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

  • Published at 01:13 pm December 10th, 2017
German conservatives reject ‘United States of Europe’ ahead of coalition talks

Senior members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives on Saturday rejected the vision for 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 voters to the far-right due to their liberal migrant policy, 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 timeframe, was unrealistic.

An Emnid poll for Bild newspaper found less than a third of Germans (30%) supported Schulz's idea while almost half (48%) 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."

He added: "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."

Another grand coalition?

Altmaier told the Rheinische Post newspaper 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," he added.

Merkel has also been sceptical, saying on Thursday she would rather concentrate on more cooperation in defence by 2025, on employment and on innovation.

The Christian Social Union (CSU) - the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) - also rejected Schulz's plan. Senior CSU member Markus Soeder told Welt am Sonntag his party did not want Germany becoming an "administrative unit" of the European Commission in a "European superstate."

 
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