Saturday, 15 May 2021

Nord Stream 2 crisis: ‘Mini-Merkel’ Laschet will not stand up to Russia, warns ex-MEP

Germany: Laschet faces 'battle' to be chancellor says expert

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And Hans-Olaf Henkel said the current Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia will struggle to gain traction with voters, just months before September’s crunch federal elections in which a poll this week put his party behind the Greens, and their candidate Annalena Baerbock. Nord Stream 2 is highly controversial because it would enable Russia to pipe gas supplies directly to Germany, bypassing the Baltic States, Poland and Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden is calling on Mrs Merkel to pull the plus on the deal, with sanctions in force against all companies involved, arguing Berlin’s involvement is inappropriate given Germany’s membership of NATO.

However, Mrs Merkel this week reiterated her commitment and Mr Henkel, who stood down from the European Parliament in 2019, said there was little chance of Mr Laschet reversing her decision.

He told Express.co.uk: “As far as Nord Stream 2 is concerned, Laschet is a supporter of this project, less critical of Putin.

“Merkel and Laschet are criticising Russia over Putin’s aggressive policies only verbally.

“In fact, I can see one, and only one, advantage in the Greens‘ political program: they are much tougher vis-a-vis Russia.”

Although Mrs Merkel has carefully avoided naming her preferred successor, Mr Laschet, who was elected leader in January, narrowly defeating Friedrich Merz, is sometimes dubbed ‘Mini-Merkel’ for his closeness to her in terms of policy positions.

His Chancellorship candidacy was confirmed this week after he was supported by 77.5 percent of the CDU’s executive board members.

This candidate may please the media but will find it difficult to attract any enthusiasm of the German voters

Hans-Olaf Henkel’s verdict on CDU leader Armin Laschet

Rival Markus Söder, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU’s Bavarian sister, won 22.5 percent, subsequently saying he accepted Mr Laschet’s victory.

Mr Henkel said: “With Laschet, the CDU and now the CSU chose a candidate of the party establishment rather than one of the members, let alone the voters.

“This candidate may please the media but will find it difficult to attract any enthusiasm of the German voters.”

In words which called to mind Mr Laschet’s “mini-Merkel” characterisation, Mr Henkel added: “He is a Merkel 2.

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“With Laschet the CDU/CSU will run a much higher risk of being replaced by a Red/Red/Green coalition in September consisting of Social Democrats, Communists and Greens.

“The latter would then provide a totally inexperienced woman, Ms Baerbock, as Chancellor.

“These three parties stand for more refugees, higher taxes, more state intervention and fighting climate change as top priority without much regard to businesses‘ needs for competitiveness.”

Mr Henkel said Tuesday’s Forsa Institute survey, which puts the Greens on 28 percent, seven points ahead of the CDU/CSU on 21 percent, should serve as a dire warning for Mr Laschet.

He added: “The smartest thing for Laschet to do now would be to get Friedrich Merz, a Merkel foe, into some sort of a shadow candidate.

“Soeder fans, as well as many supporters of the far right AfD, may stick to the CDU or return to her if Merz is given a key role in the election campaign and being promised a significant post in a Laschet lead Government.”

Germany’s business community favours Ms Baerbock to succeed Mrs Merkel , an opinion poll published last week showed.

The Civey poll of 1,500 executives for WirtschaftsWoche magazine, conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, showed 26.5 percent preferred Mrs Baerbock, in front of Christian Lindner of the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) on 16.2 percent.

Armin Laschet was on 14.3 percent, with the Social Democrat’s Olaf Scholz on 10.5 percent.

The remaining 32.5 percent of respondents were undecided.

Ms Baerbock, 40, a former champion trampolinist and mother of two, has promised a “new start” with a focus on investing in education, digital and green technologies.

Many conservatives are concerned about their prospects without Merkel, who has led them to four consecutive federal election victories.

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