For months now Europe has been on hold. Time and again it has been said that the big challenges must await the outcome of the German election. Germany is Europe’s indispensable power and no major decision can be taken without it. Yet the election campaign does not reflect that: the politicians seem curiously reluctant to debate Europe’s future and Germany’s role in it. There has been more passion spent in debating whether public canteens should once a week have a non-meat day than in discussing future eurozone bailouts. The opposition has been keener to focus on portraying Germany as a low-wage economy and arguing over the shortage of skilled labour than discussing Europe. On Angela Merkel’s part this is quite deliberate. She is by far the most popular politician in Germany. Her approval ratings at 60% – after eight years in power – are the envy of every other politician in Europe. She is – as her posters remind voters – a safe pair of hands. Her deliberate, cautious, step-by-step style suits the German mood.
The impression she gives is of wanting to park any European issue which might ruffle the voters. She is relying on the German economy, with unemployment at its lowest for two decades, to retain the chancellorship.
A commentary in Der Spiegel, however, says “the German election campaign has paralysed the continent in a way never before seen in EU history”.
That is debatable, but there are many European issues confined to the political slow-lane. Discussions about banking union (and a common resolution fund) – a giant step for the EU – rarely surface.
The admission that Greece will need a third bailout only briefly flickered into life. There has been little argument about austerity and whether it has helped save the single currency or whether it has condemned parts of Europe to long-term stagnation.
The election on 22 September is drawing close. Almost certainly Angela Merkel will be the next chancellor; the only question is which party she will be in coalition with.
Full Article: BBC News – Europe ‘on hold’ over key German election.