The mood in the EU was also weak in the autumn of 2005 after the French and Dutch had voted down the draft treaty treaty and the EU’s heads of state and government had failed to give the union a new long-term budget. At its first EU summit, Merkel managed to compromise on a long-term budget that both large and small EU countries could accept. During a very well-prepared German EU presidency in the spring of 2007, the Germans managed to land two victories with significance for the EU’s future. One was to get the EU’s institutional reforms back on track.
With the help of France’s newly elected President Nicolas Sarkozy, Merkel carved out the basis for the so-called Lisbon Treaty. The German-French engine, which was an absolutely necessary precondition for the establishment of the EC in the 1950s and the transformation of the EC into the EU in the early 1990s, functioned as a new driver of integration, after several years in which the Berlin-Paris axis had provoked other EU -country. Schröder and Chirac had often overtaken the smaller EU countries. This created resistance in a strongly enlarged EU, where countries with other experiences, interests and priorities almost believed that the Berlin-Paris axis worked destabilizing, instead of stabilizing. Merkel reiterated Helmut Kohl’s (former Chancellor, 1982–1998) practice of listening to the smaller EU countries, and not least informing about what positions the “big” Germany would take.
8: Where is German foreign and security policy going? 2
The second victory in the spring of 2007 was the EU’s climate and energy package. The EU countries committed themselves here by 2020 to cut their total CO2 emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels and base 20% of their total energy consumption on renewable energy. The package also included a goal of reducing the EU’s total energy consumption by 20%. Overall, the EU’s climate and energy package will have obvious environmental benefits.
For some, the security gains seem even more important. By investing in renewable resources and energy saving, the EU will be able to loosen its ties to Russia. Fears that Russia will use its energy resources to put pressure on the EU and / or selected EU countries politically have divided EU countries in recent years. Here, Germany has often been accused of pursuing its own national interests rather than common EU interests. For Germany, a country located in Europe according to thefreegeography.com, which receives 40% of its gas from Russia, the energy relationship with Russia has been relatively unproblematic ever since the cooperation with Willy Brandt’s Eastern policy began in the 1970s. It is no secret that the country’s European partners suspect Berlin of letting its relations with Russia color its views on other issues, such as the issue of expanding NATO with Georgia and Ukraine. However, there is little indication that the new governing coalition with the FDP will downplay good, practical cooperation with Russia. For that, business interests mean too much to the junior partner FDP.
In the governing parties, there is also great relief to be found after as many as 67% of Irish voters voted for the Treaty of Lisbon on 2 October, thus supporting the no from the referendum in 2008. In German eyes, the EU will have more power to act through the reforms and new voting rules contained in the Treaty. Germany will also have an increased influence, among other things, by 40-50 new policy areas being decided by a majority in a Council of Ministers, where new voting rules to a greater extent reflect the countries’ population. Both parties are today opposed to Turkish EU membership, although the FDP is not as categorical as Merkel’s CDU, which believes Turkey should be offered a “privileged partnership”.
It is obvious that the FDP’s party chairman Guido Westerwelle as the new foreign minister will have a different style than his predecessor. In foreign policy, diplomatic fingertip feeling, openness, predictability and the ability to mediate and compromise are of great importance, especially for the Foreign Minister of Europe’s largest country, geographically located between a West and an East where a lack of trust has characterized developments in recent years. Here it will be exciting to see the division of roles between a chancellor who this summer was named the world’s most powerful woman for the fourth year in a row, and the recent foreign minister from the FDP.
The German electoral system
German voters have two votes – a first vote and a second vote . On the same ballot paper, they use their first ballot to vote directly among candidates from their own constituency (one-man constituency). See map with 299 constituencies. Germany has 299 constituencies with about the same number of inhabitants in each – about 250,000. These make up half of the seats in the Bundestag.
The second vote is used to choose from party lists in the individual state (Bundesland). See the right map below. The parties get seats there according to their percentage support – proportional representation elections.
Germany – some facts
- Surface content: 357,000 km 2. Norway 324,000 km2
- Population: 82.1 mill.
- Median age: 43.8 years
- Child mortality: 4 per 1000 births
- Life expectancy: 79.2 years. K: 82.4, M: 76.2
- Religion: Protestants: 34%, Roman Catholics: 34%, Muslims: 3.7%. Other and non-believers: 28.3%
- Composition of GDP: Agriculture: 1%, Industry: 30% and Services: 69%
- Unemployment: In the period 2007–2009: decreased from approx. 10% to approx. 8% (Sep. 09)
- Employment by sector: Agriculture; 2.4%, industry: 30%, services: 67.6