Kramp-Karrenbauer warns on ‘European centralism’

The leader of Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats has warned against “European centralism”, in the first substantive German response to French president Emmanuel Macron proposals for a “European Renaissance”.

Background 

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer sometimes referred to by her initials AKK, is a German politician serving as Leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since her election at the party conference of 2018, succeeding Angela Merkel. 

She previously served as secretary general of the party and as Minister-President of Saarland from 2011 to 2018, the first woman to lead the Government of Saarland and fourth woman to head a German state government. Kramp-Karrenbauer is regarded as socially conservative, but on the CDU's left-wing in economic policy and has been described as a centrist.

Kramp-Karrenbauer supported Angela Merkel's refugee policies and her decision to let migrants into Germany in 2015–2016, many fleeing wars in the Middle East, but demanded more toughness in some cases. According to her, data sources like mobile phones should be checked. Instead of carrying out deportations with commercial aeroplanes, it would be advisable to use their own aircraft if necessary. She demanded in November 2018 that after expulsion offenders must be refused re-entry for life, not only to Germany but also throughout the Schengen area

Kramp-Karrenbauer criticised German-supported Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that would allow Germany to effectively double the amount of gas it imports from Russia, saying that Nord Stream 2 "is not just an economic project but a political one".

Analysis 

CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has said the answer to curing Europe’s ills did not lie in transferring more powers from national governments to supranational institutions.

The op-ed, which in its conservative tone marked a sharp contrast to Mr Macron’s call for sweeping reforms to strengthen the EU, showed how difficult it will be to agree on a common Franco-German approach to overhauling the bloc. 

Indeed Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer’s contribution contained some proposals that are seen as non-starters in Paris, such as abolishing the second seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg and demanding a permanent seat for the EU in the UN Security Council.

In his address to the “citizens of Europe” last week, Mr Macron said the EU needed a new, liberal agenda to counter the rising power and popularity of nationalists who are expected to score big gains in the bloc’s elections in May.

He called for a fundamental rethink of EU policies and rules on everything from industrial competition to the environment. That included reform of the EU’s borderless Schengen area, and the creation of a European security council that would include the UK, as well as a new agency to protect European democracies from cyber-attacks.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer embraced some of his proposals — particularly reform of Schengen and the EU’s asylum and immigration system. But she also warned against excessive European integration.

“There is no version of a European superstate which can live up to the goal of a Europe made up of sovereign member states,” she said. Instead, she stressed the need for more investment in innovation and policies to ensure Europe’s economy remains globally competitive.

It was the first major contribution to the debate on the future of Europe by a woman who, as CDU leader, is in pole position to succeed Angela Merkel as Germany’s chancellor.

That Berlin’s response to Mr Macron’s appeal was made by AKK, as she is universally known, and not Ms Merkel is one of the clearest signs yet of how power is gradually passing from Germany’s long-serving chancellor to her heir apparent.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was elected CDU leader last December, said Mr Macron was right that urgent action was needed to deal with the challenges facing Europe, in particular, the rise of China and a Russia bent on destabilising and weakening its neighbours. Europeans wanted an EU that was better able to deal with challenges such as migration, climate change, terrorism and international conflicts. 

She also agreed with him on the need for reform of Europe’s system of immigration, saying the EU needed to “complete Schengen”. She said the EU should work towards “seamless border management”, introduce an “electronic register” for all those entering and leaving the bloc, and ensure that asylum claims are handled directly on the Schengen border. 

Assessment 

Our assessment is that the CDU’s chances of retaining power after Merkel’s last term hinge on AKK’s careful positioning on several sensitive topics like greater European Integration and Immigration. We believe that by warning against complacency, AKK is treading a careful path, balancing the demands of a resurgent right-wing in Germany as well as an anti-Nationalist, Centrist wave across Western Europe. 

Image Courtesy: Olaf Kosinsky (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kramp-Karrenbauer_CDU_Parteitag_2014_by_Olaf_Kosinsky-15.jpg), „Kramp-Karrenbauer CDU Parteitag 2014 by Olaf Kosinsky-15“, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/legalcode