Armin Laschet was elected new federal chairman of Germany’s centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) at the end of January. Among the three candidates, Mr Laschet, who since 2017 has been the premier of Germany’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, is the one who stands most strongly for a continuation of Angela Merkel’s course and a “CDU of the centre”. In his victory speech, Mr Laschet promised to fight for the party to do well in upcoming regional elections and to keep hold of the position of Chancellor.
While Mr Laschet’s election marks a new era for both Germany and the EU, in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Ukip founder Alan Sked and German MEP Gunnar Beck warned Mrs Merkel will try to go out with a bang.
Prof Sked argued that alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, Mrs Merkel is plotting something quite radical for the future of the EU before retiring.
He said: “Macron has been a great advocate for a federal Europe.
“He has made great speeches, calling for Europe to be united and having a fiscal union, a monetary union, which includes a bank, one treasury, one finance minister and some sort of financial parliament.
“Merkel and the Germans don’t actually believe in that.
“Having said that, Merkel is about to retire and the rumour is that she wants to have some kind of historical legacy because so far there is not very much she can claim as hers.
“There is this persistent rumour that she would like to go down with some positive legacy and that she will do something about the fiscal union.”
Mr Beck agreed with Prof Sked, saying: “She would quite like to establish a fiscal union, yes.
“I believe she has been thinking about it for quite some time.
“I obviously think it will be wrong, and I do not share the same objective as her: European integration.
“European integration is not making us richer, it is making us poorer.”
However, Prof Sked warned the Bundestag, the German federal parliament, “will probably not accept it”.
Mrs Merkel might indeed have her hands tied – as members of her parliament might react in the same way as they did with the Lisbon Treaty.
In 2009, the bloc agreed to the Lisbon Treaty, sparking a widespread debate in many European countries, including Germany – which is usually seen as Europe’s anchor.
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Former German Conservative MP Peter Gauweiler and a number of left-wing deputies from Die Linke challenged the ratification of the Treaty before the Constitutional Court, saying that the proposed reforms of the EU would have undermined the independence of the German parliament and clashed with the German Constitution.
On June 30, 2009, the German Constitutional Court delivered its verdict stating that the Lisbon Treaty complied with German Basic Law.
However, the court also produced an unyielding defence of national sovereignty, which arguably put an end to the EU’s march towards statehood.
The German judges declared the EU is “an association of sovereign national states” that derives its democratic legitimacy from the member states and not from the European Parliament.
They also stated that Germany’s Basic Law, or constitution, promotes peaceful co-operation within the EU and the United Nations, but this is not “tantamount to submission to alien powers”.
On the contrary: the Basic Law denies the German government the power “to abandon the right to self-determination of the German people”, which they exercise by voting for their own parliament, which in turn must not be denuded of powers because otherwise German democracy would become meaningless.
The judges added that measures of European integration “must, in principle, be revocable”, and declare that they themselves have the right to safeguard “the inviolable core content” of the German constitution: a process that “can result in Community law or Union law being declared inapplicable in Germany”.
In a 2009 Telegraph report, British journalist Andrew Gimson emphasised that the judgement did not actually prevent the German government from endorsing Lisbon, but the court insisted, as a condition of ratification, that certain measures had to be taken to strengthen the position of the German parliament.
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He wrote: “Jan Techau, a brilliant young analyst at the German Council on Foreign Relations, questions whether the court will ever follow words with deeds: ‘The court has always barked but it has never bitten’.
“Mr Techau points out that ‘Germany has traditionally been very integrationist’ and believes that ‘the German people are not generally eurosceptic.’”
However, Mr Gimson noted the court’s verdict still induced apoplexy in the surviving members of the West German political class that committed itself to European integration.
Prof Michael Stürmer, who from 1981 was an adviser to Helmut Kohl on European policy, told the publication: “[The judgement] is an absolutely irresponsible decision.
“There will be a new generation without a sense of history, without that great project of Europe – it’s bizarre and it’s sad.”
Moreover, according to Prof Stürmer, the judgement meant that for the next 10 or 20 years, no German government “can really move forward on Europe” and “there cannot be a successor treaty to Lisbon”.
He reproached Mrs Merkel for having failed to begin at once “an open, principled conflict” with the court.
Julian Arato, an associate Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School in New York, also described the decision of the German Court as a “preemptive strike against European federalism”.
He wrote in 2010 for EJIL:Talk: “I want to suggest that [the Lisbon ruling] is really, at its core, about protecting state sovereignty in light of the expansion of competences at the Union level.
“In this regard, in 1993 the court held only that under the Treaty of Maastricht, integration would not yet reach the point of a federal state.
“In 2009 the court went further, holding that full integration into a supranational federal state (federalisation) would be in principle forbidden by the Constitution.”
Mr Arato added: “The German court seems to suggest that ultimately the EU is at bottom no more than a community of states like the UN, with all the binding force of state responsibility under public international law – in other words, by this view the only real atomic constitutional community is the State, and in Europe as under public international law, the member states remain ‘Masters of the Treaties.'”