Interview: “A great German coalition would really benefit Europe”

  • Austrian MEP Hannes Swoboda confirms that Germany is now an obstructive factor in Europe
  • In his view, a coalition with the SPD would be a game changer even if “Germany remained Germany”

Everyone agrees that the results of the German legislative elections on Sunday will be a determining factor in the European debate over the next few months and even the next few years. It will also have an impact across the European left, especially if the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) returns to power in a “great coalition” with the CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union of Germany and Christian Social Union of Bavaria). Before the election Le Soir met with the Austrian European Member of Parliament Hannes Swoboda, the head of the socialist group (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) at the European Parliament.

It’s as if on Sunday, the Germans are electing the real European president. True or false?

This is a thorny question. Either way, it’s true that the German government has a huge influence on the Union. Sometimes it’s negative and can block necessary measures. The German veto against the Banking union that it had itself sponsored – that’s a reality! Cooperation between Germany and Great Britain on budgetary issues – that’s a reality! As a matter of fact, in spite of all of Mrs. Merkel’s, and more importantly, Mr. Schäuble’s speeches, Germany has been for the past few months a blocking and negative factor for European development. That’s why German elections are so important. We can only hope that there will be a different Germany after the elections.

Doesn’t Germany have too great of an influence today in Europe?

Germany is too strong for Europe for the time being. If there are very negative feelings toward Europe, it’s sometimes because of very negative feelings toward Germany, which is perceived in the south as representing Europe. Germany could hold onto a strong position in Europe, but only by setting a positive example. It can show how it manages a social economy or how it makes unions work with management etc. Germany’s influence needs to be restructured.

There is talk about a Sunday victory for Angela Merkel and an SPD coalition. In your opinion, would this be a good scenario?

Yes, It would create many problems within the SPD because there is great resistance in its midst to a coalition with Merkel. For Europe though, a “great coalition” would be very beneficial because the SPD platform is very pro-European.

It’s also thought that a “great coalition” would not fundamentally change the economic options in Germany.

This is partly true. Germany will still be Germany. Through the SPD though, it would adopt a different view on Europe – a new attitude toward the countries in the south.

Is it possible that the European socialist family could feel uncomfortable with the SPD in power in a “Germany that is still Germany”?

We could say the same about France. It’s true that it could create a more difficult situation for the European elections. As far as the European government goes, it would be “better” not to have any socialist governments! This, of course, is unacceptable. Both paths must be taken: one path toward the European parliament majority and another to the socialist governments. A small party in government has more influence than a large one in opposition.

Are you optimistic about the majority in the European parliament?

The situation is still changing. Our information, though, leads us to think that we can end up equal with the EPP (European People’s Party) or even ahead. We’ll have to fight extremists and the anti-Europe groups but mostly, we must differentiate ourselves from the right or the center. We need to display our will for change in Europe. We will have a very strong candidate for the European Commission presidency. A vote for us is a vote for a change in the Commission leadership.

With a “great coalition” in Berlin, an avenue would open up for Martin Schulz who hopes to replace José Manuel Barroso.

Yes, this would strengthen Mr. Schulz’s candidacy. Even without a “great coalition”, it would be very difficult for Mrs. Merkel to reject a German candidate for the presidency of the Commission if he had a majority in the European parliament.

Interview by MAROUN LABAKI

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