The Brief — How a German regional election could shape Europe – EURACTIV.com
The northern German state of Lower Saxony, with a population of eight million, rarely makes the headlines and international media barely recorded Sunday’s election there. However, its outcome could have huge implications for Europe.
This otherwise minor regional election could prompt German Finance Minister Christian Lindner to double down on his already hawkish stance on the EU’s common debt and easing the bloc’s fiscal rules.
The election was a blow to the liberal FDP and Lindner, its party leader. For the first time since 1998, the party will not be represented in the regional parliament because it did not cross the required threshold of 5%.
Worse still, this is the fourth regional election where the Liberals have lost ground. The specter of the year 2013, when the FDP would lose all its seats in the Bundestag, hovers.
For the FDP, this catastrophic outcome forces them to assert themselves more in their coalition with the Social Democrats and the Greens.
FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai was quick to declare after the election debacle that his party’s voice needed to be “more visible” in the coalition and that it was necessary to “prevent the implementation of left “.
Lindner also chimed in, saying his party needed to do more to “sharpen its profile” for potential voters.
In recent months we have already seen that Europe is not spared either the FDP push or this “refinement” of profile, because fiscal austerity is at the heart of the Liberal Party and is always an easy way out to appease its electoral base.
And there is already a precedent for that.
After the FDP lost its last election in May, Lindner quickly adopted a tougher tone towards southern European member states aiming to ease EU debt rules.
While until then Lindner tried to understand the needs of southern EU countries, the self-proclaimed “friendly hawk” suddenly turned hostile.
“You can become addicted to public debt, and we need to end dependence on ever-increasing debt as soon as possible,” he said in mid-May.
The harsh statement was widely seen as motivated by national reasons – to signal to their constituents that the FDP is still the party of austerity.
This time, the FDP is likely to double down even more and toughen its already tough stance on budget issues. This month will provide Lindner with multiple opportunities to prove his point.
First, the European Commission is about to publish its proposal to reform the Stability and Growth Pact, which regulates the amount of debt a member state is allowed to take on.
While the EU executive is expected to heed the call from southern member states to ease the rules, this could be an opportunity for Lindner to show his fiscally conservative side.
At the same time, there is a growing initiative at EU level to push for a European solution to fight inflation through common borrowing.
While the call for common borrowing is gathering more and more followers – including the European Commission itself – a German finance minister who aims to sharpen his profile vis-à-vis the “leftists” has little likely to give in and accept anything that looks like it.
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Pay attention to…
- Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on international crimes in Ukraine, environmental crime and fundamental rights.
- EU High Representative Josep Borrell attends a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers.
- Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides meets Xavier Becerra, US Secretary of Health and Human Services.
- Visit of a delegation from the International Trade Committee to Northern Ireland to discuss the resolution of the current dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The views are those of the author.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald/Zoran Radosavljevic]