The race to replace Merkel as German Chancellor, and other European news

by RPP
Weekly European political updates

The race to replace Merkel as German Chancellor, and other European news 

Europe is a colourful continent in terms of policies and outcomes. It is essential to stay updated on how these policies may impact your work to build better regulatory frameworks, enhance your message and enhance communication with stakeholders. Here you can find a summary of the major European political updates of this week.    



On 10 August, party leaders of the Social Democrats (SPD), Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans, nominated current Finance Minister and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz as the party’s candidate for chancellor in the upcoming federal elections in autumn 2021. Despite his controversial role in the party, he gained public support as finance minister for launching multi-billion Euro safety nets for businesses and workers through the pandemic. Esken, current SPD party leader, announced that she would consider a coalition with the Left Party (Die Linke) or the Green Party (Bündnis90/Die Grünen), with a Green chancellor. According to current prognosis, however, there would be no combined majority for a three-party coalition consisting of the SPD, the Greens, and the Left. Meanwhile, Paul Ziemiak, Secretary General of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), acknowledged Scholz’s nomination, but criticized the lack of time for campaigning ahead of the election. The CDU will decide on a new party leader in December 2020. The CDU Party Leader is usually also nominated as candidate for Chancellor. So far, three CDU members have announced their interest in the party Lead, namely Armin Laschet, Friedrich Merz and Norbert Röttgen.  


Since 7 August, Spain has reported an increase in new COVID-19 cases, with Catalonia, Madrid and Aragón being the regions detecting the highest number of new cases. As Aragón is currently exceeding the average infection rate, the construction of a new field hospital in Zaragoza has started. However, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts claimed on 10 August that infections are beginning to level off across much of the country. The COVID-19 tracing app also started running on 10 August in several regions. Although the app will not be available country-wide until mid-September, it will be used in the meantime in regions where an increasing number of cases are reported and where the flow of tourists is greater. On the political landscape, on 3 August the Government signed an agreement with the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces to promote the role of municipalities in the social and economic reconstruction of Spain. The agreement includes a broad set of measures aiming at strengthening the local autonomy of city councils. However, several opposition parties have expressed their disagreement, warning the Government that they will vote against it in the Congress. 

United Kingdom

In the fight against COVID-19, this last week has seen a notable trend in the decentralisation and localisation of public health powers. Local authorities in northern English regions have progressively implemented lockdowns to contain local outbreaks, with most lockdowns centred in North West England and fresh lockdowns this last week in Bradford and Preston. Local authorities, including in the city of Bradford, last week instigated their own contact tracing programmes designed to work with local expertise and to include home visitations, after shortcomings in the NHS Test and Trace programme came to light. Since the inception of local tracing programmes, the UK Government has cut several contracts with private firms, cutting 6,000 tracers from the national programme, to focus efforts on local programmes.  


A spike in the number of infections has been recorded through Italians returning from holiday. As the number of cases is increasing, Health Minister Roberto Speranza asked people to respect the rules laid out in the new health decree in August. The decree came into force on 10 August and applies until 7 September, and is the latest in a series of government decrees instigated towards the COVID-19 effort. The decree contains rules on travel, face masks and social distancing – nationals and residents of the EU, Schengen Zone or United Kingdom can continue to travel freely to Italy, while non-EU travelers must quarantine for 14 days. It also includes a stimulus package worth €25 billion to support businesses to recover from COVID-19, for which the Government is seeking funds from the European Union. One of the most discussed policies is the extension of the cassa integrazione (CIG), a policy preventing businesses from laying off employees by covering part of their salary. Employers will be able to qualify for the scheme for up to 18 more weeks. Under measures provided in previous decrees, Italian taxpayers have been able to defer tax payments due this year, without penalties or interest.  


After seeing an uptick in cases, the city of Paris this week started to order citizens to wear masks in busy streets, parks, and markets. Ile-de-France is currently the French region with the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases. On 6 August, President Macron traveled to Beirut to visit the blast site and show France's support to the Lebanese people. He promised coordinated international support, but warned that substantial financial aid would only come after visible reform against paralyzing corruption in Lebanese politics. This visit positioned France as the leader in the international effort to help Lebanon recover, though Macron emphasised there are conditions of political reform to this aid. The Lebanese government resigned on Monday and parliamentary consultations will start soon to form the next government. Macron announced that he will return to Lebanon on 1 September to follow up on progress made in domestic reforms and the coordination of humanitarian aid.   

You can find more information on European news in our EU national elections heatmap, where we provide an overarching perspective with key political insight for individual countries. Make sure to check it here


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