The Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) consider the EU to be a central part of Germany’s future. Although both parties have made a strong pledge to the EU, they currently  lack clear ideas for future EU integration.

Conversely, the Greens and the FDP both have a strongly pro-integration, federalist vision for the EU’s future. The Greens want to use the Conference on the Future of Europe as a starting point on a path to a Federal European Republic, and the FDP envisions a decentralised federal European state as the final destination of EU integration.

The left-wing Die Linke is critical of the EU for what it views as a fondness for neoliberalism and austerity. It would like to replace this approach with more focus on public investment initiatives and to cut all funding for military projects.

EU institutional reform

All the main parties want to extend the competencies of the European Parliament through a formal right of legislative initiative. While the CDU/CSU, the Greens and the FDP explicitly support the Spitzenkandidaten procedure, only the Greens and the FDP mention transnational lists . The CDU/CSU and the SPD express support for a model of common European suffrage but remain vague on what this entails. Meanwhile, Die Linke proposes that EU Commissioners and the European Council President should be directly elected by the European Parliament.

Overall, all of the main parties favour reforming the EU’s treaties. The Greens and the FDP explicitly suggest initiating treaty change through the Conference on the Future of Europe, while Die Linke mainly wants to enable more public sector financing. The CDU/CSU do not regard treaty change as an end in itself but as a possible instrument to enhance the EU’s capacity to act.

EU foreign and security policy

Regarding foreign and security policy all parties favour introducing Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) to enhance the EU’s decision-making capacity. The FDP, CDU/CSU and SPD support a European Defence Union and the creation of a European armed forces. However, only the FDP explicitly outlines a model for a potential European army under parliamentary control.

All three parties simultaneously emphasise their commitment to NATO as the key pillar of European defence. The CDU/CSU envisions a core Europe (Bündnis der Gestaltungswilligen) in all matters of foreign and security policy within the scope of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Union.

Die Linke, in contrast, proposes to dissolve NATO and the European Defence Agency and rejects calls for a European army. Die Linke also states that European defence companies should stop the export of weapons or technology to authoritarian countries and that military cooperation through initiatives such as PESCO and the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) should be terminated. The Greens and the SPD also demand new arms controls and disarmament initiatives, as well as civil conflict prevention, while the CDU/CSU sees arms exports as a constitutive part of security policy and wants to promote common European arms projects and procurement.

Among Europe’s neighbours, the UK is singled out as the most important non-EU partner. However, all parties agree that EU standards should not be degraded to enable cooperation. On Russia, Die Linke  advocate a positive approach and an end to sanctions, while the other parties emphasise that current sanctions cannot be lifted as long as Russia continues the illegal annexation of Crimea and military action in Eastern Ukraine. The Greens and the SPD commit to advancing the integration of the Western Balkans, while the FDP seeks to terminate accession talks with Turkey. For the CDU/CSU, the unity of the EU-27 must be guaranteed before further enlargement.

Economic and Monetary Union

Although there is some measure of consensus on the need for future investments at the European level, only the Greens and Die Linke want to increase the EU budget. In their view, the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility should be integrated into the EU budget to enable democratic control and used as a permanent mechanism for investing in areas of importance for the future. The CDU/CSU and FDP, in contrast, reject the idea of making the recovery instrument permanent. Meanwhile, the SPD is seeking to use the recovery instrument to advance the integration process and create a true fiscal, economic, and social union.

The positions of the parties on taxation split along different lines than in the other policy fields. Here, the Greens propose introducing EU taxes on plastic and digital companies alongside a carbon border tax. The CDU/CSU and FDP support the harmonisation of national corporate taxes and the CDU/CSU joins the Greens, the SPD and Die Linke in proposing an EU financial transaction tax. The FDP, however, are categorically opposed to any EU taxes.

The FDP and the CDU/CSU stress the need to reform the Stability and Growth Pact and to introduce sanctions for member states that are consistently in breach of the criteria, with immediate entry into force after the Covid-19 pandemic. Both parties also advocate the introduction of an insolvency procedure for states. The SPD wants to instead transform the Pact into a new sustainability pact.

The Greens and the FDP share the goal of transforming the European Stability Mechanism into a European Monetary Fund, albeit with different goals: the FDP wants to equip this new ‘EMF’ with the power to oversee the recipient member states’ compliance, while the Greens envision it as issuing non-conditional short-term credits to avert speculation against individual states. The CDU/CSU, the Greens and Die Linke all favour the introduction of a digital euro by the European Central Bank to guarantee means of payment.

Who’s Who

  1. Armin Laschet, centre-right CDU/CSU: Mr Laschet, 60, is the leader of Chancellor Merkel's centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and premier of heavily industrial North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany's most populous state. The son of a miner, and a lawyer by training, for years Mr Laschet defended Germany's powerful coal industry. He has stood by the decision not to bring forward the end of using coal for energy from 2038. He is well-connected internationally and is firmly pro-EU: he served as a Euro MP and hails from Aachen, a border city with strong French ties. In 2005 he became minister for integration in his home region, the first such post in Germany, and forged strong ties with its large ethnic Turkish community. He firmly backed Mrs Merkel's lenient but controversial policy on immigration in 2015, when more than a million migrants reached Germany. The Catholic Church was a strong influence on him as a boy, through his devout parents and his Church-run school. He is married, with three adult children.
  2. Annalena Baerbock, Greens: A former trampoline champion from a village outside the northern city of Hanover, Ms Baerbock, 40, studied law and politics in Hamburg and London and worked for the Greens in the European Parliament. She has been an MP in the Bundestag since 2013, and as a mother of two young daughters has campaigned strongly on family issues as well as the environment. She advocates a tougher stance towards both China and Russia than either the CDU/CSU or the Social Democrats. Ms Baerbock has never held a ministerial post, but argues that she is therefore untainted by German "status quo" politics, which she wants to transform.
  3. Olaf Scholz, centre-left Social Democrats (SPD): Olaf Scholz, 62, has had a succession of senior posts in German politics. He is currently German finance minister and Chancellor Merkel's deputy. After a successful stint as mayor of Hamburg (2011-2018), when he rebalanced the city's troubled finances, he returned to the Bundestag. He comes from Osnabrück in north-western Germany and entered politics as a Socialist Youth leader, having studied labour law. In SPD ranks he is seen as a conservative. He and his wife, Britta Ernst, do not have children. He has overseen the emergency €750bn funding package put together by the federal government to help German businesses and workers survive the pandemic.
  4. The Free Democrats (FDP), free-market liberals: Christian Lindner, 42 joined the party in 1995 and became an MP in 2009. He studied political science at Bonn University and is a reserve officer in the armed forces. His slogan is to make Germany "more modern, more digital and freer". The FDP wants lower taxes and more emphasis on individual initiative.
  5. Hard-left Die Linke (the Left): Its main candidates are Janine Wissler and Dietmar Bartsch. The party is campaigning for increases in pensions and the minimum wage and an end to the system that cuts benefits for the long-term unemployed. It also wants to withdraw all German soldiers from international military missions.

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