The results of the German federal elections are being followed closely around the world. Indeed, the policies of the new government will impact events far beyond Germany itself. Read what international experts Harlem Désir, Oby Ezekwesili, Dan Hamilton, and Huang Jing expect of the new German government.
On September 26, 2021, Germany held landmark elections. Rarely have coalition options been so diverse. There is one certainty: after 16 years under Chancellor Angela Merkel, there will be a change at the head of the German government. The challenges for her successor are considerable: coping with the Corona pandemic, addressing climate change, tensions in a European Union considered by many as weakened, changes in the international order, to name just a few.
The measures taken by the next government to deal with these challenges are also critical for Europe and beyond, and thus developments in the EU's largest and economically strongest country are being followed closely around the world. Many partner countries expect Germany to play a formative and leading role. For historical reasons, this is not a role that German decision-makers are inclined to accept.
The following contributions provide examples of the expectations and hopes that foreign experts have of the future German government.
Sandra Breka is CEO of the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
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Harlem Désir: Europe must take more responsibility. Germany is key.
During Chancellor Angela Merkel's 16-year tenure, Germany experienced impressive successes in the fields of economy, European leadership, and values. High on that list is the courageous decision to welcome one million refugees in 2015 and 2016. Thus, expectations will be high for the new chancellor and coalition.
I hope that Germany will remain very involved at European level, strengthening it together with its main partners, above all France. European cohesion in all areas must be paramount, not only that of the economy. There has to be cohesion in terms of the EU’s common values, too.
In the new international context, Europe can only exist and influence the course of the 21st century if Germany is ready, with its partners, to assume new and reinforced responsibilities in the face of challenges such as climate change, but also in crises and conflicts beyond its borders. And then there are the new tensions between blocs that threaten to engulf the planet.
We need a strong, open, available, and committed Germany to defend peace, development, stabilization, human rights, and the rights of refugees in Africa, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Europe must take more responsibility; the world needs it to do so and one of the keys lies in Germany.
Harlem Désir is Senior Vice President, Europe, at the International Rescue Committee, and Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy.
Oby Ezekwesili: Partnering for good governance and mutual prosperity
Africa and Germany have in the decades of Chancellor Merkel’s leadership forged a strong partnership, cooperating for the purpose of mutual prosperity through good governance. Germany has a large bilateral program and has begun to push private sector investments in Africa across several sectors with the aim of improving governance and increasing economic growth. Africa has been a reliable market for German businesses and beneficiary of significant development assistance.
As a leading EU, G7, and G20 country, recent moves by Germany to push for Africa’s development using the Compact for Africa and Marshall Plan for Africa initiatives are commendable. Opportunity for mutual prosperity abounds in the optimization of business-to-business and public-private partnerships solutions. The countries in Africa need infrastructure, renewable energy, human capital, and technology.
Now that Africa has formalized its continental market through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), this common market of 1.3 billion people presents a massive opportunity. Unlike China, Germany and Europe are Africa’s proximate neighbors. Sadly for Germany and the rest of the EU, their leverage of positive externalities in Africa is still far below par. It is time to correct this.
Oby Ezekwesili is a former Nigerian minister, founding director of Transparency International, and Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy.
Dan Hamilton: The German Interregnum
Chancellor Merkel is leaving behind a Germany that is more open yet less settled, more diverse demographically and politically, more pressured economically, and less circumspect internationally than the one she took over in 2005. Germany has become the crossroads and linchpin of a continent in tremendous flux – a country of great weight yet uncertain power. As Germany’s influence has grown, Merkel’s cool, cautious, and incremental style has reassured other countries about Germany and reassured the Germans about themselves. That is perhaps her greatest legacy.
Merkel’s method suited her times. She entered office when the prevailing narrative was of a magnetic, largely unchallenged and gradually expanding Western-led order. She spent the final years of her tenure fighting to save that narrative, despite many signs the era was ending. A key indicator of her success is that the watchword of this election season is continuity, not change. A new governing coalition is likely to tweak Merkel’s policies here and there but unlikely to challenge German society’s stability-oriented consensus.
For that reason, I expect the next German government to be little more than a placeholder – legitimate to be sure, but inadequate to a more challenging, difficult, and dangerous time. Western countries are on the defensive, revisionists are on the rise, Europe’s periphery is on fire, and economic interdependencies are being weaponized – all as the digital and biological revolutions transform the very nature of global power and influence.
Real change rarely comes to Germany at the ballot box. Changes come when a new mainstream consensus crystallizes in German society, and that is almost never at election time. A new narrative has yet to emerge; when it does, Germany will change. In the meantime, expect a German interregnum – a period of drift between an era that was and an era still to be.
Dan Hamilton is Director of the Global Europe Program at the Wilson Center, and Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy.
Huang Jing: What’s to be expected from the next German government - from China’s perspective
Germany has reemerged as a continental leader as well as an economic powerhouse in the world. As such, Beijing expects that Germany will remain stable and prosperous under the new government, not only because China has an expanding economic exchange with Germany, but also because a strong and prosperous Germany will be more effective and resourceful to drive the economic recovery in the post-pandemic Europe, which is essential for EU to stand firm, and together, in world affairs.
Given the endeavor of the Biden administration to establish a US-led coalition with all the US-allies in order to “outcompete” China, the more united and prosperous Europe is, the more incentive there will be for the Europe, and Germany in particular, to hedge, rather than taking side with the US, in the US-China competition.
Huang Jing is a Distinguished Professor and Dean of the Institute on National and Regional Studies at Beijing Language and Culture University and Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy.
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