The failed Jamaica negotiations are not a catastrophe for a full-fledged democracy such as Germany. Nonetheless, they will not leave the political system and the country’s position in Europe completely unscathed. Chancellor Merkel is an outright loser. She was charged with the task of uniting the different positions of the four parties, especially on matters concerning environmental policy and the migration issues – and failed.
We could now see Merkel’s and Germany’s political supremacy crumbling in Europe. Although the Chancellor is viewed worldwide as a political heavyweight, cracks are appearing in her power base within her own country. Until a stable government can be formed, Germany will not have a voice on pressing political issues such as the future of the EU or the shaping of Brexit. From a European perspective, a political vacuum in Germany could hardly have come at a worse time – Spain is dealing with domestic political problems in Catalonia and Italy is facing elections next spring with a similarly unclear outcome. France, of all countries, which still assumed itself to be at a political crossroads at the start of the year, will now probably try to advance into the vacuum of power left by Germany. Macron, who presents himself as an ardent European, is now in a position to show whether he is a force capable of dealing with the major domestic as well as the European policy challenges. It also goes without saying that France wants to set priorities that differ to those of Germany – a more state-controlled investment than austerity policy, more redistribution than competition policy.