Chris off The German elections – what's the voters' message from the outcome? What impact on Germany and Europe?
Chris on Hello and welcome to People First, the EPP Group's monthly program on issues with impact on people like you.
Chris on Joining us to answer your questions is Elmar Brok, a German member of the EPP Group and is also chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee here, at the European Parliament. Mr. Brok, what is to you the main message of the voters in this election?
Elmar Brok, German MEP The main message is that Ms Merkel has a pro-European policy it will stabilise Germany more, it will go economically forward and at the same time believes that Germany is only successful if Europe is successful. So, I'm sure that she will work for more competitiveness of Europe as a hole.
Chris on But what about that message for the 4.7 points 4.8 points of the "Alternative fuer Deutschland" , these people who are angry about how things are going.
Elmar Brok, German MEP Look, you always have populists in every country, Eurosceptics, but it's not only just Eurosceptics. TRight wing positions you have everywhere. In countries like Britain, France they have 20 – 30 per cent, in Germany less than 5 per cent.
Chris on Let's get a little more of an explainer from our report before we go to our questions. Here we go.
As Germany's most popular politician, her steady hand on the ship of state has earned her the nickname "Mutti."
Chancellor Angela Merkel and her EPP-led coalition have navigated the country through the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression, and driven Germany further forward as the main engine behind Europe's economy.
After the Bundestag elections, where to now? With her traditional coalition partners, the Free Democrats, knocked out of the Bundestag, Merkel is exploring other options. The coalition Merkel builds, and under what terms, will determine not only the future of Germany but also that of the European Union.
Merkel insisted on tough economic reform among troubled Eurozone countries in exchange for bailouts that drew criticism among Germans tired of bearing the financial burden.
But Merkel has managed to persuade most Germans that solidarity with the rest of the EU is in their interest, to guarantee a single market of a half billion people for Germany's economy, and in turn its jobs.
Will the next coalition government bring continuity? Or are Germany and the rest of the EU in for surprises?
Chris on Could there be some surprises maybe in the formation of the coalition? You know I thought that it was interesting that the Financial Times said in its editorial that Merkel is a misunderstood visionary of Europe. You agree with that?
Elmar Brok, German MEP I agree with that. I think she believes that she is in the line of the policy of Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl. She wants European integration, and she as an East German has much more the feeling what Europe means to me in a free society. And therefore I think she does it technically, she goes step by step, step by step, is her policy style but she never forgets the goal.
Chris on But I think that the point that we also made in this report too is that she has tied German interest, she has not avoided talking about German interest. In tying that to the euro and the European Union. That is something rather new, isn't it?
Elmar Brok, German MEP No, I think that it is not new. I think every policy has to look also in the national interest. But for her policy is, that she believes that German and European interests are identical. That no national interest alone can be carried out anymore. This is a global order. National policy alone is too weak; every European country is too small in this global context, and even Germany. Therefore the future of Europe is only if the Europeans are together.
Chris on Let's go to our first question, this from one of your countrymen.
MOS question Hello my name is Clemens von Deute, I'm from Germany originally, and quite surprised about the result of the elections. And I'm looking forward what Angela Merkel and her party will do in terms of finding a new coalition. It's quite a tricky one. What are your expectations to that, and what do you expect from the new German government, in terms of European policies?
Chris on So, does she have to make a grand coalition like a lot of people or not? Lot of people are saying that.
MEP Brok on I think that is one of the possibilities. The other one is to go together with the greens. The greens this week are on the way of changing personnel. We will see afterwards but it is very clear, and she has made it clear, that she will talk to both parties to find out wath is the more convenient coalition?
on presenter on So, let's next talk to a Spanish youth who is worried about the future of Europe's employment policies.
MOS question Hi my name is Juami, I'm from Spain, and I just really want to know if we´re really going to have an impact on Spain, because we are really suffering. We are really young people, prepared people, but we are not getting the jobs and the opportunities we really hope.
Chris on How do you answer that one?
MEP Brok on I think that the policies decisions are taken in Madrid indeed because this question of unemployment, especially youth unemployment, has especially to do with Spanish education system.
Chris on The labour market too, possibly.
MEP Brok on The labour market, so the rules of the labour market and education policies, all. In the best economic times, Spain had 25 -30 per cent youth unemployment. So the system must be wrong.
Therefore before we should use Europe to help that they reorganise their education system. Europe can be of help here. And I think also Europe makes possible that the structural changes are done, which are partly done in order to become more competitive. So, better education, national responsibility, help for that. European pressure is the wrong word. European incentives do more on competitiveness. That brings jobs.
Chris on You are also saying that that is not the panacea. That Europe is not the panacea. That the main decisions are in Madrid.
MEP Brok on No, I think in many of these questions they are decisions that have to be taken at home. If you don't have the competitive industry, if you have not a competitive labour market, for sure the social justice in that. And if you have the wrong education system, then Europe cannot help and Germany cannot help. Only if there is a will to change that, and Spain is in the moment on that way to do that.
Chris on Here is an issue related to that, is wages. There are calls in France and elsewhere to change wage policies. Let's hear a question on that.
MOS question Hello my name is Gary, I am a student at Marie- Haps, and so for me is the problem in Germany of the minimum wage. So I think they must establish a minimum wage for all workers, and maybe that could have an impact on different policies, like in France.
Chris on Ok, that it is an issue. Madame Merkel had been flirting with that idea, right? Where do we stand on that?
MEP Brok on I think that was done on minimum wages in Germany but not in the way you have one minimal wage for all industry in every region. You have it more in a decentralised way. This I think has to move forward. With the liberals was very difficult to achieve more. You won't have minimal wages but in a different shaded way, with a different type of economy, and different type of regions. And do it together with the social partners, as in Germany is the rule to do it with the social partners and not just below.
Chris on So, you where indicating that and perhaps the grand coalition will be more likely to do that?
MEP Brok on Absolutely. I think they will go forward with that.
Chris on Let's go to our next question. This one about foreign policy, which is obviously very much your concern. Foreign policy involving Iran. There has been this pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. Here is a question from an Iranian.
MOS question What will happen between the new government and what Germany is thinking about the situation?
Chris on So, Mister Brok, will there be a change in European policy towards Iran?
MEP Brok on No, I think we will stick to that. And also Germany will stick to that. Germany will not deal with Iran alone. We will deal with Iran in connection with the European Union.
Chris on But, what about the EU? There is a new Iranian president who is showing flexibility. Do you think there is a chance? That if there is further progress on the nuclear side, that this embargo could be lifted, could be a bonanza for the Europeans.
MEP Brok on Such embargo can be lifted if there is progress in the negotiations. Not as a condition for the negotiations. And I hope that Mr. Rouhani will just not try to find time or win time. We hope that really substantial changes are there and then hopefully this problem can be solved and the relationship with Iran can become more positive.
Chris on What about Syria, would there a change in policy towards Syria? Could there be maybe intervention someway?
MEP Brok on I think there may be no principal changes after it was avoided to have international military intervention because of the chemical agents. We hope now that we have the chance that we bring all partners to Geneva to peace talks. Everyone knows that the situation cannot be solved militarily, and therefore we hope that all the stakeholders are ready to talk to find a peaceful relationship and also find a way that Syria does not break up.
Chris on One other question was about energy policy. It was a bold move by Madame Merkel to decide we're going to get out of nuclear power. Here is a question from another German.
MOS question Hi my name is Cavita and I'd like to ask the member of parliament what the impact of the German election will be in terms of energy policy and what this might mean for the Energiewende?
Chris on What do you think? Energiewende, that's the policy, that's the change.
MEP Brok on I think Mrs. Merkel was person who decided to go to the Energiewende. I think this change in energy policy, get out of nuclear power it's decisive, but we have to do it in a synchronised way with our European neighbors, that it works. And I think this is a long-term development, we have to do a policy which brings us new possibilities. Prices which are acceptable, which are connected to our neighbours leads us to a better climate policy and a better energy security on the other side in all the sense of the word of energy security.
Chris on But how likely is it that Germany can get the rest of Europe on board on this Energiewende, because there are other countries very much tied to nuclear power like France.
MEP Brok on I believe that the energy policy, the energy mix, is the responsibility of the member states. And therefore Germany will not intervene in the French policy. We should interconnect it, and I think it should not be too good if the different types of energy, then in competition, will be financed by the European Union. But this is a national situation, it must be more interconnected, and here it should be more interconnectivity to protect our eastern and middle European countries if Russia will use energy policy as a bullying instrument.
Chris on Mr. Brok, I know there are plenty more questions we'd like to ask you. But that's all the time we've got for now.
Chris on Thanks for joining us on People First.
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Merkel exploring coalition options as she pursues strong European policy
Elmar Brok, a leading German EPP Group member and chairman of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, unveils how Chancellor Merkel is exploring her options in forming a new government after federal elections, and how that could impact her domestic and European policy.
Angela Merkel, Elmar Brok, European Parliament, EPP Group, minimum wage, Iran, energy, Energiewende, employment, European Union