Germany Headed for Four More Years of Pro-EU, Open-Door Migration Policies

Germany Heading for Four More Years of Pro-EU, Open-Door Migration Policies

SOEREN KERN

  • The policy positions of Merkel and Schulz on key issues are virtually identical: Both candidates are committed to strengthening the European Union, maintaining open-door immigration policies, pursuing multiculturalism and quashing dissent from the so-called far right.
  • Merkel and Schulz both agree that there should be no upper limit on the number of migrants entering Germany.
  • Merkel’s grand coalition backed a law that would penalize social media giants, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, with fines of €50 million ($60 million) if they fail to remove offending content from their platforms within 24 hours. Observers say the law is aimed at silencing critics of Merkel’s open-door migration policy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), is on track win a fourth term in office after polls confirmed she won the first and only televised debate with her main election opponent, Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democratic Union Party (SDP).

A survey for the public broadcaster ARD showed that 55% of viewers thought Merkel was the “more convincing” candidate during the debate, which took place on September 3; only 35% said Schulz came out ahead.

Many observers agreed that Schulz failed to leverage the debate to revive his flagging campaign, while others noted that Schulz’s positions on many issues are virtually indistinguishable from those held by Merkel.

Rainald Becker, an ARD commentator, described the debate as, “More a duet than a duel.”

“Merkel came out as sure, Schulz was hardly able to land a punch,” wrote Heribert Prantl, a commentator at Süddeutsche Zeitung. “The candidate is an honorable man. But being honorable alone will not make him chancellor.”

Christian Lindner, leader of the classical liberal Free Democrats, compared the debate to “scenes from a long marriage, where there is the occasional quarrel, but both sides know that they have to stick together in the future, too.”

Television presenter Günther Jauch, writing in Bild, said he had hoped to “at least understand what differentiates Merkel and Schulz in political terms. Instead, it was just a conversation between two political professionals who you suspect could both work pretty seamlessly in the same government.”

Radio and television host Thomas Gottschalk said that the two candidates agreed with each other too often: “They were both always nodding their heads when the other was speaking.”

Germany’s general election is scheduled for September 24. If voters went to the polls now, Merkel’s CDU, together with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), would win 39%, according to a September 4 Politbarometer survey conducted for the public broadcaster ZDF.

Coming in second, Schulz’s SDP would win 22%; the classical liberal Free Democrats (FDP) 10%; the far-left Linke 9%; the Greens 8% and the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) 8%.

The poll also found that 57% of respondents said they preferred that Merkel serve another term; only 28% favored Schulz to become the next chancellor. Nevertheless, half of Germany’s 60 million voters are said to be undecided, and some pollsters believe that the country’s huge non-voting population may determine the outcome.

As Merkel’s CDU/CSU is unlikely to emerge from the election with an absolute majority, the 2017 vote effectively revolves around the issue of coalition-building. If current polling holds, Merkel, who has vowed to serve a full four years if re-elected, will have two main options.

Merkel could form another so-called grand coalition, an alliance of Germany’s two biggest parties, namely the CDU/CSU and the SPD. Merkel currently governs with a grand coalition and has done so during two of her three terms in office.

Both the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats have said they hope to end the grand coalition and lead the government with smaller partners after the September election. After the debate, however, many observers believe a grand coalition between Merkel and Schulz is more probable than not.

Merkel’s second option would be to form a three-way coalition with the Greens and the FDP, which served as junior coalition partner to the CDU/CSU for almost half of Germany’s post-war history. Merkel has already ruled out forming a coalition with either the Linke or the AfD.

In any event, the policy positions of Merkel and Schulz on key issues are virtually identical: Both candidates are committed to strengthening the European Union, maintaining open-door immigration policies, pursuing multiculturalism and quashing dissent from the so-called far right.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) and her main election opponent, Martin Schulz (left), whose policy positions on key issues are virtually identical. (Image source: European Parliament/Flickr)

Merkel and Schulz are ardent Europhiles and both are committed to more European federalism. During an August 12 campaign speech in Dortmund, for example, Merkel described the European Union as the “greatest peace project” in history and vowed that she would never turn her back on this “wonderful project.”

Previously, Merkel said:

“We need more Europe, we need not only a monetary union, but we also need a so-called fiscal union, in other words more joint budget policy. And we need most of all a political union — that means we need to gradually give competencies to Europe and give Europe control.”

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About the author

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.  Follow Soeren Kern on Twitter and Facebook

 

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