The Brief – Panik in Bayern

The Brief - Panik in Bayern

While Brussels is gradually switching into vacation mode, there is no political rest in sight in Bavaria.

Quite the contrary: a new poll released on Wednesday (18 July) shows the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) at its lowest level. Ever. Only 38% of the Bavarian electorate would vote for the CSU, that’s almost 10% down from the last regional election five years ago (47.7%).

It is safe to say that CSU’s leader Horst Seehofer’s attempt to push Merkel’s coalition government to the brink of collapse did not pay off.

Three months before the regional elections in Bavaria are to take place, the poll shows that the CSU has lost ground among women and older voters. According to the figures, the social-democrats from the SPD would come to a meagre 13%, and is clearly being outperformed by the Greens, who are expected to get 16% of the vote.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party would capture 12%, the liberals from the FDP 5 and the Left Party 4 %.

This means the CSU will only be able to govern in a coalition – an absolute nightmare for the two CSU political leaders, Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder and German Interior Minister and CSU-President Horst Seehofer. Both are striving to keep the party’s absolute majority by all means.

To make matters worse, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, has weighed in, in a rare intervention into politics. He told weekly newspaper Die Zeit in an interview that it was the wrong political approach to drift to the right simply because that was the spirit of the times.

Asked about the CSU’s policy stance, Marx said that a party that has chosen the ‘C’ in the name has an obligation, in the spirit of Christian social teaching, especially in its attitude towards the poor and the weak.

“Being a nationalist and a Catholic, that can’t be,” he added.

This is quite a blow for the two leaders: Half of Bavarians are Catholic and they form the backbone of support for the CSU. The loss of confidence in the governing party is catastrophic.

It is clear why the CSU is sagging so much. For weeks, the two Bavarian leaders led a never-seen-before charge against Angela Merkel over migration and a so-called “Masterplan on immigration” that fewer than ten people in Berlin had seen.

Horst Seehofer threatened to resign and then stepped back while Bavaria Prime Minister and top candidate Markus Söder raged against refugees and Germany’s chancellor.

What is not clear is how the two CSU leaders want to reverse the trend.

But Markus Söder, who made a name in Germany for his political ruthlessness and appetite for power, already is putting the blame on Seehofer. “Arguments never help,” he told the Bavarian newspaper Münchner Merkur. Clearly, the blame lays in Berlin, and from now on, the CSU will only focus on regional policy. And, yes: “We understand.”

This interview shows that top candidate Söder is now swallowing his pride and trying humility instead. This is strongly reminiscent of the beginning of his term, when he used the word “humility” in every other sentence, German political journalists observed.

And it sounds strange coming from him, they said, because until now, whenever he referred to humility, he always meant the others.

The Roundup

The European Commission is taking the prospect of a no deal Brexit scenario very seriously. If only the same could be said of the UK government’s translation efforts, which have been widely denounced as “unreadable”.

Slovenia is still without a government and it looks likely to stay that way for a while yet. The gods are smiling on Croatia this month it seems, after an EU funded bridge opened finally. Brussels stepped up its infringement procedure against Hungary’s migration non-compliance.

Serbia can count on France’s support in its EU membership bid but may have to wait for the bloc to undertake reforms first. Kosovo was granted visa liberalisation after the Commission decided it had fulfilled all the necessary benchmarks.

The debate over bee-killing pesticides rages on and inhabitants of the island of Sardinia are worried that their traditional cheeses and olive oils will be classed as harmful by the WHO and UN. A trade with the South American Mercosur nations could be ready this year.

Ukraine is supposed to split up its energy monopoly but is quickly starting to bump up against a 2020 deadline to get it done. Carbon capture storage tech may soon take off, as a new report outline viable business models.

TIME magazine’s latest cover is superb. Montenegro, NATO’s newest member and an EU membership frontrunner, had to issue an official rebuke to Donald Trump’s claim that the tiny Balkan nation is “very aggressive” and could cause World War III.

Look out for…

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will brief EU27 ambassadors about the ongoing talks. Expect the UK’s White Paper (probably the English version) to feature heavily in the meeting.

Views are the author’s

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