Wednesday, 24 February 2010

German power struggles in EU politics & the next Secretary General of the EU Council

Yesterday, the German business newspaper Handelsblatt titled "Chancellery snatches EU policy away from Westerwelle", an issue that should not be regardes as just an internal affair.

The article told that in the future the chancellery of Angela Merkel, led by the Christian Democrat Ronald Pofalla, might coordinate EU policies, taking this competence away from Liberal foreign minister Westerwelle and his State Minister for European Affairs, Werner Hoyer, who is so far responsible for the committee of state secretaries for European affairs.

At first sight, one can interpret this as a simple intra-coalition power struggle in which the smaller coalition partner loses ground in an important political field to the larger coalition partner and to Chancellor Merkel. One could also see this as a consequence of the Lisbon Treaty reform that empowers the Chancellor within the European Council and excludes the foreign minister from these meetings.

But there is a third notion to this possible change in German EU coordination:

In June 2011, Uwe Corsepius will become the next Secretary General of the EU Council. Right now, he is the head of the European Policy Division in the German Chancellery, and transferring the coordinating power to this institution will mean a considerable strengthening of his role in German EU politics. If everything will have to go through his division, he will not only be better involved substantially but he could also become a much more central figure in the power distribution of German EU policy-making.

Consequently, if the transfer of EU coordination competence to the Chancellery will actually take place (this is already questioned by liberal MPs), a strengthened Corsepius will go to Brussels, while Merkel and Pofalla will keep the important European Policy division with excellent contacts to the new EU Council Secretary General who will probably also know very well his successor in the Chancellery.

What a "nice" way to raise German influence in Brussels that would be...

PS.: This is pure speculation, I know, but there is a good chance that in case the Handelsblatt's information are correct, Uwe Corsepius will be a much stronger figure than he is already now when he goes to Brussels.


Jon Worth said...

Hold on Julien... I know it's nice to see a sub-plot, but this is actually a good decision. It makes sense. German EU policy coordination has been rubbish for as long as anyone can remember, and if you see EU politics as an extension of domestic politics (as I do, and I think you do) then it makes sense for the Bundeskanzleramt to have control in this area. So this decision should be welcomed.

Julien said...

I am not sure that the coordination within the Chancellery will actually be more effective or efficient; handling the same amount of work with a smaller administration might be more difficult than doing that from the foreign ministry.

But I just raised the issue because the connection to Corsepius can easily be overlooked.