Team of Authors (Heinrich Böll Foundation)
It has been more than a year since the last elections to the European Parliament and the approval of the new European Commission, including new High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In the meantime, the EU has been, not very persuasively, trying to solve problems, such as the Grexit, the conflict in Ukraine and the Eastern Neighborhood and the refugee crisis.
The solution to the problems came either too late or it never happened or the EU was not act strongly enough. In short, Europe has shown a lack of understanding, solidarity and leadership. In the meantime, the rate of Euroscepticism has been rising, while rightist populism and extremism have been benefitting from the lack of the EU’s problem-solving capacity. While, in this situation, Europe needs to find a proper leadership, its leaders are actually trying to gain popularity in domestic political scene.
It seems as if Germany were no longer a leader across the European Union. Germany itself has not gotten into this position thanks to its aspirations to rule the Union but it has been basically forced into it thanks to its preeminent economic and political standing not matched by any other Member State. On the contrary, Germany is currently trying to weaken its position so that the Union as a whole can keep on functioning. Nevertheless, German leaders, and mainly Angela Merkel, agreed to keep borders open to refugees.
A similar decision, such as the opening of the borders, which puts Ms Merkel at odds with her own party and other European countries, was showcased already in the case of the Energiewende (referring to the end of the support of nuclear energy in Germany) when she again went against her party’s will. Moreover, one should not forget her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, who boldly decided to leave the Stability and Growth Pact and launched social reforms. It is difficult to conclude at this stage if Germany is acting ‘correctly’ in European politics and whether it could really be considered the European leader or its actions are just an expression of national obstinacy and arrogance. In any case, it is increasingly obvious that currently the running of the EU depends primarily on Germany.
(The study can be downloaded here: https://eu.boell.org/sites/default/files/event_report_rise_of_the_right.pdf)