Juncker returns! Ex-EU chief wades in on German election madness to back Merkel’s legacy

Germany: Business leaders discuss what’s at stake in election

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The German election takes place on Saturday with the ruling CDU, currently in a coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SDP), fighting to retain their hold on power in the country. CDU leader Armin Laschet will be hoping for an absolute majority by winning at least 300 seats in the Bundestag (German parliament) and improve on the party’s current total of 245 seats. But this weekend’s election is all the more significant because of the departure of Angela Merkel from frontline politics in Germany, where she has led the country and has been Chancellor for nearly 16 years since November 2005.

Mr Juncker was succeeded as European Commission President by Ursula von der Leyen in 2019 having held the leadership role in Brussels for five years.

Now free from that position, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg can throw his support behind a political party without causing a stir in Brussels – and he has chosen to unanimously back the CDU and Mrs Merkel’s legacy.

He said: “I believe that it would be good if Armin Laschet became Chancellor.

“I’m not a voter in Germany. If I were, I would vote CDU. But that’s no surprise.”

But Mr Juncker admitted “from a European point of view, it’s not such an exciting question” whether Mr Laschet or Olaf Scholz – the current Vice Chancellor – from the SDP will win.

He said: “Both Scholz and Laschet are grounded Europeans,” — Mr Laschet because of his “background and career,” and Mr Scholz as per convictions “which he made his own” during his time in high office.

Mr Juncker attempted to pour cold water over fears in Germany and insisted regardless of the election result, the member state’s heavy influence throughout the EU will remain undiminished.

He said: “I don’t think the election will lead to a deficit of influence for Germany.

“Europe will remain part of the German raison d’être.

“And so, contrary to popular belief in Germany, everyone in Europe is looking forward to this election calmly, because they know that the next Chancellor will not minimise the European dimension of his actions.”

The former EU President is also unconcerned the bloc’s policies haven’t figured very prominently in the lead-up to the election.

In conversation with Politico’s Playbook from the Commission’s headquarters in Brussels, he added: “There is no fundamental dissent between the decisive political forces.

“There is not enough talk about Europe. But the fact that people are not arguing about Europe is reassuring.”

Mr Juncker was also quick to pour praise onto the outgoing Mrs Merkel, who served as German Chancellor and remained an influential voice in the EU throughout his time as EU President.

When asked what her most underrated quality is, he replied: “She has listened to everyone — small, medium, big countries, she never made any distinction.

“This also explains her influence in the EU.”

The former EU President added Mrs Merkel “always followed the domestic political debate in other countries more closely” than other leaders.

He concluded: “That was her European political charm, that everyone had the impression that you could tell her things the way they are at home, and she wove that into the overall web of European solutions to which she contributed.”

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