Smart Policies, Wrong Vision from Germany’s Social Democrats

German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz, then president of the European Parliament, watches as Chancellor Angela Merkel signs a guestbook, November 7, 2012
German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz, then president of the European Parliament, watches as Chancellor Angela Merkel signs a guestbook, November 7, 2012 (European Parliament)

Germany’s Social Democrats have unveiled a platform of sensible policies that should appeal to the broad middle of the country’s electorate.

The trouble is the proposals lack a convincing theme and could easily be supported by Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats as well. Read more

Schulz Not the Future of Social Democracy After All

German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz and the French Socialist Party's Benoît Hamon deliver a news conference in Berlin, March 28
German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz and the French Socialist Party’s Benoît Hamon deliver a news conference in Berlin, March 28 (Facebook)

Germany’s Martin Schulz looks less and less like the savior of European social democracy.

His party performed poorly in North Rhine-Westphalia on Sunday, the third state election this year in which the Social Democrats were bested by Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

I argued here earlier in the week that North Rhine-Westphalia’s election was a crucial test for Schulz. It is the heartland of German social democracy: the biggest industrial state with four of Germany’s ten largest cities and a long history of trade unionism. The state has been governed by a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens since 2010 under a popular state prime minister, Hannelore Kraft.

If Schulz couldn’t win here, then where can he? Read more

Social Democrats Face Crucial Test in North Rhine-Westphalia

German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz campaigns with Hannelore Kraft, the prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, in Mülheim, May 6
German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz campaigns with Hannelore Kraft, the prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, in Mülheim, May 6 (NRWSPD)

After losing two state elections in as many months, Germany’s Social Democrats are desperate for a victory in North Rhine-Westphalia. A defeat there, in what is Germany’s industrial powerhouse and the heartland of social democracy, would be terrible for morale going into the federal elections in September. Read more

Coalition Politics Could Turn Moderate Germans Away from Schulz

German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz, then president of the European Parliament, makes a speech in Brussels, June 19, 2013
German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz, then president of the European Parliament, makes a speech in Brussels, June 19, 2013 (European Parliament)

Germany’s Social Democrats have shot up in the polls since they asked Martin Schulz, the former European Parliament chief, to lead them into September’s election. But they may yet lose some of their newfound popularity if voters start thinking through the consequences.

The Social Democrats are neck and neck with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the polls. Whereas the right enjoyed a comfortable 10- to 15-point lead through all of last year, it would now struggle to place first.

Schulz has drawn support from all sides: moderate Christian Democrats, Greens and even anti-establishment voters who were planning to support the Alternative für Deutschland before he joined the contest.

That first group is most likely to switch back once they realize the Social Democratic Party could govern without the right if it grows big enough. Read more

Let’s Not Read Too Much into Schulzmania Yet

German Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz, then president of the European Parliament, gives a speech in Brussels, February 2, 2016
German Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz, then president of the European Parliament, gives a speech in Brussels, February 2, 2016 (European Parliament)

Germany’s Social Democrats are gaining ground on the once unassailable conservative chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Since the party nominated Martin Schulz for the chancellorship last month, it has gone up in the polls. Whereas the Social Democrats were stuck in the low 20s for much of 2016, they have climbed up to nearly 30 percent support in the last few weeks.

One survey, released on Monday, even put the Social Democrats one point ahead of Merkel’s Christian Democrats. Read more

European Social Democrats Warm to Coalitions with Far Left

The sun sets on the Saint Nicholas' Church and town hall of Berlin, Germany, January 26, 2010
The sun sets on the Saint Nicholas’ Church and town hall of Berlin, Germany, January 26, 2010 (Mika Meskanen)

The formation of an all-left city government in Berlin that includes the once-communist Die Linke follows a pattern: center-left parties across Europe are increasingly willing to team up with their rivals on the far left.

Germany’s Social Democrats shunned Die Linke for decades. The two parties disagree on EU and industrial policy, NATO membership, relations with Russia and welfare.

The alliance in Berlin is only the second time in German history the two have shared power. Read more

Gabriel Sacrifices TTIP to Save Trade Deal with Canada

German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel gives a speech in Berlin, December 9, 2015
German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel gives a speech in Berlin, December 9, 2015 (PES)

German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel set off alarm bells this weekend when he said European talks for a trade accord with the United States have “de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it.”

The European Commission, which is negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on behalf of the European Union’s 28 member states, rejected Gabriel’s assertion. A spokesperson said, “The ball is rolling right now and the commission is making steady progress in the ongoing TTIP negotiations.”

But other trade ministers shared the German’s skepticism.

France’s Matthias Fekl said on Tuesday he would formally call for an end of the negotiations next month. “There should be an absolute clear end so that we can restart them on good basis,” he said.

The Netherlands’ Lilianne Ploumen lamented that without further concessions from the Americans, “I don’t see it happening anymore.”

Her Italian counterpart, Carlo Calendo, agreed, saying the American position was still “unsatisfactory” and an agreement was unlikely before the end of Barack Obama’s presidency next year.

But Calendo also said he expects a deal to be done eventually. “The United States is our main economic and political partner. If we don’t negotiate with them,” he wondered, “whom else should we negotiate with?” Read more