BERLIN — Angela Merkel’s political farewell was ruined on Sunday night as the Social Democrats (SPD) narrowly claimed victory in German elections, just four years after suffering their worst loss since World War II.
Why it matters: The stunning political comeback could tip the balance of power in Germany left after 16 years of rule by Merkel’s conservative block, and it could lay the foundation for An more ambitious European Union.
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SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz, who as Merkel’s finances minister defended the EUs joint COVID recovery fund and has argued for deeper political integration, made strengthening the EU one of the main planks of his stage.
Merkel was a strong defender of the European projectbut she was careful met further integration.
Scholz can now join The French Emmanuel Macron and the Italian Mario Draghi in the middle of An powerful pro-Europe axis.
That shift was coming just while the block argues over the economy recovery of the pandemic and its place in an era of US-China competition.
Zoom in: Germany alone “won makes no difference” in An world dominated by the US, China and others rising forces, Wolfgang Schmidt, Scholz’s closest assistant, told Axios.
That’s why Scholz believes “the biggest, most important” national issue of interest of Germany is the European Union”, because “only with the block of 470 million die we are, we represent and we put some weight on the table,” said Schmidt.
“Evidently, ‘vote for Europe’ is not like this big thing for voters”, admitted Schmidt. But “European sovereignty” is the answer to the uncertainties die Germans do occupy themselves, from pandemics to climate change.
What to watch: Scholz said his first international visit to Paris, and he repeated Macron during the… campaign’s last tv debate in say that Germany’s main task was to ensure “a strong and sovereign Europe.”
Hell also emphasize the value of the transatlantic relationship with The United States, says Lars Klingbeil, the SPDs secretary-general. But asked over the US-China competition under Trump and Biden, Klingbeil says, “we have a different approach.”
“If you look at Merkel’s China” policy, I think Olaf Scholz will be more comparable met this than the US policy towards China,” Klingbeil said.
Data: Provisional results from the German Federal Return Officer; Map: Sara Wise/Axi
Between the lines: Merkel prioritized economic ties with China, the largest in Germany trading partner, at expense of denounce Beijing’s authoritarianism and human rights abuses.
While Scholz is willing to follow in die footsteps, the leaders of the Greens and pro-business free democrats — with who wants to form Scholz coalition government — opposed a controversial investment deal die Merkel helped seal with Beijing, and they may prompt Scholz to take a harder line.
The big image: Germany could join the club of European countries directed by social democratic parties, including Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Spain and Portugal.
Five of die celebrate won power within the last five years — a remarkable change of lot for Europe’s progressives, die some EU watchers had pronounced dead as far-right populists flooded the continent.
Go deeper: what to watch in the negotiations
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