April 27, 2015
Following her less than successful endorsement of Finland’s former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb in his bid for re-election –as Heard in Europe recently reported, Angela Merkel visited Helsinki on 19 April – the German chancellor is heading to Copenhagen next week (28 April) to support Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s general election campaign.
Although Thorning-Schmidt has not yet made an official call for the poll, the election must take place within the next 20 weeks.
What better way to get things started than a bit of public schmoozing with the world’s most powerful woman?
The pair are set to discuss the EU, foreign policies and blueprints for the ‘Femern bridge’ project – a plan for an extra link between the two nations over or under the sea.
Denmark backs the project wholeheartedly, but the Germans have waivered to the point of where the frustrated Danes are considering shouldering all the building costs themselves.
Whilst Merkel’s public support for fellow centre-right EPP colleague and Greek austerity enforcer Stubb came as little surprise, her offer to allow Copenhagen’s Social Democrat leader the chance to reflect in Muttiglow at such a critical moment might raise eyebrows. Especially since during the course of her visit Merkel has signalled no intention of meeting with any centre-right opposition candidates, even from the EPP-member The Conservatives.
Danish political commentator Hans Engell speculates that Merkel’s visit comes in part from a feeling that the Chancellor owes the Danish prime minister, after stymying Thorning-Schmidt’s chances of getting one of the top political posts in Brussels last year. Whilst Thorning-Schmidt never officially lobbied for the Council Presidency, she has recently admitted that many European colleagues were pushing her candidacy.
Merkel’s show of support for her Danish counterpart raises the question why she will not be jetting to London to offer centre-right David Cameron similar support.
After all, Merkel’s agreement that Britain will be able to achieve substantive renegotiation of the EU Treaty after the election is key to Cameron’s bid to get re-elected next month.
Some might speculate that – fighting a tough contest with the Faragistes – the last thing Cameron would want to be seen with is a dominant European hanging off his shoulder.
The feeling is probably mutual however. Merkel could just about forgive Cameron for pulling the Conservatives out of the EPP group when he became Tory leader. But pulling the German Eurosceptic Alternativ für Deutschland party into his new European Conservatives & Reformists group grated with Europe’s most commanding leader. The AfD are about as welcome to Merkel as Farage is to Cameron.
Given that this UK election is on a knife edge, perhaps Mutti could be forgiven for hoping – quietly – that if Cameron remains Prime Minister after 7 May, it will only be with the support of a less Eurosceptic party.
Photograph courtesy of the Council of the EU.
Heard in Europe