The European Liberal Forum in cooperation with the Institute for Politics and Society and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation held on 17th April 2018 a public debate on the topic of “New-old” government: The future of the Grand Coalition in Germany. We had the honor to welcome in discussion H.E. Christoph Israng, Ambassador of Germany in Prague, Martin Zeil, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Science, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology of Bavaria, Tomáš Kafka, Director of the Central European States Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, and Zuzana Lizcová, Research Fellow, Association for International Affairs (AMO).
Jan Macháček, moderator of the debate and the chairman of the Institute for Politics and Society opened the program by metioning that the new-old grand coalition was established after the failure of negotiations between conservative CDU/CSU, liberal FDP and the Green Party. Now, the traditional parties must perform their best to be able to resist the growth of support of the far-right-wing AfD. The problem can be a restrained and sort of pacifist approach of the current coalition in both domestic and foreign policy.
H.E. Christoph Israng expressed his pleasure about the present-day coalition agreement. The stable government is needed and despite the fact there are no big new issues in German foreign policy and the situation can thus seem a little bit boring, it is not true. There are still many interior problems which must be target. For instance, German citizens complain about the lack of cohesion and, of course, about the migration situation.
Zuzana Lizcová mentioned that a new grand coalition is different from the previous one. First of all, it doesn´t possess a grand majority anymore, and it has also changed a lot in terms of personalities. Moreover, the AfD is now the major opposition party. Thus, all coalition parties must try harder to defend their actions in front of their voters. Regarding to German foreign policy, the last days showed, that Germany is not in favour of big military interventions.
Martin Zeil was pointing out to the fact that the Geman Chancellor can not act the same way as the US President. German leader of executive needs the approval of the Parliament. Also the fact is that the most difficult decision which a member of Parliament can take is to send young men to the action. Mr. Zeil said that even though there is a new government with some new faces in Germany, German politics looks a little bit old in some aspects. In domestic policy, this coalition is not really a coalition of fresh attitudes. Germany will actually need a reform – based on IT inovations, development of infrastructure etc. Germany will need more ambitious agenda in foreign as well as in domestic policy. In Mr. Zeil´s opinion, because of the old and „frozen“ policies of the „new-old“ government, it is very likely that there will be a new general elections in two years.
Tomáš Kafka expressed his opinion that coalition government an be considered as a danger animal which political parties of various values have to deal with. European countries can inspire from the German example in governing practice. Mr. Kafka remembered the year of 2006 when there was an optimistic atmosphere in German society, in German politics and even in the German football championship. Nowadays, the reality is different, the optimism is backing away and the scepticism is arising among all European society, nevertheless, German managed to resist to some extent such new trends, which can be inspiring for Czech society.
Martin Zeil emphasized that it is neccessary to find a strategy for revitalisation of the idea of the EU. For achieving that goal Macron´s vision is one part. The German-French partnership is crucial in this issue, but very important is to ensure that the other member states will not have a feeling that France and Germany take decisions and the others can only joint them or stay out of the core. Thus, we need to talk more about European identity to ensure that we all will have the same goals the same opinions and we all be satisfied with how the EU works. Thus, the present German government have to cooperate very intesively with its smaller European partners. Also, the EU has to find a relationship with the Russian government no matter if we like its present policies or not. For that it is neccessary to open new communication channels. Moreover, Mr. Zeil is a strong supporter of a common European army where all EU states contribute and where inovations help to improve the security of all Europe. More importantly, EU member states would be forced to create common policies towards all on-going military issues in the world.
H.E. Christoph Israng thinks that, actually, the present German government is not that ambicious with its plans for creating a joint European army. It is more about very small particular steps towards this idea. The best thing which EU states can do right now is to improve their military cooperation and leave the concept of joint army for the future.
Zuzana Lizcová added that if we look into the statistics the security of Europe is one of the very few aspects in which Czech people are in favour of deepening the integration process.