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What do the German elections mean for Europe?

On 18 September 2017, just days before German voters head to the polls, the European Movement International and the European Movement Germany organised a debate in Brussels to discuss the impact of the German federal election on the EU.

A detailed overview of the European issues that play a role in the German federal election can be found here.

Rainer Steffens, Director of the Permanent Representation of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia to the EU, welcomed the participants and said that EU politics had come to a halt, while Europe was anticipating the outcome of one of its biggest national elections.

After his introductory remarks, Rainer Steffens gave the floor to a panel of representatives from political groups, civil society organisations and the business sector. Offering different perspectives and insights into the political developments in Germany, the participants gave their impression of the European issues that mattered in the election campaign and gave their analysis of the impact of the possible outcome.

Bernd Hüttemann, Secretary General of the European Movement Germany, started by reminding participants that whichever future coalition would be formed, it could even take months before Germany had a new government. Throughout the discussion, he also pointed out how many stakeholders in Europe did not understand the complexity and particularities of German politics and the influence of various interest groups.

Gabriele Bischoff, President of the EESC’s Workers’ Group and Special Advisor to the German Trade Union Confederation, remarked how the more specific EU-related issues such as social stability and unemployment have hardly been discussed so far in the election campaign and in public debates. She also underlined the responsibility of all democratic stakeholders, who should take the opportunity to raise voters’ participation in the German federal election and to highlight the issues that mattered.

Christian Kremer, Deputy Secretary General of the European People’s Party, added that EU-related policies were in fact not high on the agenda of German parties in the elections, but that issues such as the EMU or the defence budget would come back on the table in a future coalition.

Maria Heider, EU Affairs Director at METRO Group, pointed out another particularity of the German elections. The small parties tend to base their programmes on those of the big parties, which causes difficulties, and in a big coalition many of the promises cannot be kept. The panelists also agreed that the current election debates were remarkably calm in comparison to other European elections and Gabrielle Bischoff added that many voters were having trouble in telling the different party programmes apart.

In response to the questions from the audience, the panelists also discussed the future role of Angela Merkel in advancing the European project and how certain or uncertain they were about the outcome of the election. While the CDU/CSU is predicted to come first in the election, the high percentage of voters that are still undecided makes predictions for future governments and coalitions very hard.

Another issue that came up towards the end of the event was the difficulty of bringing national debates and elections to a European level and the importance of the pan-European media in this context.

Want to know more about the European issues featured in the German elections? Have a look here.

See more photos from the event:

18.09.2017 - What do the German elections mean for Europe?

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