Change in Germany and the future of Europe
Germany has a new government. The Merkel era is now coming to an end. The conservative chancellor has set the course of the continent in the 21st century, and has done so with determination in the midst of a complicated chain of crises: economic, environmental, migratory, institutional (Brexit) and pandemic. The lack of credibility of European institutions, which had been there before, has become more evident during this time and only the moral and pragmatic leadership of Merkel, as chancellor of the strongest and most stable country on the continent, has allowed the EU to save face. You only have to look at what has happened now in Sweden with the short-lived election of the first woman prime minister, who shortly after being elected lost the budget vote and temporarily resigned from office. Or the cases of Hungary and Poland, sliding down slippery slope to nationalist authoritarianism. Europe's democracies, whether the most veteran ones such as Sweden or those that emerged from the fall of the Soviet bloc, nowadays besieged by the far right, populism and party fragmentation, live in institutional precariousness. Spain has not escaped this drift either. And the sum of instabilities in member countries is projected onto and weakens a European Union which is, on the other hand, very distant from its citizens.
In this context, the German example is once again a safe place. The coalition between social democrats, greens and liberals is a quiet change of course, reflecting a new ideological centrality with an environmental and social accent. It is thus in tune with the new global economic Keynesianism and serves, at the same time, as a pluralistic containment wall against the demagogy of the far right. From the great centrist coalition of recent years, formed by conservatives and social democrats, we are moving on to another type of great centre-left consensus that unites three political cultures with experience of government, which are far removed from radicalism; parties, moreover, that loyally and seriously understand the culture of pacts and coalitions, and that place the collective interest before partisan battling.
The path that Germany is now embarking on is a new path that other countries could try in the future, a path that is based on a government programme shared by broad sectors of the population: the fight against the pandemic, the fight against the climate crisis, social improvements to combat inequalities (minimum wage, pensions, housing, etc.), digitalisation, modernisation of the administration and the search for social cohesion (in this case, with special attention to the imbalances between East and West Germany). Seeking these major consensuses is the surest way to move forward without wreaking havoc. We will have to follow this new German government closely, and if it prospers and consolidates, take note and set an example in our country and in Brussels. Be that as it may, a Germany that generates economic confidence and provides political leadership to face the great crises of the 21st century is good news for a Europe that is not exactly overflowing with optimism.