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Germany's NRW's new muscle

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Germany's NRW's new muscle


‘Hit the Road, Jack’… is one of the songs they played at a victory party for SPD Social Democrat Hannelore Kraft. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat party was North Rhine Westphalia’s idea of ‘Jack’.

This part of Germany’s revenue is roughly equivalent to that of Turkey. That rather conveys the influence it has.

In elections seven years ago the SPD was defeated, but it won two years ago as well.

Following her latest victory, Kraft said: “In 20 months [since the last election], we’ve moved this region ahead economically, and towards more social justice. I believe we’ve found a balance. We have 29,000 new industrial jobs. At the same time we’ve reduced debt. We’re going to bring that down even more, but we are going to spend more on children and education, and that is an investment in the future that is well worth it.”

General elections are scheduled for 16 months from now. What impact will this result have in Berlin on those elections?

The SPD’s position in the German parliament has been reinforced. Centre-left forces there may make their support of Merkel’s fiscal policies adopted by European partners conditional. So far, the conservative CDU Merkel has remained firm on these.

Merkel said: “Accept that overcoming the crisis will be a long and tedious process, which will only be successful if we start tackling the causes of the crisis. These causes are the horrendous debts and the lack of competition in several euro zone countries.”

And yet, outside Germany the remedy of tight belts is already openly contested, for instance in Italy, by its technocratic ‘fix-it’ prime minister, Mario Monti.

Monti said: “We must not neglect that structural reforms per se will never deliver growth, because if a country becomes more productive and competitive but there is no demand for its products domestically or around it, growth will not materialise.”

Monti made that opinion clear even before France elected a new, Socialist, president, François Hollande, who wants to go about reviving Europe economically in a way that is different from Merkel.

Holland justified himself: “I have said so many things in favour of budgetary responsibility that no one can say that I am questioning the need to control debt. But I also say that it must be based on growth.”

Hollande has said he wants to renegotiate the fiscal consolidation treaty signed by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, and almost all the other European heads of state and government.

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