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The chancellor of Europe, re-elected


22 September might be remembered as a bad day for Europe, at a time when bad days are frequent. This Sunday's German general elections saw the expected victory of chancellor Angela Merkel‘s Conservatives (CDU). Merkel missed absolute majority by only a narrow margin. She may stay in office for another four years and will most likely form a coalition government with the Social Democrats (SPD) - who scored second best. This is also a personal victory for Merkel: 38 per cent of conservative supporters said the main factor in their decision was Merkel herself. Strengthened by an easy and unchallenged victory, she will not feel the urge to change her course, especially regarding Europe. And that’s bad news for an already troubled continent.


German Conservatives have always been pro-EU, but seldom less passionate than now. Merkel’s position is clear: protect German interests first and only then worry about the Euro. While her policy seeks to combine both tasks, not least because the common currency serves globally-operating German corporations, she has so far rejected any measures that would make Germany share an additional part of the burden. This would include ending the beggar-thy-neighbour-policy once introduced by Merkel’s predecessor, the Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder.


Berlin’s downward pressure on salaries at home contributes largely to the country’s much-heralded export surpluses, which are won against neighbours like France and Italy. Moreover, and also due to the absence of a common economic policy in the Eurozone, the surpluses are mirrored in deficits for example in Spain, where consumers kept buying German products in the years before the crisis. But this connection remains a taboo in German politics. Berlin’s unwillingness to compromise has so far prevented any truly common European solution. Consequently, the competition between the EU’s member states has increased both in economic and in political terms.

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