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Berlin-Paris axis revived, a new beginning for Europe? But now the key-word is “growth”

The political programme of the new German government is marked by Europeanism. Privileged relationship with Macron’s France, while the austerity of the past years is fading into the background, prioritizing economic growth and employment. Projects and agreements are not enough: the challenges raised by nationalisms and populisms making headway throughout the continent require that Member States – Germany above all – and the EU deliver concrete results in support of citizenry

Six months after the election of September 24 2017 the Federal Republic has restored a government legitimized by Parliament. On March 14 Angela Merkel was re-elected federal Chancellor for a fourth term. She was sworn in with her 15 cabinet ministers on that same day. She is again representing Germany at the European Council under way in Brussels (March 22-23). The program of the new government is enshrined in a grand coalition agreement heralding a wide range of projects involving various political areas to be carried out in the next four years. The first chapter, titled “A fresh start for Europe”, highlights the new government’s focus on European politics.
Germany’s long absence from the continental stage, due to the election campaign and to the time devoted to the government’s formation ultimately resulted in a “suspension period.” The partners had to wait for the Federal government’s response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposals to revive European integration and EU economic and monetary reform. Macron repeatedly pointed out that the success of his initiatives depends of the German people’s determination to move forward in unison. The new Federal government has confirmed its availability. The coalition Agreement’s chapter on Europe reiterates the driving elements of Germany’s European policies enforced since its inception, namely, the EU can progress only if Germany and France advance together! To this regard, the Chancellor went to Paris immediately after having taken office to establish the next steps with President Macron. Also the new Vice-Chancellor, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, along with the newly-appointed Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, went to Paris during the same days to meet their respective colleagues.

French-German cooperation should be strengthened with a view to European Union renewal.

The first and most anticipated step – as requested by the Parliaments of both Countries – is the definition of a “new Élysée treaty.” The 1963 treaty, whose 55th anniversary was commemorated past January by the National Assembly in Paris and the Bundestag in Berlin in joint sessions, is the pillar of the mutual commitment for consultation and cooperation.
 However, the underlying will to act in conjunction with France to rekindle and strengthen EU cooperation and unity of action doesn’t mean that Germany is already aligned with France as regards contents and details, nor that it will meet all the expectations that France has in store.  Germany’s central role in EU political system is such that partner countries have expressed what they expect from German European policies. These expectation differ to the same degree as the interests and hopes that bind member Countries to European Union development and policies. North European countries expect that Germany will continue upholding the rigorous stand held by the EU for the past decade to overcome the financial, economic and monetary crises, to get the budget back on track and decrease national debt. The partners of southern Europe look forward to Germany’s radical political shift, thereby increasing the flexibility of regulations on budget and national spending, in order to facilitate investments funding and programs aimed at redressing social deficits in their respective Countries. It is expected that in the future the Federal Government will meet expectations of greater flexibility. But this is bound to happen with great caution, and on the condition that member Countries do their “homework”, namely, that they reduce their debts and focus on the causes of their indebtedness. A positive sign in this respect is the fact that the successor of ex-Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, elected President of the Bundestag, is Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, former mayor of Hamburg. This change in politics equally marks the initiative of President Macron, that the German government cannot refuse. 
“Stability and growth are mutually dependent and form a unit”, states the Coalition agreement. It declares: “We want to financially strengthen the Union, to advance its performance.” It goes on: “We also recommend allocating specific budgetary resources for economic stabilization and social convergence and for supporting structural reforms in the euro area, which could be the starting point for a future investment budget in the euro area itself. Germany is ready to contribute more consistently to the EU budget.”

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