German domestic political woes may have international effect

November 21, 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a plenary session of German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — The collapse of talks to form a new German government has weakened Chancellor Angela Merkel and left her country, an influential European economic powerhouse, facing months more political instability. What does the uncertainty mean for the rest of the world?



EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proclaimed Tuesday that “Europe will not pause” with its reform efforts, despite the German political turmoil.

But it may have to forge ahead without significant input from European stalwart Germany, since Merkel has indicated she isn’t prepared to tackle ambitious eurozone reform ideas floated by French President Emmanuel Macron before she has formed a new government.

That’s bound to slow things down, Sebastien Maillard, director of France’s Jacques Delors Institute think tank, told Europe-1 radio.

“Emmanuel Macron cannot alone be the leader of Europe. This crisis in Germany runs counter to his plans,” he said. “After the French and German elections, we were on an open road toward the European elections. Now there is clearly a delay in the ignition of the Franco-German motor.”



Some pro-Brexit politicians said Britain should use the opportunity to toughen its stance.

Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg told The Times of London that the political instability gives Britain greater leverage. He argued that Germany’s troubles “make it less likely that it would want to risk the damage that could be done to its industry from the U.K. imposing tariffs on its exports.”

But others said a weakened Merkel was bad news for Britain, because the German chancellor is one of the most pragmatic, as well as most powerful, EU leaders. The conservative Daily Telegraph newspaper said in an editorial that “the U.K. had hoped Mrs. Merkel could focus attention on Brexit and help engineer the mutually beneficial agreement” both sides need.

In reality, there will probably be little impact.

Berlin has consistently deferred to the EU’s executive Commission on the negotiations. And Merkel has given no indication that she plans to jump deeply into the Brexit issue.



Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr, has about 4,000 troops participating in more than a dozen international missions.

The longest-running has been its contribution to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, which started in 1999, and currently involves about 500 German troops. Germany has also played a major role in Afghanistan, where it has more than 1,000 troops. It contributes to numerous UN, NATO and other forces, including the coalition against the Islamic State group, a training mission in Iraq, and to naval missions in the Mediterranean and off the Horn of Africa.

German military deployments need parliamentary approval, typically on an annual basis, but enjoy wide support and should not face any changes.

On Tuesday, parliament started debating extending some of the deployments, including the Afghanistan mission, for three months as a stopgap measure.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told lawmakers: “In security policy, terror won’t wait for us to get to the point here. Terror requires a determined response by the allies, it requires steadfastness from Germany; and you can count on the Bundeswehr and Germany being reliable.”



Germany has been one of the main countries working to implement a peace deal for eastern Ukraine, after partnering with France to broker an agreement with Ukraine and Russia in 2015.

At the same time, Merkel has staunchly supported European Union sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine, following the annexation of Crimea three years ago.

Merkel’s government has been adamant that sanctions cannot be lifted without implementation of the Minsk peace accord.

She may now be somewhat weakened in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but also has majority support on that issue so isn’t likely to change her stance significantly.


Jill Lawless in London, Angela Charlton in Paris, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.

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