After protracted negotiations, the shape of the new German Government was unveiled during the course of last week. The division of Government ministries will see Mrs Merkel’s CDU with six seats, her sister party the CSU three seats and their new partners the SDP will have five seats.
Mrs Merkel was deemed to have won a convincing victory in the General Election. But the CDU/CSU position in this Government is not as strong as it was in the previous administration. Their electoral success was insufficient to secure an overall majority and it was gained partially at the expense of their then, coalition partners. That outcome forced the CDU/CSU to form this administration with their main political rivals the SDP. The adopted programme of Government states that German must become an official working language of the EU. Currently the working languages are French and English. Should Germany be successful and the UK withdraw from the EU, we may all need to take night classes to keep up. The agreement has strong emphasis on “subsidiarity” stating that the EU must only act where action on other levels is not sufficient. It will seek to further enhance the role of the EU Parliament and promote the close involvement of national parliaments in the decision making process. And that the role and number of EU Commissioners should be one that is “stringent and efficient”. These policy positions may see the Germans seek to change the current practice of the appointment of Commissioners, from the appointment of a Commissioner from every member state, to a reduced number who would focus on policy areas. An appointment system under such a proposal is not clear, but could see Ireland without a Commissioner over a long period.
The general sub text now coming from across all sections of the EU establishment is that there is a need for reform. That Europe needs to be big on the big things and small on the small things. There appears to be an opportunity opening for the UK to successfully renegotiate aspects of how the EU works. Will member states take the opportunity of such negotiations to rid themselves of troublesome partners, or embrace the opportunity to rebalance how the EU functions and how it interacts with the citizens of the union?