According to a recent study by the German institute for economic research (DIW), people in Germany haven’t been more contented in the last 30 years as now. It seems as if there is no awareness about the crisis in Europe and the European Union within the German electorate. Proof for this can be found in the turnout of the latest general election in September, in which the political party with the vaguest content in its electoral campaign, and the promise that everything stays the way it is, gained the most votes.
With regard to the current negations in order to form a coalition government following these general elections, one comes to wonder about the political reality of the negotiating parties. Europe, as a political topic is only discussed in the realm of the ongoing negotiations about the contested passenger car road user charge. The question whether or not it can be introduced without infringing European Union legislation, led to the obscure situation that discrimination against non German EU citizens is not possible but treating the German citizens preferentially is.
The euro crisis did not appear in any greater public discussion; the three coalition parties will continue the current policies, since they have already been supported by the social democrats before the elections. It seems as if the negotiations gained on creating an atmosphere of stability for the electorate, rather than tackling real challenges, promoting the negotiations about a widely accepted implementation of a minimum wage to become the biggest challenge during the negotiations.
However, to avoid or even ousting the euro crisis will have severe consequences for the health of the political system of Germany. We (Germans) became too used to see the European Parliament, if at all, as an institution of many meritorious veteran politicians working towards consensus decisions. The upcoming European Parliament elections will change this attitude dramatically. The elections in May 2014 will be a pan-European opportunity toprotest and state the anger against Germany and in particular against the course of austerity of the German chancellor Merkel. It is to be expected that in May, many left and right wing populists all over the European Union will be elected, in order to articulate the overwhelming anger and impotent rage of their compatriots. – Just a figment? I doubt it. These tendencies are already visible, not just in countries with 50%+ youth unemployment, but also in Member States such as France and Germany.
To describe this as an anomaly which only reflects an aberration of voters is wrong and respectively judges to easily about their intentions.
In regard to this future turnout of the European elections in May 2014, it is time for German politicians to understand that the current European-wide policy of austerity and “Sparkdiktat”, which is promoted and supported by the German government, does not solve the crisis, but leads to even more unemployment in countries who have to implement the demanded measures. Ahead of the European elections populists are posing some legitimate questions:
“What does the near future hold in store for us?
Wouldn’t it be better for us (Greeks, Spaniards…) to leave the euro zone?”
Those questions are justified; however it is foolish to not answer them adequately. The biggest lender Germany as well as the international Troika needs to answer to citizens questions but also to face the current situation; the approach which considers the current policy as “alternativlos” German forwithout any alternative in “Merkel-German” is not without alternative.
Germany might be strong at the moment and its citizens are contended, butwe neither live on an island on our own, nor are we independent. It is not too late (yet) to rethink the German policy approach towards Europe and therewith to prevent to jeopardize the whole European project.