Angela Merkel says EU budget delay is a ‘serious problem’
Armin Laschet has been elected new federal chairman of Germany’s centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU). He was elected in a runoff against conservative Friedrich Merz by 521 votes to 466, to resolve a three-way contest that also featured outsider Norbert Röttgen. Among the three candidates, Mr Laschet, who since 2017 has been the premier of Germany’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, is the one who stands most strongly for a continuation of Angela Merkel’s course and a “CDU of the centre”.
In his victory speech, Mr Laschet promised to fight for the party to do well in upcoming regional elections and to keep hold of the position of Chancellor.
He said: “Further, more important elections are still ahead of us.”
He also thanked and praised the other candidates for a “fair” competition.
While Mr Laschet’s election marks a new era for both Germany and the EU, in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Ukip founder Alan Sked warned Mrs Merkel will try to “go out with a bang”.
Prof Sked argued that alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, Mrs Merkel is plotting something quite radical for the future of the bloc before retiring.
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He said: “Macron has been a great advocate for a federal Europe.
“He has made great speeches, calling for Europe to be united and having a fiscal union, a monetary union, which includes a bank, one treasury, one finance minister and some sort of financial parliament.
“Merkel and the Germans don’t actually believe in that.
“Having said that, Merkel is about to retire and the rumour is that she wants to have some kind of historical legacy because so far there is not very much she can claim as hers.
“There is this persistent rumour that she would like to go down with some positive legacy and that she will do something about the fiscal union.”
However, Prof Sked warned the Bundestag, the German federal parliament, “will probably not accept it”.
Despite the Professor’s claims, in October, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the EU was already taking steps towards a fiscal union with its plans to recover from the coronavirus pandemic – which involve the European Commission borrowing in financial markets.
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Mr Scholz told an interparliamentary conference on stability, economic coordination and governance in Brussels: “We are moving towards fiscal union, a major step forward in the financial capacity and sovereignty of the EU.”
To support the bloc’s economy, the EU has announced a €750billion (£678billion) recovery fund.
He added: “Markets have confidence in European policies and in the development of European economies.
“We should carry on with this course.”
Moreover, because of Britain’s departure from the EU, the chances of Mrs Merkel succeeding are much higher.
In a recent report, the head of Oxford-based think-tank Euro Intelligence Wolfgang Munchau explained how Brexit has already started affecting European narratives in Brussels.
Hw wrote: “One of the few successes of the UK inside the EU has been to forge European narratives. The British invented the whole notion of euroscepticism. We did not have a word for it before.
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“It was mostly an anti-integrationist narrative hidden by pseudo-categories. At its most pro-European end, it was a narrative of a Europe with intergovernmental cooperation. It was dismissive of the European Parliament and the European Commission, and contemptuous of eurozone integration in particular. Its language was that of pre-war diplomacy, with notions of alliances and coalitions.
“A concrete example is the common reference to the EU in the UK media as a bloc. If you want integration, you don’t choose a language that puts the EU in the same category as the Soviet Bloc.”
Mr Munchau concluded that just as Brexit offers an opportunity for the UK to reinvent its economic models, it offers an opportunity for the EU to shift narratives.
He added: “British newspapers and the BBC are foreign media now. We noted recently that none of them covered the EU’s agricultural reforms. The lack of skin-in-the-game is already noticeable. Fast improving translation technologies diminish the inherent competitive advantages of English-language media. A gap in the market is opening. But it needs filling.
“We are not sure whether European media will fill it. But we do expect UK narratives of European integration to fade over time. It may be a soft factor. But never underestimate the power of story-telling.”
The same sentiment was echoed by writer and consultant on European security Edward Lucas, who argued that without Britain in the European bloc, it was easier for Brussels to strike its recent investment deal with China.
He wrote in The Times: “Inside the EU, our sceptical, Atlanticist voice counterbalanced other forces.
“The scramble to sign off the China deal exemplifies how EU decision-making now works in our absence.”
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