoring 21-23%. On policy, 47% of respondents find migration to be the most pressing issue, while social justice ranks second, scoring 13%. Problematically for the SPD, only 17% of respondents think the party is competent on migration, while the CDU scores 39%. On social justice it’s the opposite case, with the SPD scoring 39%, and the CDU 20%.

On campaign personnel, Minister of the Chancellory Peter Altmaier (CDU) will be responsible that his party profits from that: By volunteering for the election campaign, he will support his party’s General Secretary Peter Tauber. Mr Altmaier will mostly be responsible for drafting and strategy tasks, while Mr Tauber will remain head of organisational issues. FDP vice chair Wolfgang Kubicki nevertheless saw a constitutional breach: A member of the executive would not be allowed to do party politics. Ms Merkel meanwhile landed the first campaign scoop: On the occasion of reformation’s 500 year anniversary, she will discuss democracy and civil engagement with President Barack Obama in Berlin on the same day as Mr Trump begins his Europe tour. Ms Merkel and Mr Trump will meet shortly after at NATO and G7 respectively.

German reactions to Brexit: EU loses an important member, chief goal in negotiations is to preserve unity of EU

With the United Kingdom official triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union on Wednesday, the EU of 28 members states now has an expiration date. The European Commission under chief negotiation Michel Barnier and the British Government now have two years to strike a deal on the terms of the impending Brexit. Any hopes of striking a deal on the future relationship of both partners that PM Theresa May  might have had, by now should be crushed, though.

Chancellor Merkel voiced her regret for the UK leaving the EU, saying that the union „is losing a strong and important member state“. At the same time, she stressed that no talks on future arrangements between the United Kingdom and the European Union would begin before both sides have agreed on the terms of the UK’s exit. Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel blew the same horn, saying  the EU member states had found a „strong“ position for the negotiations that Germany would „wholeheartedly“ support.

The parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag mostly reacted in similar fashion, calling for European unity in the Brexit negotiations while emphasizing the many achievements of the bloc and pointing to the many challenges that the EU and an independent UK will likely face „in the spirit of friendship“ in the future.

These reactions should not have come unexpected. While the German Government has shown no inclination to „punish“ the UK for leaving the Union, Theresa May should not hope for a favourable deal. The Berlin-Paris axis is bent on forging a tighter European Union and Chancellor Angela Merkel has the support of all German parties in this endeavour. Even German business associations, have assured Merkel their support, even if a „hard Brexit“ would lead to them losing money over their investments in the UK.

Any deviation from the planned negotiation procedures – no parallel negotiation of exit terms and future relationship – is completely out of question and potential plans by the UK to exploit differences in opinion of the members of the EU at this point seem unlikely to be successful.

The EU of 27 now will take about a month to agree on a concrete negotiation position which they will finalise in a meeting on April 29. The first outlook does not bode well for the UK and particularly for the Treasury. Chancellor Merkel has already indicated in private that she will support demanding a €60bn exit bill.

Chancellor Merkel reacted to the triggering of Article 50 during a speech in Berlin, saying that the UK should remain „an important partner“ of the EU after Brexit’s conclusion. At the same time, she remained adamant about starting talks about future relations between the UK and the EU only after Brexit negotiations have been conluded.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel: Bundesregierung will „wholeheartedly“ support Barnier and his team, wants to „stay friends after the break-up“. Says preserving EU unity is vital.

Deputy parliamentary chairman Hans-Peter Friedrich MdB and spokesman on European Affairs Michael Stübgen MdB: negotiations will be complex, difficult. However, Britain and EU will continue to share many interests, e.g. in security policy and trade. The negotiations will strengthen the unity of the remaining member states.

Deputy parliamentary chairman Axel Schäfer MdB and spokesman on European Affairs Norbert Spinrath MdB: chief goal is to preserve the unity of the EU after the Brexit. Special attention needs to be paid to the EU citizens planning to stay in the UK after Brexit and their rights. One-off competitive advantage in the negotiation period post-Brexit must be prevented. Reaffirm pride in, commitment to EU.

Parliamentary Chairman Dietmar Bartsch MdB: negotiations will be marked by egoism and a wish to perpetuate an unjust status quo in the EU and the UK alike. Expects separation to be „dirty“, consequences of the negotiations to be „harmful“ to Germany and the EU at large.

Deputy parliamentary chairman Frithjof Schmidt MdB and spokesman on European Affairs Manuel Sarrazin MdB: EU now needs a clear negotiation position for the Brexit negotiations. UK cannot be allowed to cherry-pick advantages of EU membership outside the bloc. Demand a clear Bundesregierung commitment to a strong and united EU.

POLITICAL REVIEW: Merkel gets boost from Saar Election, Schulz-Effect less impactful than thought?

Even Donald Trump congratulated Chancellor Angela Merkel directly, after her confidante Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer won the Saarland state-election on Sunday with a strong 40.7% of all votes (+5,5). All other parties scored weaker than had been expected: the SPD 29,6% (-1), the Left 12,9% (-3,2), the Greens 4,0% (-1), the far right AfD 6,2% (+6,2) and the liberal FDP 3,3% (+2,1).

Many, including Ms Merkel attributed the CDU’s strength to the popularity of Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer. Yet, on a wider picture, the CDU’s success can also be explained by the fears many voters had regarding an SPD-Green-Left coalition. Had the Greens entered parliament, then such a coalition might have been possible — but about 57% of voters disapproved of it in polls. In Saarland, the SPD will join the government anyway. But voter’s disapproval of a Left Wing government sent a message that, if repeated in the state elections in North-Rhine Westphalia in May, could open a dilemma Social Democrats: They must campaign on the promise to topple Ms Merkel, but without relying on The Left. Acknowledging that problem, Bernd Riexinger as well as Ms Merkel aimed to push Martin Schulz, the SPD’s Chancellor candidate, into deciding on his coalition plans. Mr Schulz of course refuses to make such a statement so far. Yet the election has shown that the “Schulz-Effect” might be less impactful than thought.

That leaves the Greens, who have decided not to give any coalition preferences prior the federal election. So far, this has weakened them: Most disgruntled voters lean towards the SPD. In Saarland at least, the Greens lost enough votes to miss entering the state parliament — as did the Liberals. The weakness of the smaller parties, including the far right AfD, can be explained by the current CDU-SPD dichotomy. Albeit, the Saarland, holding 800.000 voters, is not representative picture of the entire country. Also, the discourse’s current focus on wealth redistribution might well change.

A possible trigger for crisis is, still, Turkey’s president Recep Erdogan. Turkish consulates opened the doors for his constitutional referendum this week. At an event organised by The Left Bundestag group, Mr Erdogan was harshly criticised it. Meanwhile Bundestag President Norbert Lammert (CDU) called the referendum a “putsch” and the Left Bundestag group’s chairwomen Sahra Wagenknecht called Mr Erdogan a “terrorist”.

POLITICAL OVERVIEW – Schulz receives 100% of votes, Merkel welcomes Macron, no AKP rallies in Germany

Martin Schulz, who still rides on a wave of enormous popularity, was formally elected party leader and chancellor candidate by all the party’s 605 delegates at the SPD party conference who casted a valid ballot. While some argue that the recent hype surrounding Mr Schulz might be unfounded, his 100% win is unprecedented. In his acceptance speech, Mr Schulz remained carefully unspecific, promising a more solidary education and childcare system as well as more labour rights and social benefits. Especially on taxes, Mr Schulz refused to give details: He rejects tax cuts, but declines to clarify whether he will support higher taxes for individuals or corporations, pointing to the internal programme drafting process.The issue will also be decisive in determining the SPD’s options to form a coalition with Greens and The Left. The CDU reacted to Mr Schulz’ strong mandate by lambasting the  SPD’s programmatic weakness, albeit without yet outlining their own programme. Ms Merkel herself so far refrained from any statements on Mr Schulz, leaving commenting to her party’s General Secretary, Peter Tauber. Campaigners in Saarland are increasingly nervous concerning this strategy: their voters go to the ballot this Sunday, with SPD and CDU on a par.

CDU General Secretary Dr. Peter Tauber on Schulz’ election: “It is 100% unspecific what the SPD is celebrating. While we are carrying the responsibility for a government, the Social Democrats are only out to give a show.” Image Source: Peter Koch

Shortly after visiting US President Donald Trump in Washington DC, Angela Merkel stressed the importance of free trade when holding the opening speech of the Cebit, with Japan as this year’s partner country. Just before, Ms Merkel had welcomed the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron in Berlin. While rumours say that Ms Merkel favours Mr Macron, the confidential conversation, which lasted about an hour, should not be read as an election recommendation: Ms Merkel already met Francois Fillon and only declines to host Marine Le Pen. While there was no common press conference following the meeting, Mr Macron held one on his own, and later debated Europe’s future with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Philosopher Juergen Habermas. Mr Gabriel, who earned some criticism for sharing a stage with Mr Macron, will meet his comrade Benoît Hamon next week.

Meanwhile, the row over Turkish referendum campaigning in Germany slowed down a bit. After another round of personal attacks from Turkish President Recep Erdogan, an AKP spokesperson announced that all events in Germany had been cancelled by his party. Shortly before, Ms Merkel had threatened to ban rallies if Mr Erdogan continued to compare the Federal Republic with Nazi-Germany. Some continue to worry: Exactly at the anniversary of the EU-Turkey refugee deal, some German media outlets worried about a recent uptick in refugee-arrivals in Greece. On Wednesday, in some cryptic comment, Mr Erdogan then stated “if they continue to act like that, no European, no citizen of the West will be able to step to the street in safety and peace.” While German media widely reported and the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini summoned the Turkish ambassador, the German government did not react.

dicomm berät WetterOnline zur laufenden Reform des Gesetzes über den Deutschen Wetterdienst

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