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European elections – In Germany, French ambitions worry

Until the middle of last week, the European campaign seemed to be lagging in Germany, drowned in the foam of the Brexit or eclipsed by communal elections in several Länder (Regional States). In recent days, however, the electoral signs are finally blooming in the streets of the big cities. The conservative Christian Democrat Right (CDU-CSU), the Social Democrats of the SPD, the FDP Liberals or the Greens … most of the parties across the Rhine play the card of Europe, with the exception of the populists of Alternative for Germany (AfD, extreme right), who claim a "Dexit" (with a D for "Deutschland").

Despite the open crisis with London and the Franco-German quarrels that have emerged in recent months, the European optimism of the Germans remains intact. A survey published in mid-April by the European Commission shows that 54% of Germans trust the EU. MEPs are even more popular than the national deputies who sit in the Bundestag.

Europe, how many fractures?

"Overall, there is a gap between what the citizens say in the polls – by being rather favorable to a certain European ambition, like that expressed by Emmanuel Macron – and the political reactions, which remain rather measured. on the subject, even in a total rejection, notes Frank Baasner, director of the Franco-German Institute Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart.

Between admiration and reluctance

If they encounter echoes in Germany, particularly in terms of migration and security policy, Emmanuel Macron's plans for Europe crystallize resistances. On the economic front, first. "European centralism, European statism, the pooling of debts, the Europeanisation of social systems and the minimum wage would be the wrong way", So, in mid-March, the CDU's Federal President, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (nicknamed "AKK"), hammered out the call to the citizens of Europe by Emmanuel Macron.

Making Europe closer

"The Germans admire the ambition of the French president. But the parties that reject certain measures of its European policy surf on the fear, very anchored in the collective conscience, that in the end "Germany will pay" », Frank Baasner analysis.

In 2017, even the FDP liberals, the German party presenting the "More points of convergence" with En Marche, according to words from their leader, Christian Lindner, were clearly against the project of a budget specific to the Eurozone carried by Paris. "All that goes towards a pooling of new or old debts fuels the fears", still points Frank Baasner.

A Franco-German couple still alive

In recent weeks, the image of the Franco-German engine has, on several occasions, shattered around deep disagreements. Supported by Chancellor Angela Merkel, "AKK" has thus reaffirmed that the European Parliament should only sit in Brussels. A position that has not stopped cringe in Paris, while Emmanuel Macron went back to the niche to defend the status, "Intangible", Strasbourg as the European capital.

Another notable divergence, the boss of the CDU has put on the table the old claim of a permanent seat in the Security Council of the UN for the EU, criticized by France. At the beginning of April, at the special summit on Brexit, Angela Merkel finally judged, without excessive diplomatic precautions, that Emmanuel Macron's reasoning – unfavorable to a too long extension of the deadline for a final Brexit – was "Incomprehensible".

Despite these differences, Jens Althoff, director of the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, an idea laboratory close to the Greens, believes that we can always talk about "Franco-German couple". "This one certainly does not have the dynamics that he could have in the past; it does not work like a locomotive, pulling the others in its wake, decrypts there. The trend, in Paris as in Berlin, seems rather to look with what other countries each can advance. But with the rebalancing of forces in the next term, the Franco-German engine could be revived. "


A campaign carried out by the Greens

In Germany, the surprise could come from the Alliance 90 / Les Verts camp, likely to double its 2014 score by gathering around 20% of the vote. Environmental protection, defense, social affairs … The party publishes an explosive study showing that nine out of ten Germans would be willing to invest more in Europe in concrete fields. In bad shape, the Social Democrats of the SPD, credited in the polls of about 17%, rely on a social Europe, focused on the defense of labor protection. The Christian Democrats, credited with 30% of the votes, advocate stability and good economic health. The AfD, which stagnates around the 10% of voting intentions, dreams of an alliance with the far-right European parties.



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