New German leaders want to reform the EU

The SPD, the Greens and the pro-business FDP presented on Wednesday November 24 an agreement to form a new German government, including a program of European reforms which should lead to a federal Europe.

“My most important message: the traffic light [coaltion] stands, “Olaf Scholz told reporters – a reference to the respective red-yellow-green colors of the parties.

“We are going to modernize our country, build a climate neutral industry with cutting edge technology that is ‘Made in Germany’,” he said, describing what the agreement called “the socio-ecological market economy. “.

“It won’t be cheap,” he said. “This new coalition will have to make massive investments while respecting the national debt brake.”

At the start of the talks, many expected the negotiations to drag on amid differences between the Greens and the business-friendly FDP.

But a final compromise was found on Wednesday, two months after the election, with the Greens scrapping plans to introduce tougher speed limits and the FDP agreeing to a stronger-than-expected climate mandate (which includes an accelerated coal phase-out). by 2030, eight years earlier than expected). previously planned) and the cessation of electricity production from gas by 2040.

European Federation?

The 177-page agreement also proposes an ambitious European reform. He will push for a Conference on the Future of Europe to turn into a constitutional convention, while supporting “necessary treaty changes” which “will lead to developments towards a European federal state”.

At the top of the list is a new system for European elections which allows transnational lists for the European Parliament, which should also obtain a right of initiative, i.e. the right to propose new legislation.

Currently, MEPs from European parties represent a national party. This decision will initiate a transition to a wider decentralized European voting system.

The coalition also wants the next chairman of the commission to be a “Spitzenkandidat” [German for ‘lead candidate’], continuing the contested system whereby the different parties in the EU present their own best candidate for the presidency.

Germany has sabotaged their own system in the past on this, pushing Ursula von der Leyen past Frans Timmermans, the S&D Spitzenkandidat and initially considered as the frontrunner for first place.

Finally, he wants a stronger EU Foreign Ministry by replacing the unanimity voting system requiring all EU ministers to agree, with a qualified majority, overseen by a EU foreign affairs dedicated.

The Ministry of Finance switches to FDP

The Greens will receive the ministries of the economy and the climate and of foreign affairs. They also have the right to nominate a future EU commissioner, in case Ursula von de Leyen is not re-elected – a first for the party.

Having the fiscal hawk Christian Lindner as finance minister, the second most powerful position in the country after the chancellery was one of the decisive conditions of the FDP.

And while Lindner told reporters, Germany will continue to be an “advocate for sound finances”, but also stressed that Germany and Europe need investments to modernize.

The deal makes no mention of a return to strict fiscal discipline ahead of the pandemic, which some feared, but rather states that EU fiscal rules need to be ‘further developed’ and should be ‘simpler and more transparent “.

He also adds that the objective of any reform must be to “secure growth, preserve debt sustainability and encourage green investments.”

“No red lines here, but an open and constructive opening position for negotiations,” tweeted Lucas Guttenberg of the Delors Center, a Berlin-based think tank.

Rule of law

Significantly, the agreement also included stricter wording on the rule of law. Sven Giegold MEP (Verts / ALE), who negotiated on behalf of the Greens, told reporters the new government felt the EU rule of law mechanism had not been used “decisively enough these last years”.

The deal calls on the commission not to release money from the recovery fund to countries that do not ensure an independent judiciary, adding that Germany will vote against releasing the funds if countries do not respect the state of law.

However, it does not specifically mention Poland or Hungary – both of which have challenged the mechanism before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Hungary has also introduced legislation targeting LGBTIQ people.

Sustainable taxonomy

The document does not mention the EU taxonomy for sustainable investment.

In recent weeks, French President Emmanuel Macron has pressured the commission and other member states to include nuclear energy in the bloc’s sustainable investment rules.

France has forged an alliance with pro-gas member states to form a majority at the next EU Council meeting in December to pass this controversial energy source and qualify it for sustainable investment.

Earlier Wednesday, a group of MEPs urged the German and French governments not to label nuclear and gas as green.

In response, Giegold declined to say what the new government’s position was on the potential inclusion of gas in the Green Rulebook, adding that “it is not in the German interest to start with a battle over the taxonomy.

Members of the respective coalition parties will still have to vote for the deal, but that should be a formality, and the intention is that SPD leader Olaf Scholz will be elected chancellor by the Bundestag in the week of December 6.

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