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Analysis: the looming crisis in Brussels that nobody talks about


Until recently, the consensus was that despite his resignation and his successor fighting in the September federal elections, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Merkel’s sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria, would remain the dominant force in German policy.
Last week, a shock poll put the Green Party ahead of the CDU by a 7% margin. While CDU sources dismissed this as an expected spike in popularity after confirming Annalena Baerbock as their dying chancellor candidate, the next German coalition has long been expected to include in some way. another the Green Party.
Subsequent surveys also put the Greens ahead of Merkel’s party on the “Sunday Question,” a weekly survey that literally tracks how Germans would vote if an election took place on Sunday.

“Even if the Greens don’t quite win, a fairly decent share of the vote would force the CDU to cut the Greens considerably in a coalition deal because they don’t have a lot of options for partners,” says Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook , Executive Director of the Europe and Transatlantic Relations Project at Harvard Kennedy School.

Despite this green push, few expect sweeping political changes in Germany, as the CDU has adopted many green policies in recent years and the Greens have drifted to the right to become a centrist party. Indeed, Cem Özdemir, a senior Green politician, said recently that his party would not radically change German policy on NATO, European policy or support for Israel, three issues that had been controversial in the past.

The second of these questions should reassure the top leaders of the European Union in Brussels. Germany, as the richest and largest member state, exercises enormous influence in the general direction of the European project. Under Merkel, Germany has largely supported the EU’s agenda, only occasionally weighing down and blocking some proposals.

Although the party apparently has little appetite for making sweeping changes within the EU, a victory for the Greens in Germany would mark the symbolic end of an era in Brussels.

The European People’s Party (EPP), a pan-European center-right group made up of members from all EU member states, is the dominant political force in Brussels. It has more elected leaders than any other political bloc in the EU and is the most represented in the European Parliament and the Commission.

To say that the EPP leadership is closely aligned with the German Chancellor would be an understatement. And Ursula von der Leyen, the current President of the Commission and member of the EPP, has already been in Merkel’s cabinet. The fact of no longer having a center-right conservative in the Bundeskanzleramt would be the strongest indicator at the moment that the traditional European parties face an uncertain future.

Analysis: the looming crisis in Brussels that nobody talks about

Daniel Freund, a German Green MEP, explains that two of the biggest forces in European politics, the rise of progressive politics against right-wing nationalist populism, have pressed parties like the CDU on both sides.

“The CDU was for a time a shapeshifter, adapting in response to whatever its greatest threat. Not so long ago it was the far right AfD (Alternative für Deutschland), so she has become anti-European and anti-immigration. Now we are eating her votes, so it makes sense that it gets closer to us, “he said.

Diplomats and officials say they are now speaking openly that the CDU is weaker than it was five years ago and looks like a different party. “In all fairness, von der Leyen could easily be a member of the Green Party if you look at what she believes in,” says a German diplomat.

Even in the event that the Greens do not win, a Green and Black coalition (CDU / CSU) seems more and more likely and most observers in Brussels think it would be perfectly stable. However, in a little over a year, it could collide with the other volcano waiting to erupt in European politics.

The next French presidential election promises to be far from certain for Emmanuel Macron. The Politico poll on voting intentions for 2022 places Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally, one point ahead of Macron. His party won in the last European elections and clearly scares Macron, who turns to Le Pen on issues such as immigration, and has been accused of Islamophobia for his comments on the fight against radicalism.
Analysis: the looming crisis in Brussels that nobody talks about

Anyone who has spent time in Brussels knows that if you want to get things done in Europe, you have to put the French and the Germans on the same page. A green-black government in Germany and a Le Pen presidency in France could make this extremely difficult.

“It is difficult to see how a progressive, resolutely pro-EU Germany and a nationalist France could come to an agreement on huge issues – like our common policy on China and Russia,” said a European diplomat.

Analysis: the looming crisis in Brussels that nobody talks about
Le Pen is known to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and it could become a major problem if she becomes a block to European attempts to deal with Russia’s nefarious behavior in Ukraine, in its treatment of opposition figures. and in its wider assault around the world. .
And while the Green Party is hawkish on the issue of China, in a coalition, it is likely that Germany would continue its policy of trying to influence change in China by swinging the carrot of greater trade. Le Pen didn’t say much about China, but cautioned against isolating Russia to the point of pushing it into China’s arms, which we can assume means there has some hostility.
More worrying for European integration, Le Pen no longer wants to imitate the United Kingdom with a “Frexit”, but, with like-minded nationalists, takes over from within. There are many of these politicians scattered across the bloc and a nationalist winning the French presidency would be their biggest victory since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016.
Analysis: the looming crisis in Brussels that nobody talks about

European policy is evolving faster than many in Brussels are willing to admit. “We’ve already seen big rifts between France and Germany with Macron at the helm. What’s going on with Le Pen is totally unknown,” Clüver says. “I think people are too paralyzed with fear to think about it, but in reality it is much more dangerous than the eurozone crisis.”

Even if the CDU and Macron win, the Brussels political establishment must recognize that the appetite for something different has been building for a long time. If he doesn’t prepare properly, he might find that old friends in Paris and Berlin stop being so deferential to a style of leadership that is less and less attractive to their constituents.

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