LONDON (Reuters) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s resounding defeat in key local elections on Sunday will be as painful in Brussels as in Berlin. Voters dealt a strong blow to the three parties in Schulz’s center-left executive government. The victory of the conservative opposition party CDU was accompanied by a strong performance by the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which won. 15% of the votes In the densely populated state of Bavaria and 18% in the state of Hesse. Schulz’s coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals had already been damaged by internal squabbles. Its increasing weakness may paralyze crucial reforms both in Germany and at the European Union level.
In Berlin, divisions over the pace and cost of the green transition between the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, whose leader Christian Lindner is coalition finance minister, have led to an easing of the boiler ban planned from 2024. Pollsters attribute much of the AfD’s recent rise to Germany, whose focus has long been on combating migration, has shifted back its opposition to costly climate transition measures. If Schulz slows Germany’s efforts towards net zero in response to the domestic vote, this will reverberate at the EU level.
In Brussels, the German government, preoccupied with its own internal troubles, may not be able to rally other member states around the kind of settlement proposals the EU needs to reach some key deals. This is the case with ongoing discussions on pan-European energy price reform, which sees France and Germany far apart, and on rewriting the bloc’s fiscal rules. EU decision-making risks slowing to a halt when it needs to be accelerated. (Written by Pierre Briancon)
(The author is a columnist for Reuters Breaking Views. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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