Germany’s general election approach is being closely followed by Germans living in Brussels. Economic and social problems at home and at the European level are among their main concerns. Margareta Hauschild, with the Goethe Institute, tells EuroNews she shares the doubts. She says: “I think Germans are aware that we need social reforms. I even think these reforms are broadly accepted nowadays but there is still a lot of angst.”
Radical tax proposals by the liberal-conservatives have prompted their opponents to brand them as would-be destroyers of Germany’s welfare system. Analyst Peter Gros at the Centre for European Policy Studies says a major political shift would impact on all of Europe, through the EU Stability pact. If Germany respects the pact, it can ask the other member states to do the same. That will create a sort of domino effect, he says. The recent modifications can be interpreted in different ways. It follows that a stricter interpretation of the same rules might be enough to sink the agreement reached in March which gave member states more flexibility on public spending. Yet a leading supporter of Germany’s incumbent SPD, Werner Wobbe in Brussels, insists it would not be easy to stick to the pact. He says: “I believe that a conservative-liberal government would bring an increase in the public debt, because the new fiscal policy being announced, I expect, would not allow for better control of the public budget.” In European policy, Turkey is another source of division in Germany. Chancellor Schroeder strongly supports its membership bid. Angela Merkel is driving hard for an alternative.