The end of the “Jamaica” illusion in Germany: A blessing for the future of the EU

Max Pixel
Miniature toy figures of German politicians

The chancellor is shattered, the party leaders are at a loss, the Federal President is angry. The end of the so-called Jamaica coalition (named after the party colours) before its start seems to throw the Germans into a deep political crisis.

By default, this also affects Europe as a
whole. Without a stable government in Berlin, the European Union will
hardly be able to act. There is a summit of the European heads of
government scheduled for December. Major EU reform is on the agenda. In
the absence of a mandate for the caretaker German chancellor, the
gathering is unlikely to produce any binding results.

But however annoying that may seem: For the future of the EU, it is a blessing in disguise.
Angela Merkel and her green partners eagerly
wanted a coalition with the Bavarian Christian democrats – CSU – and the
liberalist FDP. If it had come about, it would have brought European
politics to a standstill. Not just for a few months, but for years.

The most recent negotiating document that
has reached the public leaves no doubt about this. The only demand on
European policy that all four parties supported was the “consistent
application of the Stability and Growth Pact”. However, it was precisely
the implementation of the arbitrarily set deficit rules of this pact
that brought the euro countries a second deep recession starting in 2010
after the first, which was triggered by the Lehman Brothers crash in
2008.

It was not until the EU Commission
loosened the conditions in 2013, that the European economy began to pick
up again. This has recently been specifically demonstrated in Portugal,
where the left-wing government has been accused by former German
finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble of allegedly breaking the rules.
However, after undoing the forced budget cuts done by its predecessor,
the government in Lisbon has triggered so much economic dynamism and tax
revenue that it has begun to repay the emergency loans granted – ahead
of schedule.

The failed German coalition leaders did
not utter a word about the French president’s broad reform ideas for
Europe in their process. Yet the visionary power of Emmanuel Macron
opens a “historically unique opportunity”, as the philosopher Jürgen
Habermas wrote.

Macron is not only calling for the
introduction of a common budget for the euro countries in order to be
able to better cushion future emergencies. In addition, the common
budget “must go hand in hand with strong political control by a common
minister and be subject to parliamentary scrutiny at European level”,
says France’s young president.

At the same time, he wants European lists
of candidates for the European parliament. This would turn the current
assembly of national party representatives into a truly European
legislator whose members were committed to all EU citizens, from Ireland
to Greece, and not just to their domestic voters. By this, Macron
proposes a way to fulfill the democratisation that Europe’s governments
have been denying their citizens for so long. According to Habermas, the
president of France wants no less than “converting the European elite
project into a self-legislation of the citizens”.

All this has so far been treated by the
supposedly pro-European parties in Germany with an almost provocative
indifference. Out of fear of the neo-nationalists, they preferred not to
touch the subject at all. By this they played even more into the hands
of AfD, the new nationalists to the right of Angela Merkel.

In this respect, the end of the Jamaican
illusion also offers the German political elite a second chance to
correct a serious mistake. If new elections were to take place, the
parties could give European politics the space it deserves in the
forthcoming election campaign.

And, yes, they could learn from Macron.
However questionable his domestic reforms may be, the ascendant from
France achieved what no European political leader has been able to do
for decades: he placed the future of the European project at the centre
of his programme – and won a broad majority for it.

Such politicians are what Europe needs – in Germany, too.

This article was first published in German by Investigate Europe’s media partner “Der Tagesspiegel”.