Germany’s election on September 24 is not just about who will become chancellor – it will influence the future design of the European Union.
German voters will have to decide whether Angela Merkel or her main challenger, Martin Schulz, will lead the EU’s most populous country on decisions ranging from euro zone reform to defense cooperation and migration.
While Chancellor Merkel’s conservative bloc remains comfortably ahead in the polls ahead of Social Democrat Schulz, many voters are still undecided.
Euronews’ Stefan Grobe brought together leading MEPs at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to discuss the issues at stake. On the panel were: Greek European Parliament vice-president Dimitrios Papadimoulis, representing the European United Left-Nordic Green Left; Marietje Schaake from the Netherlands, representing the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and two German MEPs, Christian Democrat David McAllister and Social Democrat Udo Bullmann.
Germany – the engine of Europe
On the question of Germany’s role as the engine of Europe panelists agreed that other EU countries are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the election to see which direction Germany will take. While Mr McAllister seemed convinced Germans would opt for stability and choose Merkel, Mr Bullmann insisted anything could happen on September 24.
Panelists commended Angela Merkel’s recent immigration policy:
Marietje Schaake: “She has, at crucial moments, shown moral and courageous leadership and that is something all of us in Europe have seen and appreciated.”
David McAllister: “We have a historic responsibility to give these people protection and shelter.”
However, Mr McAllister continued: “On the other hand, we have to fight illegal migration coming to northern Europe, especially to Germany. I understand that hundreds of thousands of people want to come to Germany for economic reasons, but we have to organise this in a better way.”
On the question of immigration, Mr Papadimoulis concluded: “We have to invest more in our European common answers, facing the refugee crisis and relocating the refugees in a proportional way that means confronting members states like Hungary and Poland who are not implementing their obligation.”
Relations with Turkey
Questioned about what policy Germany should adopt vis-a-vis Turkey, Mr McAllister called on “freezing EU accession negotiations with Turkey” because “this country is heading away from our common European standards" under its current leadership, while “keeping diplomatic channels to Ankara open” so as to “strengthen democracy and civil society in this great country”. According to Mr Bullmann, “we should stick to our friends in Turkey (…), young people, those who are waiting for democratic freedom, we should never give up on them,” adding “we should not allow him (Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan) to override human rights”.
The Franco-German political engine
On this matter, Mrs Schaake praised French president Emmanuel Macron for his reform agenda, saying that “with the proper leadership in member states that understand what needs to be done at home” it would be possible to rebuild trust and leadership for Europe. As for Mr McAllister, he said that while “there need to be concrete proposals from Germany and France to modernise the EU and especially the eurozone, the one important things is that they shouldn’t be bullying the other 26. The European Union is a community of 28 sovereign members states and its doesn’t matter if they are large or small, they all have the same rights and they have to be treated with the same respect.”
*Europe’s north-south divide*
Questioned on this issue, Mr Papadimoulis said: “Not only Greece, but also Europe and mainly the euro area needs a restart – not only a monetary union, but a more political union, more economic union, a stronger budget, inclusive growth, a stronger cohesion policy (…) It’s important to see the rising inequalities between the north and the south, the lack of cohesion between people and between areas and regions, and to invest in our common future in an inclusive way.”
You can follow Euronews’ coverage of the German election live on euronews on September 24, along with our in-depth reports on euronews.com.