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COMMENTS 

Europe: Six decades of strife and controversy for UK

It's groundhog day in Britain, where the European Union is concerned. The context changes, but the basic issues do not.
Sir Stephen Wall
18 November 2014 More...

Starts: Nov 13, 2014 12:00:00 AM

The 9 November poll in Catalonia

The recent Scottish referendum set a precedent in contemporary Europe by seeking to deliver, in agreement between Westminster and Holyrood, a binding decision on Scotland's future. The 'participatory process' that took place in Catalonia on 9 November could not be more different. Why is this so, what are its consequences, and where might we be heading?
Dr Claire Colomb
Dr Uta Staiger

13 November 2014
More...

Starts: Nov 13, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Yes, EU immigrants do have a positive impact on public finances

The impact of immigration on Britain’s tax and welfare system is a key element in the debate over the country’s relationship with the EU. Yet contrary to received opinion, research shows that EU immigrants to the UK in fact relieve the fiscal burden on UK-born workers and contribute to the financing of public services.
5 November 2014

Prof. Christian Dustman
Dr. Tommaso Frattini
More...

Starts: Nov 5, 2014 12:00:00 AM

No experiments? The German Federal Elections 2013

Publication date: Aug 1, 2013 10:48:38 AM

Start: Sep 23, 2013 12:00:00 AM

Daniel Siemens

Everyone in Germany expected Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU to win a solid majority in this year’s elections. However, the results came as a surprise for many, in several ways.
Dr Daniel Siemens
September 2013



Everyone in Germany expected Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU/CSU) to win a solid majority in this year’s national elections. However, the results from Sunday came as a surprise for many, in several ways.

1. Regardless of Merkel’s landslide victory that brought the conservative CDU/CSU nearly an absolute majority in the Bundestag, she needs a new coalition partner. Mostly likely is a coalition with the runner-up Social Democrats, but a government with the Green party is also possible. (Another government is also possible, at least theoretically: a coalition of Social democrats with the Green party and the former East German Communists.)

2. That Germany will have a new coalition government for the next legislative term is due to a historic defeat of the German liberal party, the FDP, the junior partner of the last government. For the first time since national elections in the Federal Republic of Germany are held, since 1949, the liberal party failed to win at least five per cent of the decisive second votes, the threshold in order to be represented in the German parliament. For a party who took comfort and self-esteem in recent decades not least because of its frequent role as king maker, this comes as a severe shock – and will probably cause deep convulsions and programmatic battles between those in favour of a radical ‘capitalist’ orientation and those who want to revitalise the party’s roots: political liberalism and civil rights.

3. The ‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD), a eurosceptic party founded just a couple of months before the elections, won 4.7 per cent of the votes. Although this is likewise not enough to be represented in parliament, this is a remarkable debut in the comparatively very stable party system in Germany. It is the first time that there is a new ‘conservative’ party next to the CDU/CSU with a considerable following and, what is even more important, it is the first German party to be outspoken euro-sceptic. The relative success of the AfD should be interpreted as a clear sign that dissatisfaction with traditional euro-friendly German (foreign) policy is growing, although it remains to be seen whether this result is more than a snapshot.

Against the widespread fears among German taxpayers to have to further contribute to European bailout packages, Merkel’s clear victory is even more remarkable. The CDU’s heavily personalised election campaign, a campaign that avoided genuine political statements to the utmost, was successful in times where ‘more of the same’ seemed to many not an ideal, but at least a solid prospect. The Germans are rather at ease with their country, including its rather unimpressive foreign politics. Critics argue that complacency and indifference prevails.

What do these election results mean for Europe? A considerable change in German European politics is in no way to be expected. Whether this is good or bad news for Europe depends on everyone’s political perspective. Merkel certainly is an experienced crisis manager, but one who has avoided so far any passionate vision of how Europe should look like in the not to distant future.

In 1957, West Germany’s first chancellor, the likewise conservative, if in terms of character and personality very different Konrad Adenauer won the national elections at the height of the Cold War era with the campaign slogan ‘No experiments’. Back then he was re-elected for the second time, after already eight years in office – an exact parallel to Merkel’s victory now. Adenauer then remained in office another six years. Merkel, who is now more than ever the undisputed leading politician in Germany, seems to walk in his footsteps.

Dr Daniel Siemens, UCL SSEES