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September 29, 2017

Is the CDU about to rebel against Merkel?

The answer to this question is: not yet, but there are signs of growing discontent visible everywhere, as Spiegel Online notes. Many CDU members were shocked when they saw Angela Merkel dismiss the party’s worst result since 1949, pretend that nothing much of importance had happened, and claim that the CDU had reached all its strategic goals. Merkel left no one in doubt that this is all about her ability to remain in power.

The article notes that the process of alienation between Merkel and CDU activists has been going on for some time. The party will have no occasion to register its displeasure with Merkel until late 2018, when she is up for reelection as CDU leader. In the meantime, the discontent affects the second-tier, people like Volker Kauder, the CDU’s parliamentary leader. 25% of CDU MPs withheld their support for him. 

The article reveals a frosty exchange inside the CDU’s executive committee, when Jens Spahn asked the questions for how long Kauder’s election would be valid. Since parliamentary leaders are normally elected for a parliamentary term, Spahn’s question was interpreted as the pre-announcement of a future coup. But Spahn is not alone. Especially among younger CDU politicians, the loyalty to Merkel seems to be ebbing. The younger generation are mostly to the right of Merkel. They are deeply eurosceptic. Another young politician mentioned in the article is Carsten Linnemann, head of the CDU’s SME group, who has been calling for his party to stick to existing rules - on immigration and the euro.

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September 29, 2017

What about defence?

Daniel Keohane makes a few important observations about the difficulties that lie ahead in the development of the objectives for a common European defence policies, as outlined by Macron in his speech. His main goal is to get Europeans to act quickly, and autonomously when needed, for example in southern Europe. The least ambitious of his proposal is to develop the existing ideas of a European defence fund and for permanent structured cooperation. 

But he wants to go beyond this with a common intervention force, a common budget, and a common doctrine. Keohane argues that the doctrine is the really difficult bit. We agree with him. We can see, for example, Germany agreeing to go all the way, but Germany does not want to fight. Germany sees the purpose of a European defence agenda in the same cynical way that France regarded the monetary union in the 1990s - as a vehicle of further, not as something worthwhile in its own right. 

This is how Keohane put it:

“...developing an effective shared military doctrine could prove much more difficult than establishing a joint force or common budget.... developing a national doctrine involves a host of actors, from ministries and armed forces. Combining the disparate perspectives of EU governments is even more challenging. Because of their very different strategic cultures, the danger is that EU governments would produce a dysfunctional doctrine in practice. For instance, the glaring gap between French and German attitudes to military interventions abroad is well documented.”

For this to succeed would require a large leap of faith by other countries, notably Germany. 

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September 29, 2017

What happened to the French mainstream parties?

After Emmanuel Macron and En Marche! crashed into the French political landscape, the two mainstream parties went on a soul-searching mission.

The Republicans sent out two questionnaires to its members to find out what they think Republicans are about. More than 400,000 responded and the results are sometimes surprising. A clear majority of the members (77%) is for a party that encompasses different strands, a clear warning to the front runner for the leadership of the party, Laurent Wauquiez, who wants to concentrate the party line further to the right. As for the qualities, the members find that the Republicans should be reforming (49%), liberal (36%) and Gaullist (33%) more than patriotic (26%) or European (21%). Very low ranked is conservatism (11%), this “it was better in the past” that some senior figures in the party want to tap into. In terms of subjects they ranked first issues of justice, security and immigration (72%) before economics (61%) and well ahead of education (29%) or European (17%). Members don’t want primaries any more and think that a left-right spectrum has to be redefined amid Macron, but that it always existed and will continue to do so. Among the six candidates for the leadership contest in December, Wauquiez seem to be the only heavyweight in the race, with enough backing for his candidacy.

About 200 Socialists from the second tier published their 10 commandments for a re-foundation of the Socialist party in the Nouvel Observateur yesterday. They call for a renewal after consulting the members, they refuse a double membership with either à La République en Marche of Emmanuel Macron or the Mouvement du 1er Juillet of Benoît Hamon. No former minister shall be part of this reform process. As for the subjects for the party they list equality, justice and solidarity, the defence of the European project, ecology and decentralisation. The party congress is not until 2018, but the battle for renewal has begun.

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