Published on 21 Jan 2013

Cameron, Merkel and treaty change

David Cameron’s Europe speech is now confirmed for Wednesday. Will it be Angela Merkel dealing with its fall-out after autumn 2013?

Chancellor Merkel’s protégé narrowly lost the Lower Saxony elections raising questions about whether the chancellor herself is in danger in the autumn election. As nothing seems to happen in Europe without her say-so, it’s important to know if this central figure could be on the way out?

The short answer seems to be that she has more of a fight on her hands than some thought but she is still well ahead of her SPD rival for the chancellorship, Peer Steinbruck. The chancellor’s popularity doesn’t seem to transfer to her party but that needn’t be fatal to her hopes of re-election in the autumn.

In her favour, the SPD remains weak even if not as weak as some thought.  Against her, her coalition partners, the FDP, stayed alive in Lower Saxony but at great cost to her own party (£). In Lower Saxony, swathes of CDU supporters lent the troubled FDP their votes to stop their coalition partner becoming extinct. But the CDU supporters collectively miscalculated, as is easy to do, and ended up lending them more than the CDU could spare. The SPD/Green victory couldn’t have been narrower making the miscalculation particularly excruciating.

Does all this matter for Europe? The truth is that the SPD has been more willing to engage with transfers from Germany to poorer nations of Europe and with integrating Eurozone economies, the structural and constitutional changes that Angela Merkel has put on the back-burner in the last few months. But Angela Merkel’s personal popularity is in part a product of her innate caution and pragmatism over Europe. Some expect the SPD will tack towards the CDU position in the run-up to the September elections and German policy on Europe might not be that different after the Autumn elections whoever wins.

All that means that there is still a question mark next to whether the Eurozone-driven treaty negotiation David Cameron’s speech is premised on happens any time soon.

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