Germany's “Grand Coalition” is same old bad news

21 January 2018

Germany's “Grand Coalition” is same old bad news

One of the big problems with Martin Schulz when he was the putative centre-left president of the European Parliament was that he almost always went along with the right. That meant that important decisions were cooked up in advance with the centre-right European People's Party and on occasion with the Liberal group too. When he left, the Italian president of the centre-left group, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats promised to put an end to this 'Grand Coalition'. Now, however, just over half of the SPD's elected representatives in Germany have voted in favour of joining a 'Grand Coalition' government – known by its German acronym as the 'GroKo' – and Schulz can repeat his tricks. Bad news for the Federal Republic, bad news for whatever was left of German social democracy's trustworthiness, and bad news too for the European Parliament.

You could say that the social democrats never learn. Punished across Europe for their years and years of capitulating to the neoliberals, they go and do it again, once more joining a government with Merkel. And it's easy to see that this will once more be a government in which big business and big finance will be running the show. What will the German voters who last year gave the SPD another chance feel but cheated? If they had only gone for the real left, which in Germany is well-represented by Die Linke.

But the European Union and we in the Netherlands will also be affected, because the GroKo with Schulz (who's calling for a United States of Europe by 2025) will soon be getting to work on giving more powers to the European Commission. The French President Emanuel Macron can breathe a sigh of relief: there is now certain to be a European Finance Minister. With the loss of the British and now of the Germans too, the Netherlands would have to make a great deal of extra effort to tame the europhiles, but with Rutte at the rudder the Dutch ship is likely to go round and round in circles.

And then there's still of course the European Parliament itself. Cooperation between left-of-centre groups has improved since Schulz left. We remain cautious, but the social democrats are at least prepared to move to the left, even if it means defeat when the left can't muster a majority. In their group, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the Germans form a large bloc, with 27 of the 189 members. I don't rule out their group trying to repair the GroKo in the EP, which would give the right greater influence. The legislation that the Parliament is yet to adopt would in that case, as it has been in the past, be rewritten by and for the wealthy. In short, Schulz is bad news at all levels. All the more reason to make our voices heard, because fortunately more and more people are starting to see who really represents the left. Like the SP's new leader Lilian Marijnissen and those who attended our Congress yesterday, as well as all the modern left parties in the EU who make it clear that they won't be signing up to any coalitions with neoliberals.

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