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Europe: 2021 a German Year

While the European Council has just confirmed that it wants to establish a "Security Union", thus setting new objectives for European integration, which is already suffering the challenge of the health crisis, the 2021 electoral calendar will largely determine the development of common policies. This is notably the case for the German elections.

Within the Union and its institutions, Germany plays an important role. Significant regional elections will be held in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate on March 14, in Saxony-Anhalt on June 6, and in Thuringia, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Berlin on September 26 in conjunction with federal parliamentary elections.

Angela Merkel has announced her decision not to run again. A new political page is about to be turned in Europe's leading economy. It is full of uncertainty, concern even, as far as the coalition that will succeed the current CDU/CSU-SPD government alliance is concerned as well as the direction the new government will take. Many of the answers to the European challenges of the moment will depend on this.

Germany did not hesitate as it timorously closed its borders to protect itself from Covid-19, which it ultimately did not manage any better than others across the world. It dreams more of a return of American influence in Europe with Joe Biden than of strategic autonomy with Emmanuel Macron. It gives us the impression that it is questioning the Franco-German defence projects approved thus far, either because it does not manage them or because they seem to be "too French". And while it has never really bothered to consult its partners as it suddenly and unilaterally withdrew from nuclear power, for example, it has, like many others, withdrawn very much into itself, to concentrate on its immediate interests.

Yet, because of its history and its Fundamental Law, its decision-making process is curiously not ideally formatted for the stability and duration required by European cooperation, with an all-powerful Bundestag and a sovereignist Constitutional Court.

Today it is more "national" than many of its partners and less European than in the past.

Will the Germany that emerges from these elections confirm a special relationship with France?

Will it follow Angela Merkel, who was able to make the necessary European gestures by finally agreeing to defy the taboo of a common debt in response to the serious economic and financial crisis caused by the decisions taken to fight Covid-19?

Will it confirm its acceptance of a stronger and more independent Europe, as France has anticipated, and as German citizens seem to accept, but whose decision-makers seem to be holding back?

Will it be able to follow up on these orientations with concrete action, particularly in terms of defence capabilities and joint military projects, which are now being questioned by its industrialists who are more interested in business than in a global vision? Will it finally support a European foreign policy?

Many answers about the future of Europe depend on it. Nothing is possible on the continent without a close, strong, confident relationship between France and Germany. However, everything is possible with a vision that is finally ambitious for Europe's place in the world.