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German uncertainties

Europe needs to get moving! The external and internal challenges that it faces are likely to require a lot of change. Its security, growth, power and the support of its people will require policy revisions and bold decisions.

The German parliamentary elections on 26 September are therefore particularly important. A new era is opening up for the continent's largest economy, which is changing leadership at a time when many of the foundations of Germany's success are being called into question.

It will have to address its defence, which it had put in the hands of others since the tragedy of the war. It will have to adapt its highly export-oriented model to the new strategic situation, especially in Asia and on the eastern and southern borders of Europe. It will have to tackle digitisation and the greening of its industry, which are costly processes; it must succeed in integrating a large foreign population with a declining demography.

Most of these challenges will have to be met with and within the framework of the European Union. A stable Germany is therefore necessary for the European Union.

However, the lacklustre election campaign that has just ended has not revealed any major substantive debates and has ultimately been very provincial. There was little talk of Europe and international issues, and it was sometimes difficult to find oppositions that clearly identified the contending camps.

More worryingly, the two main political parties are losing ground, as is the case everywhere in Western democracies, and a third party may be needed to form a coalition, which will be a factor of instability.

If there is one success that the Federal Republic has achieved, it is the construction of a peaceful parliamentary democracy, supported by a political system that organises strong checks and balances to the point of having chosen a voting system that makes it virtually impossible for one party to have an absolute majority.

This system may well backfire on the intentions of its authors. Negotiations for the formation of a majority could be long and tedious, lasting several months and finally leading to a government programme that favours the status quo, or even immobility.

The fear of reform and the long months of uncertainty, a word the Germans hate, and which sharpens their fears, could prove detrimental to European progress. But it is also true that Angela Merkel could ensure this very long transition by remaining Chancellor, why not, until spring!