German conservatives reject ‘United States of Europe’ before coalition talks

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 December, 2017, 11:51pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 December, 2017, 11:55pm

Senior members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives on Saturday rejected the vision of a “United States of Europe” put forward by the Social Democrats (SPD), with whom they are hoping to form a governing coalition.

SPD leader Martin Schulz said on Thursday his party, which suffered its worst post-war election result in September, would only gain support by providing a clear vision of Europe, and called for a United States of Europe by 2025.

Merkel’s conservatives, who lost votes after allowing more than 1 million refugees into the country, want the SPD to agree to a last-ditch alliance with them after talks on a tie-up with two smaller parties collapsed.

Discussions on maintaining the conservative-SPD coalition, which has governed Germany since 2013, are due to start on Wednesday but the two parties look set to clash over the issue of Europe, which is likely to play a key role in talks.

Senior conservative Volker Kauder said Schulz’s European proposal posed “a danger to the EU and citizens’ approval of Europe” and Peter Altmaier, Merkel’s chancellery chief, said the idea, and especially the time frame, was unrealistic.

An Emnid poll for Bild newspaper found less than a third of Germans supported Schulz’s idea while almost half rejected it.

Kauder told the Tagesspiegel newspaper it was necessary to strengthen Europe but also important to recognise that at the moment people longed for the “reliability that they believe they can find in national states”.

“The proposal would also jeopardise the work of unification that is unique in the history of the world because the majority of member states certainly wouldn’t participate in creating a united states,” he said.

Altmaier told the Rheinische Post that Schulz’s proposal had surprised him and it would be better to tackle specific problems in Europe such as unemployment, the protection of external borders and coordination of economic policy.

“The discussion about whether Europe should be a federal state, confederation or a united states is one for academics and journalists – not for German foreign policy,” Altmaier said. “A United States of Europe would transfer member states’ sovereignty to Brussels and there would not be a majority for that in many EU states.”

Kauder said the conservatives would go into talks prepared to make compromises but added his party had some “absolutely key demands” like capping immigration and suspending the right to family reunions for some asylum seekers.