German coalition at odds over presidency priorities

Two months before the start of the German EU presidency, the grand coalition government that will chair EU Council meetings during the first half of 2007 has not yet found agreement on priorities for the term. EURACTIV compares the two parties’ positions on key issues.

EU Constitution

The CDU stresses the constitution’s importance for “strengthening the role of citizens, as well as of national parliaments and the European Parliament, laying down a legally binding value orientation, in particular through the charter of basic rights, which is founded on the Christian concept of man”. 

The SPD stresses: “We need this constitution for a number of reasons. It will make for more transparency in responsibilities and decision making in the EU. The Constitution provides the instruments that will give the EU more of an ability to assert itself and more of a capacity to act.”

CSFP

The CDU calls for the Common Foreign and Security Policy to “become the defence policy component of the EU and NATO’s European pillar”. It also commits to a “military and political obligation to intervene” on behalf of other European countries, arguing that “this implies that the EU needs the capability for military action on its own behalf”. 

The SPD 
seems unwilling to detach this question from the constitution: “The EU’s Common Security Policy instruments have room for improvement. Many of the points have been addressed in the Constitutional Treaty. This is one more reason why we need [the treaty].”

Transatlantic partnership

None of the two parties denies the rift between a number of European countries – including Germany – and the US as a result of the Iraq war. The conclusions that they draw, however, are different. 

The SPD stressed that “we are not thinking about alternatives to [the partnership with the US]. We need the transatlantic partnership, and we will not question it.”

The CDU calls for “an efficient multilateralism”, which implied a readiness “on the side of the Americans to act multilaterally and on our side to act effectively”. The CDU wants to renew US-EU partnership in the form of a “transatlantic partnership agreement”. 

Russia and neighbourhood policy

The CDU  calls for a “strategic partnership with Russia, founded on the Council of Europe’s universal values and enhancing the interests of Central- and Eastern-European countries”. It states that “a close partnership includes an open and critical dialogue on the state of democracy and the rule of law in Russia and about the role Russia plays in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus”. 

The SPD states that: “Russia is a key factor of our energy supply, especially as concerns gas.” Foreign minister Steinmeier says that the key challenge is “to uphold, on the mid-term, the reciprocal and equitable interdependence between Russia and Germany – or rather: between Russia and the EU”. To the December 2006 European Council, Steinmeier sent out a request for a mandate “to develop and deepen neighbourhood policy”. 

Energy and the environment

Both parties agree on the need for an energy focus in foreign policy to be co-ordinated at the European level. Whereas the SPD 
looks mainly to Russia, in the relations to which energy “will play an important role”, the CDU‘s focus is on “Eastern Europe, the southern Caucasus and the Arabian neighbours”. Both parties agree on the aim of getting the US and emerging economies such as China and India to become full signatories to the Kyoto protocol.

Turkey and enlargement

The CDU repeats its well-known position that “after Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession, the EU can accept more European countries only once the European Constitutional Treaty, respectively the institutional reforms it implies, have been implemented. An exception to this rule can only be made for Croatia.” It goes on to stress that the negotiations with Turkey are “open-ended” and that the CDU itself favours a “privileged partnership” with Turkey as “the right solution”. 

The SPD says that “the EU will hold on to its promises”, adding that “the criteria that the EU has laid down concerning this process will be applied in a rigorous manner”. Somewhat ominously, Steinmeier said that “not every country that hopes to join the EU will be accepted as a full-scale member in the end”.  

Social Europe

Steinmeier stressed that “Europa is a social model different from the ones in America and Asia” and that “the majority of Europeans are proud of social settlement in a competition-based society”. He recommended that these points should be better highlighted in order to enhance European’s commitment to the European project. 

The CDU  merely stresses the importance of “shaping globalisation in order to “defend social achievements”. 

key proposal from the managing committee - the highest institution of the Conservative CDU party, which is chaired by Chancellor Angela Merkel - for the CDU convention at the end of November 2006 reveals deep splits on foreign policy orientations between the party and the country's foreign affairs ministry. 

The ministry is headed by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a member of the social-democrat SPD and formerly a close aide to chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Steinmeier laid out the key priorities for Germany's upcoming EU presidency in a number of speeches held in late summer and autumn 2006. 

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