RG TAKE: What to expect from Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer?

From Merkel to AKK – German domestic and foreign policy agenda under a new CDU leadership 10th December 2018 — With the election of the former Secretary General and former Chief Minister of Saarland, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), Christian Democrats in Germany favored a moderate change of their party’s leadership over a radical and more unpredictable […]

From Merkel to AKK – German domestic and foreign policy agenda under a new CDU leadership

10th December 2018 — With the election of the former Secretary General and former Chief Minister of Saarland, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), Christian Democrats in Germany favored a moderate change of their party’s leadership over a radical and more unpredictable one with Friedrich Merz, representative of the conservative wing within the CDU and former rival of Angela Merkel. As 2019 sees four major elections on the German Länder level, plus the European Parliament, the new ”dream team” Merkel/Kramp-Karrenbauer has to deliver positive results for the CDU within the next six months.

Three snap conclusions from the CDU convention:

  • After a thoughtful and self-critical farewell speech and with the election of Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merkel is one step closer to becoming Germany’s first Chancellor who leaves office on her own terms and in dignity. RG’s prediction: the CDU will elect her as new honorary chairwoman for life at the next party convention after the end of her official tenure. This way she remains an important political and moral figure in German politics.
  • AKK will be the second female chair of a male-dominated party with excellent chances to become Germany’s second female Chancellor. Her moderate conservative approach is a blessing and a curse for the party and the country. It will be her challenge to firm up the CDU at above 30 percent in polls, which will be her personal threshold for the next months. If she fails, the conservative patriarchy will have no mercy.
  • For the time being, AKK will concentrate on domestic politics and leave the outer world to Merkel. In all her recent comments, she backed the Chancellor’s course on Europe and international affairs, and showed no appetite to upstage Merkel during her final tenure as Chancellor. Consequently, Germany’s EU and foreign policy will be characterized by continuity; nonetheless the new CDU chair has positioned herself on some important issues.

AKK on Europe:

In general, Kramp-Karrenbauer backs Merkel’s EU policy. But since she is under high pressure to gain support from the conservative camp within her own party as well as from former CDU voters who left for AfD, the issues of regulating migration and improving border security will rank high on her EU agenda. Likewise, she will insist Merkel puts German interests over European interests, when it comes to the reform of the Eurozone and Emmanuel Macron’s proposals. Contrary to Macron, AKK prioritizes the reform of the regular EU budget over creating a Eurozone budget, as she stated earlier this year in an interview. Furthermore, she opposes the introduction of an EU digital tax as it would hurt Germany’s export-orientated industry. In her speech at the party convention in Hamburg, Kramp-Karrenbauer called for a European Security Council and a European Army. Despite all content-related issues, supporting Manfred Weber (CSU) to become the next EU Commission president will be a special mission she will embrace.

AKK on Russia and Ukraine:

Kramp-Karenbauer critized Moscow’s aggression towards Ukraine in the Sea of Azov. She stated that in cooperation with the United States, it has to be ensured that the Sea of Azov is not a Russian inland sea. AKK suggested that in case of ongoing Russian aggression, Russian ships coming from the Sea of Azov may no longer enter European or U.S. ports, as long as the regional conflict with Ukraine has not been eliminated.

AKK on Nord Stream 2 (NS2):

The new CDU leader also argued that Vladimir Putin’s behavior in the Kerch Strait has reignited a debate on the future of NS2. According to her, it has to be reviewed where in the ongoing process the government could intervene, and what the political implications of NS2 are. Kramp-Karrenbauer signalized that this discussion has to play a stronger role on the European agenda and that the question of the appropriate volumne has to be debated in a very open way with all European partners. Still, it seems very unlikely that the German government will take back any of the already granted permissions. But AKK’s comments could be read as an indirect signal to the EU Commission that Berlin finally starts cooperating with Brussels on introducing regulatory hurldes to limit Russia’s options to export gas from the NS2 pipeline throughout Europe.

Upcoming elections in Germany:

26.05. 2019                 European Parliament Election and State Election in Bremen (SPD-governed)

01.09.2019                  State Elections in Brandenburg (SPD-governed) and Saxony (CDU-governed)

27.10.2019                  State Election in Thuringia (Left Party-governed)

2021                            State Elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg (Green-gov), Rhineland-Palatinate (SPD-gov), Saxony-Anhalt (CDU-gov), Mecklenburg-Pommerania (SPD-gov), Berlin (SPD-gov)

Sept 2021                    Next national elections

 

Author:Olaf Böhnke is a senior advisor for Rasmussen Global based in Berlin. He has more than 15 years of experience as a foreign and European policy expert with a research focus on European foreign policy and Germany’s role in Europe. He can be reached by email obo@rasmussenglobal.com.

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