We use cookies to help improve and maintain our site. More information.
close

February 11, 2019

SPD dumps Hartz IV

The SPD has officially dumped the Hartz IV reforms - the  social policy reforms Gerhard Schröder initiated in 2003 and which have since become the main reason for the SPD's political decline. The decision, taken by the SPD's leadership over the weekend, is significant for two reasons. It could presage an early end of the grand coalition: a clear dividing line between the two partners has emerged for the first time. And second, it could help entrench the leadership of Andrea Nahles and forestall a leadership challenge by Sigmar Gabriel. It is no coincidence that Schröder, author of the Hartz IV reforms, recently came out in favour of Gabriel as SPD leader. This was not about Gabriel but about his one and only political legacy. 

We noted a comment from one of the SPD leaders that Nahles' main achievement during this debate was not to have pushed for the agreed compromise, but to have allowed this debate to happen with an open outcome. The decision also has the backing of Olaf Scholz, another of the architects of the original system.

Under the SPD's new plan Hartz IV, a long-term unemployment subsistence scheme, is to be replaced by a universal citizen's income, very much like the one the Italian government has just introduced. The difference between the two systems is not one of  principle but of degree. Under a citizens' income everybody has a right to it - with exceptions. Under Hartz IV, it works the other way round: you can apply for it and have to prove your entitlement. The SPD wants to lengthen the period of unemployment insurance coverage by nine months - from a current maximum of twelve months. The conditions for the citizens' income would be softer than for Hartz IV. The means-testing of the current system would be suspended for the first two years. Some of the Draconian penalties of the system would be eliminated, and there would be a special universal basic income specific for children - with no means testing whatsoever.

The SPD has also voted to raise the statutory minimum income from the current €9.19 per hour to €12. 

In the absence of a coalition with the Left Party and the Greens, there is no chance that the SPD can implement most of this agenda, given the CDU's extreme hostility to it. The real significance of this change in policies is different and more wide-ranging. 

Jaspar von Altenbockum made an interesting observation about Nahles' role in the SPD. He said Schröder has become the mouthpiece for those in the SPD who treat Nahles in the way Merkel used to be treated in the CDU. A big error of judgement, as it has turned out.

Show Comments Write a Comment

February 11, 2019

Macron's revival

For every social movement there comes a pivotal moment where its own survival is at stake, internal inconsistencies come to the forefront and circumstances simply change the game. Have the gilets jaunes reached such a moment? For Emmanuel Macron, at least, the gilets jaunes have enabled a rise in the polls even if he remains fundamentally unpopular among the French public.

The numbers of weekly protesters continued to decline last Saturday as the movement's various leaders turn against each other or lose followers. The circulating video footage about clashes amongst gilets jaunes and the destruction of a bus stop also strengthen the impression that the street is now only for the hard-core militants. We would not be surprised to see protest numbers falling further.

For Macron, the gilets jaunes now seem to have been a blessing in disguise. An Ifop-Fiducial survey revealed that Macron's approval rating had jumped up 6 points since mid-January. This a full 11 points above his lowest approval rating of 23% in the December poll. Why the rise? There are three reasons according to Frédéric Dabi in L'Opinion. First, the gilets jaunes gave him a platform to campaign again. With the grand débat he signalled proximity, and in these debates with the mayors he demonstrated his extraordinary ability to be on top of dossiers and arguments. Second, Macron benefits from the extraordinary weakness of his opponents. And last but not least, the protests allowed him to mobilise right-wing support. The violent clashes helped to prop up support for a strong Republican response, amongst Les Républicains voters he is up 12pp. The only other politician to rise in the polls is Marine Le Pen, with 4pp. 

Macron is still not a popular president, 64% disagree with him. He still feeds resentment and a sense of social injustice among the less successful. But he has managed to grab the public's attention right now, and the government seems keen not to lose that connection. What will happen once the grand débat is over will be the next development to watch out for.

Show Comments Write a Comment

This is the public section of the Eurointelligence Professional Briefing, which focuses on the geopolitical aspects of our news coverage. It appears daily at 2pm CET. The full briefing, which appears at 9am CET, is only available to subscribers. Please click here for a free trial, and here for the Eurointelligence home page.

 

Recent News

  • February 07, 2019
  • Forget Tusk - the real action is elsewhere
  • On David Malpass and the Trump legacy
  • May 28, 2018
  • A no-confidence motion that could backfire
  • The political repercussions of a historic referendum in Ireland
  • Why the lack of an international role for the euro matters
  • September 15, 2017
  • Juncker dragged into the Catalan fray
  • What to say in Florence
  • How to fill the gap left by the British MEPs
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • April 26, 2019
  • How Brexit has given rise to different perceptions of reality
  • The EP, not Madrid, will boost Spanish clout
  • How realistic is a Gaullist Europe?
  • September 17, 2018
  • About the new partnership between Russia and China
  • EU ponders Irish backstop protocol to help May
  • February 07, 2018
  • A short note on bitcoin
  • July 04, 2017
  • On the CDU’s programme
  • Macron defines his presidential style
  • Why do we criticise modern macro?
  • November 28, 2016
  • And now what Monsieur Fillion?
  • The inescapable logic of an interim agreement
  • On Germany's foreign policy post-Trump
  • How to lose against the populists
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • September 26, 2019
  • Could Johnson be headed for an electoral landslide?
  • Macron's conquest of public opinion over pension reform
  • Marion Maréchal keeps dream of political comeback alive
  • March 29, 2019
  • Don't take Macron for granted
  • Green is EU's future - Loiseau takes a stance
  • October 01, 2018
  • After the referendum, more turmoil in Macedonia
  • What will happen if the UK parliament votes No?
  • Barnier's no-thanks works much better than a yes-please
  • April 03, 2018
  • Is the time for Brexit revocation running out?
  • October 04, 2017
  • On why Theresa May is likely to survive
  • On how to resolve the Brexit talks
  • Social housing - not a good start for the French government
  • April 11, 2017
  • What to expect, and not expect from Schulz
  • The view from Berlin
  • The view from Moscow
  • October 17, 2016
  • Ceta is dead for now
  • L’après-Hollande, c'est Hollande
  • SPD against Russia sanctions
  • Nissan to join customs union and other fanciful tales
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • October 02, 2019
  • What Boris wants...
  • Ditched again - the decline and fall of Manfred Weber
  • May 27, 2019
  • The rising chances of a no-deal Brexit
  • January 18, 2019
  • Why Dublin won't yield on the backstop
  • Town hall debates vs street protests - who is winning?
  • September 13, 2018
  • Bravo Mr Juncker for raising the issue of the euro’s international role. But what now?
  • Are the eurosceptics imploding?
  • May 10, 2018
  • Time for some clear thinking on Trump and Iran
  • Will Corbyn accept the EEA? Brexiteers can relax. He won't.
  • What next for the DUP?
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • August 24, 2017
  • Legislative hyperactivity for Tsipras' new narrative
  • On the deep causes of euroscepticism
  • April 23, 2017
  • The demise of the AfD has accelerated dramatically
  • On how France will need to confront Germany
  • December 21, 2016
  • A culture of denial
  • Ukraine agreement hangs in the balance
  • Valls U-turn on 49-3
  • Beware of exotic Brexit options
  • August 22, 2016
  • Gold for Brexit
  • EU and Turkey talking past each other
  • Switzerland is the next migrant transit country
  • On the death of neoliberal economics
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • October 29, 2019
  • People's Vote descends into Civil War
  • CDU at odds on dealing with extreme parties
  • October 07, 2019
  • What did Conte know?
  • September 17, 2019
  • Beware of the diplomacy of humiliation
  • Germany’s climate hypocrisy
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • August 01, 2019
  • Polls look good for Johnson, but raise difficult dilemmas
  • A German death that has become political
  • A French death that has become political
  • July 15, 2019
  • No queues in Berlin for von der Leyen’s succession
  • Mitsotakis moves fast with tax bill
  • The feel-good factor in the pre-Brexit days
  • June 26, 2019
  • How would the EU react to Do-or-Die?
  • Merkel Procrastinates? Surely not.
  • June 10, 2019
  • How to create Brexit facts
  • The new Alde is already in trouble
  • May 27, 2019
  • The rising chances of a no-deal Brexit
  • May 13, 2019
  • Brexit Party has already changed UK politics
  • Orbán visits Trump, after a very long wait
  • Le Pen's appeal to the PiS likely to fall on deaf ears
  • April 29, 2019
  • Labour's national executive to vote on second referendum
  • What the debate about electric cars says about Germany
  • April 15, 2019
  • Finland's far right changes the game
  • Brexit party drawing almost even with the Tories
  • April 05, 2019
  • Salvini's attempt to unite the European right
  • Scandal engulfs Romania's EU presidency
  • Chinese ambitions meet Greek bureaucracies
  • March 27, 2019
  • What can possibly go wrong today?
  • March 18, 2019
  • May's deal still on the table. Don't rule it out.
  • EPP decision on Fidesz still open
  • On the defeat of liberalism
  • March 11, 2019
  • Ask what Europe can do for Germany - AKK's EU manifesto
  • March 05, 2019
  • The most promising Brexit strategy we have heard yet
  • February 27, 2019
  • EU bets on stable dictatorships to guard its south
  • The grand débat context for the unemployment insurance reform
  • Survey suggests that political dividing line in Europe is between France and Germany
  • February 22, 2019
  • The maths of a Brexit deal
  • Does public protest crowd out of climate change?
  • February 18, 2019
  • How the splits on the left and the right will affect Brexit
  • February 13, 2019
  • What to make of the man in the pub - and other tales
  • Macron loses more early advisers - or cuts them loose
  • February 12, 2019
  • What the SPD's policy U-turn means for the future of the coalition
  • Will anti-Europeans unite the people?
  • How Tsipras turned EP elections into a two party race