German friends, don’t hang around!

Editorial of the “World”. Almost three weeks after the parliamentary elections on September 26, negotiations to form a progressive tripartite government coalition begin in Berlin on Thursday October 7. The leaders of the Greens and the Liberal Party FDP, who arrived in third and fourth place respectively in the elections and themselves in discussion for several days, announced on Wednesday the opening of talks with the Social Democrats of the SPD, who arrived first.

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Serious things are starting, and it is time. The objective of this three-party negotiation is to find a sufficiently solid agreement on a common government program to form a so-called “traffic light” coalition, according to the colors of the three parties, green for environmentalists, yellow for the FDP and red for the SPD. This is the procedure of the German parliamentary system, and it has many virtues, the first being to ensure governmental stability across the Rhine.

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But it’s not just about Germany. Twenty-six countries are anxiously waiting for a government in working order to come out of these negotiations: it is the twenty-six other member states of the European Union, which know that no major initiative can be taken within the European framework as long as it is that white smoke did not come out in Berlin. France is at the forefront, not only because it forms a tandem with Germany that is supposed to provide the engine of European dynamics, but also because it takes the 1er January the rotating presidency of the EU. Paris has a number of ambitions for these six months of presidency; the absence of an operational interlocutor in Berlin would paralyze most of its initiatives, especially since the campaign for the presidential election in April will quickly come to parasitize the European agenda.

New start

It is therefore imperative that the German parties manage to form a government by Christmas. The 2017 experience had been disastrous: after a first round of negotiations under the aegis of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the FDP had slammed the door and Merkel had opened new talks, which eventually resulted in the “grand coalition” of the CDU / CSU Christian-Democratic bloc with the SPD. The whole had taken more than five months, during which no answer had been brought to the French proposals of revival of Europe. Many today in Berlin recognize the cost to Europe of this long pause. It would be even heavier today, given the global context.

The other interest for Europeans is the nature of the government agreement that will emerge from the negotiations. The good news is that an SPD-Greens-FDP coalition, if it is confirmed, constitutes what most resembles an alternation across the Rhine. Germany needs a new lease of life after sixteen years of Merkelism: the new ideas of the Greens and the impetus of these two small parties less worn out than the CDU and the SPD, as well as the succession of generations embodied by their leaders, should bring this freshness to a government that would in all likelihood be led by Olaf Scholz, head of the SPD and former finance minister of Mme Merkel.

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The European stake is immense. The first subject will be the future of common budgetary rules, which must be relaxed if we want to encourage recovery and invest heavily in a carbon-free and digital future, but there are many other subjects. German friends, good luck – and don’t delay: time is running out!

The world

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