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The looming crisis in Brussels that no one is talking about

It has been an integral part of German life for almost 16 years, but now the political stability the country enjoyed for so long under Angela Merkel is coming to an end as she prepares to step down as chancellor.

Until recently, there was a consensus that, despite Merkel stepping down and allowing her successor to run in the September federal election, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and a sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria, would continue to be the dominant force in German politics.

According to CNN, according to a poll conducted last week, the Green Party was ahead of the CDU by 7%. For a long time, it was expected that the next German coalition would somehow include the Green Party.

Subsequent polls also put the Greens ahead of Merkel's party in the “Sunday Question,” a weekly poll that literally tracks how Germans would vote if elections were held this Sunday.

“Even if the Greens don't win outright, a decent enough share of the vote will force the CDU to significantly reduce the Greens' share of the coalition deal, as they don't have many options for partners, “says Catherine Kluwer Ashbrook, executive director of the Harvard Kennedy School's Europe and Transatlantic Relations project.

Despite this rise of the Greens, few expect any radical policy changes in Germany, as the CDU has adopted many Green policies over the past few years, and the Greens have shifted to the right and become a centrist party. Indeed, Cem Ozdemir, a senior Green politician, recently said that his party would not radically change Germany's NATO policy, European policy, or support for Israel — three issues that have caused controversy in the past.

The second of these questions should comfort the top leadership of the European Union in Brussels. Germany, as the richest and largest member state, has a huge influence on the overall direction of the European project. Under Merkel, Germany has generally supported the EU's agenda, only occasionally exerting influence and blocking certain proposals.

While the party seemed to have little desire to make radical changes in the EU, a Green victory in Germany would mark the symbolic end of an era in Brussels.

Diplomats and officials say they are now openly saying that the CDU is weaker than even five years ago and looks like a different party. “To be honest, von der Leyen could easily become a member of the Green Party if you look at what she believes in,” says the German diplomat.

Even if the Greens don't win, a green-Black (CDU / CSU) coalition looks increasingly likely, and most observers in Brussels think it will be perfectly stable. However, in just a year, it could face another volcano waiting to erupt in European politics.

The next French presidential election looks unsafe for Emmanuel Macron. According to a poll conducted by Politico to determine intentions in 2022, the leader of the far-right National Rally, Marine Le Pen, is one point ahead of Macron. Her party won the last European elections and clearly spooked Macron, who leans towards Le Pen on issues such as immigration and has been accused of Islamophobia for his comments about fighting radicalism.

Anyone who has been to Brussels knows that if you want to succeed in Europe, you need to unite the French and the Germans. A green-black government in Germany and a Le Pen presidency in France could make this extremely difficult.

“It is hard to imagine how a progressive, fiercely pro-European Germany and a nationalist France will be able to agree on such important issues as our common policy towards China and Russia,” says a European diplomat.

Le Pen is known to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and this could become a serious problem if she becomes an obstacle to European attempts to deal with Russia's vile behavior in Ukraine, in its treatment of opposition representatives, and in its broader aggression around the world. And while the Green Party is aggressive toward China, in the coalition, Germany is likely to continue its policy of trying to influence change in China by throwing away the carrot of expanding trade. Le Pen said little about China but warned against isolating Russia to the point where it would throw itself into China's arms, which we can assume means some hostility.

More worryingly for EU integration, Le Pen no longer wants to emulate the UK with “ Frexit.” There are many such politicians scattered across the bloc, and the nationalist's victory in the French presidency will be their biggest victory since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016.

European politics is changing faster than many in Brussels are willing to admit. “We have already seen big cracks between France and Germany, led by Macron. What happens to Le Pen is completely unknown, “ says Kluwer. “I think people are too paralyzed by fear to think about it, but it's actually much more dangerous than the eurozone crisis.”

Even if the CDU and Macron win, the political establishment in Brussels must admit that the appetite for something different has been building for a long time. If he doesn't prepare properly, he may find that old friends in Paris and Berlin will no longer be so deferential to a leadership style that is becoming increasingly unattractive to their constituents.

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