UBC’s Kurt Huebner says management of the Eurozone crisis is at a standstill, waiting for this weekend’s results
Kurt Huebner, a professor in the Dept. of Political Science and director of the Institute for European Studies (IES), discusses this weekend’s federal election in Germany. On Sept. 27, Huebner will take part in a joint IES and Liu Institute for Global Issues panel discussion that will explore what the German election means for the future of Europe.
What is at stake in the upcoming German election for Europe?
It seems that EU politics, in particular the management of the Eurozone crisis, has come to a standstill and things only will move again after September 22. In which direction things move depends on the outcome of the election. If the current coalition led by Angela Merkel continues, we will see more of the old: exchange of austerity and structural reforms for funding guarantees and eventually real money. Domestically, we can expect a continuation of steady-hand politics that will leave touchy and critical topics untouched.
The situation would be slightly different if the current coalition does not return to power. A red-green coalition between left-of-centre parties and environmental parties–not realistic at all at this point–would change Eurozone crisis management and introduce elements Merkel does not support, such as a banking union and Eurobonds. Such an outcome is rather unlikely. We may get a ‘Grand Coalition’ that will bring together Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union coalition (CDU/CSU) with the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Such a constellation will bring political stability but with the price of four more boring years.
Some have said the German election has lacked “big issues.” Is this true?
Merkel successfully turned the election campaign into an inward-looking small item campaign focused on topics like whether they should have a compulsory veggie day in public canteens. The whole campaign is less about politics than about good feelings, and indeed Germany is doing much better than other countries in Europe.
The relevant opposition parties have not been able to move out of Merkel’s shadow. In this respect, the campaign was boring. Still, there are elements of suspense. For example, will the new anti-Euro Alternative for Germany party jump above the five per cent hurdle and get seats in the Parliament? In such a case we may see the centrist CDU move to the right. Will the Free Democratic Party get enough votes to stay in Parliament? If so, they may once again form a coalition with the CDU/CSU.
What are the implications of the election for Canada and the U.S.?
I can’t see big implications for Canada and the U.S. The situation would be different if a red-green coalition is formed, however, we would see a much more critical stance against the oil sand exploration via EU fuel quality directives. We would see a suspension of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Agreement as long as NSA issues are not handled in a satisfactory manner. We would also see a tougher stance towards the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada. Now, given that such a coalition is rather unlikely, nothing fundamental will change after September 22.