The EU Two Years After Brexit: Support on the Rise but Issues Persist


Almost exactly two years ago, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. This decision spawned speculation that other member states would follow in short order, resulting in the organization’s disintegration. However, data from various opinion polls shows that the opposite is true. Since the Brexit vote, Europeans have become more supportive of the EU, undermining the popular narrative of a pending collapse. The real issue is more long-term. Many in Europe do not oppose the EU itself, but they do oppose certain policies, and this issue must be rectified before the latter becomes the former. In September 2016, the first instance of Eurobarometer polling following the Brexit decision, the percentage of Europeans saying that their country’s EU membership was “a good thing” hovered around 53 percent. Since then, support for EU membership has increased steadily. It currently sits at 60 percent, the highest level in a decade. In fact, nearly every member state saw an increase in support for EU membership over the last two years.


The most common example of this doomsday narrative cited by politicians and media figures is Italy. On the surface, they would appear to be right. Support for the EU in Italy currently sits at 39 percent, and the recent elections there saw the rise of a Eurosceptic coalition between the Five Star Movement and the League. The newly elected Conte government has made its opposition to EU migrant policies well known, and the coalition has discussed a referendum on the Euro.

While the future of the EU in Italy seems bleak, indifference to the EU (it is “neither a good nor a bad thing”) was much more prevalent than opposition to it. Only 17 percent of Italians actually said EU membership was “a bad thing.” Furthermore, the country saw approval for the EU rise by 4 percent over the last year, even as they elected a Eurosceptic government. The emergence of the Conte government cannot be conflated with a desire to leave the EU.

The surge in popularity for the Five Star Movement and the League is more attributable to exasperation with Italy’s notoriously corrupt and incompetent traditional parties. In data from before the new government formed, only 18 percent of Italians said they trust their parliament, demonstrating the appeal of outsider parties. Another explanation for the rise of this coalition is its proposed social service initiatives, which are quite attractive in a country where 81 percent of people described the state of the economy as “bad.” The migrant crisis appears to have been less important, as 68 percent of Italians (the same as the EU average) continue to support a common EU migration policy. With support for the EU on the rise, Conte and his government will not stray too far out of line at this stage. This could change if the economy fails to improve.

Central Europe

Migration is the key issue in Hungary and Poland, two other poster children for those who believe that the end of the EU is imminent. The governments of Orban and Szydlo/Morawiecki have remained popular domestically because of their refusal to accept migrants. Only 48 percent of Hungarians and 51 percent of Poles support a common EU migration policy. However, support for the EU in these two countries has only grown recently. It currently sits at 61 percent in Hungary and 70 percent in Poland, demonstrating that opposition to specific EU policies does not necessarily correlate with opposition to the EU as a whole.

Hungarians and Poles recognize the myriad benefits that the EU brings them, even if they oppose its migration policies. In both countries memory of Soviet rule is strong. Neither has a desire to be put back under a Russian yoke. Both peoples recognize that their EU membership will help keep Russia at bay and prevent them from becoming the next Ukraine or Georgia. The two countries also reap economic benefits from EU membership. Poland receives a net of €7.1 billion from the EU, while Hungary receives a net of €3.6 billion. An attempt to leave the EU would be political suicide for both Orban and Morawiecki, despite the free reign their constituents grant them to challenge the EU on migration. Like in Italy, though, this could change with time.

The Future

The EU may remain popular overall, but solutions to pressing policy concerns are necessary to ensure its long-term viability. The people of Italy, Hungary, and Poland do not oppose the EU to nearly the same degree that their leaders do. It is issues such as migration and lingering economic difficulties, which the EU is failing to address adequately, that are allowing these leaders to assume power. Specific EU policy failures are enabling those who would see the EU weakened or destroyed, even if that is not what their constituents want. Eurosceptic politicians may not posses the political capital to do so now, but the longer they remain in power, the more opportunities they will have to bend others to their will.

With the continued growth of support for the EU across the continent, fear of a Brexit domino effect will dissipate for now. As support for the EU rises, the Franco-German effort to revitalize the organization looks increasingly viable. In the long term, though, salient policy failures must be addressed in order to definitively squash a possible collapse.

dicomm advisors sucht zwei (Junior-) Berater für den Digitalbereich

Die dicomm advisors GmbH ist eine partnergeführte Unternehmensberatung für politische Kommunikation, die das gesamte Leistungsspektrum von Public Affairs-Dienstleistungen anbietet. Die Agentur wurde 2002 unter dem Namen dimap communications als Beratungsgesellschaft für Kommunikation und Politik innerhalb der dimap Gruppe gegründet; 2013 erfolgte die Lösung von der dimap-Gruppe und die Umbenennung in dicomm advisors.

Die Agentur hat seit mehr als fünfzehn Jahren Erfahrung darin, weltweit operierende, börsennotierte Unternehmen aus unterschiedlichsten Industriebereichen sowie kleine und mittlere Unternehmen, NGOs, politische Institutionen, Parteien und ausländische Regierungen zu beraten.

2015 wurde dicomm vom Magazin “brand eins wissen” als eine der besten deutschen Agenturen für politische Kommunikation ausgezeichnet.

Für unser Beratungsteam suchen wir zum 1. September zwei (Junior-) Berater (m/w),  insbesondere für den Digitalsektor.

Wir wünschen uns von Ihnen:

  • Mindestens 2 (Junior)-bzw. 4-5 Jahre Beratungserfahrung im politischen Umfeld oder einer auf Politik und Kommunikation spezialisierten Agentur
  • Begeisterung für alles, was digital ist oder künftig werden soll;
  • Selbständigkeit und Belastbarkeit
  • ausgewiesene analytische und konzeptionelle Kompetenz
  • die Bereitschaft, sich in komplexe Themen einzuarbeiten
  • Kontaktfreudigkeit
  • ein erfolgreich abgeschlossenes Hochschulstudium vornehmlich der Politik-, Rechts- oder Wirtschaftswissenschaften
  • sehr gute Englischkenntnisse

Wir bieten Ihnen: Ein interessantes Arbeitsumfeld, ein nettes Team, anspruchsvolle Mandate, eigenverantwortliches Arbeiten und eine flexible Arbeitszeit- und Arbeitsortgestaltung, die auch auf Ihre Familienphase Rücksicht nimmt. Auch eine vollzeitnahe Teilzeitstelle ist verhandelbar.

Bitte bewerben Sie sich unter Angabe Ihres Eintrittsdatum sowie Ihrer Gehaltsvorstellungen an :

The climate, emissions and German transport policy: a look at the coalition contract

In the past years, German transport and mobility policy had to navigate a dangerous predicament. Its renowned Energiewende attracted global attention, but quite obviously wasn’t enough to reach the climate change goals that the country had pledged in the various international accords. To even have a remote chance of doing so, a Verkehrswende also has to come.

For anyone with even a remote understanding of the German economy, the problem is quite obvious. Any change to transport and mobility policy that would take away from the success of the automobile industry would shake the very foundation of Germany’s economy. And thus, for many observer German policy often seemed to have nothing but the interest of carmakers in mind.

In 2018, that just doesn’t suffice anymore. Volkswagen and others are rocked by scandals that saw them systematically cheating emission testing. Germany cities are facing the almost impossible challenge of conforming to European NO2 emission standards without making use of temporary bans on Diesel cars.

Amid all of this, mobility systems overall are facing foundational changes and individual car ownership could soon be a thing of the past. Public transport systems are improving as they embrace multi-modality. Uber and its competitors are disrupting individual transport services and both ride- and car-sharing platforms reduce the need to own a car even further.

But how is politics reacting to this? A few answers can be found in the coalition contract:

  • Governance

The new coalition wants to avoid harming anyone at any cost – be that the automobile industry, other stakeholders in the mobility sector or individual car owners. A commission shall be formed that is supposed to prepare a strategy for the “future of affordable and sustainable mobility”. Further, the coalition contract states that the coalition intends to “reach the climate goals of the Paris agreement while taking social aspects into consideration and securing both the competitiveness of our industry and affordable mobility.”

  •  Diesel cars and emissions

The coalition wants to avoid that cities have to make use of temporary bans on Diesel cars at all cost. Much rather, the goal is to reduce emissions at the source, meaning the cars themselves. While retrofitting Diesel cars with modern emission reducing technology is a theoretical option, the carmakers don’t want to bear the cost and nobody would dare to saddle the consumer with it.

Instead, the contract foresees states, regions and municipalities to be granted the right to regulate emission limits “for commercial transport services like busses, taxis, rental cars and car-sharing vehicles”, as well as for courier- and delivery vehicles.

  • E-Mobility & Autonomous Driving

Funding for the development for e-mobility is supposed to be increased, but the contract fails to mention any specific goals. A very particular focus is on company cars, that will see discounted tax rate for electro and hybrid models. Charging stations shall be increased in numbers to a total of 100,000 in 2020.

By the end of the legislative term, the government wants to create regulation to enable fully autonomous vehicles. Even faster, experimentation spaces shall be created for the industry to test those cars. This is supposed to go hand-in-hand with the creating of smart cities that possess intelligent car-park routing systems and a “digitalized road network”.

  • New forms of mobility

For companies that are disrupting the mobility sector, there is a twofold challenge. While there is much lip-service done on promoting car-sharing and alike services, the reality has been a bit bleek in the past. Car- and ride-sharing yet has to blow up as it did in other countries. Regulatory barriers quite often have played a role in this.

German personal transport law is supposed to be modernized to rectify this situation. Ride sharing and new platform-based mobility services are supposed to receive a legal foundation for the certification of their services, while maintaining a level playing field between different transport modes. Particularly taxi- and rental car services are supposed to be relieved of regulatory duties.

This is clearly aiming at clearing up the problems that Uber is facing but will certainly apply to other platforms as well.

A tale of two parties

The past weeks could not have shown the differences between Germany’s two dominant parties, the Christian Conservatives and the Social Democrats, any better. Both coming from a devastating loss in the September election, one stands united with secure leadership and personnel that could lead the party towards the future once the current leader leaves the picture. The other, in a very fragile situation already, has little leadership and is completely divided about its future course. The former, of course, is Angela Merkel’s CDU, while the latter are the Social Democrats that by Sunday will have made the decision whether to form a government with the CDU.

For the Social Democrats, either outcome could spell doom. The party essentially seems to be split over the idea of a repeat coalition. Over the past four elections, their voter share has halved, from 40.9 percent in 1998 to 20.5 percent in 2017. Particularly devastating was the 2009 election (23 percent), right after the first Grand Coalition under Angela Merkel as Chancellor. Yet, Merkel hardly seems to be the only reason for the continued downturn. Labour and economic policies introduced by SPD Chancellor Schröder (the infamous Hartz-Reforms) have led to a chasm on the left wing of the party that seem to have permanently exiled many former Social Democratic voters.

Now, it is on all members of the party to decide on whether to continue the past course or take a turn to the left. The party establishment would have loved to regroup in the opposition, but the failure of the so-called Jamaica coalition (CDU/CSU, Greens and Liberals) didn’t allow for this. In the coalition however, returning to a leftist course, seems to be impossible. Even though, according to AI analysis, the proposed coalition contract consists up mostly out of SPD policy positions and even though the SPD was granted three of the most important ministries (Finance, Labour, Foreign Affairs), the coalition would still operate firmly in the middle of the political spectrum. Apparently, not enough for the left wing of the SPD, which somewhat convincingly argue that the Social Democrats renew themselves in such a coalition.

This could tear apart the party for good. The party’s youth organization, behind its Chairman Kevin Kühnert, is campaigning against entering the coalition and the outcome of the inner-party referendum is a coin toss. The party leadership is firmly campaigning for a Grand Coalition and would certainly have to resign should the decision not be in their favour. That would mean that the SPD would have transitioned from the chairmanship of Sigmar Gabriel (currently Minister of Foreign Affairs) through Martin Schulz, who recently turned over the office to Andrea Nahles (former Minister of Labour) to an entirely new leadership, whomever that would be.

Contrastingly, the CDU is having little such problems. For a brief moment, it seemed as if Angela Merkel would have to worry about her immediate future.

Amidst the CDU’s own losses in the election, she managed to negotiate on two potential coalitions in her usual way, making little public noise and in more of a moderating role. In the instance of the Jamaica coalition, this failed entirely. In the second instance, she had to give up on many policy positions and also had to hand over the Ministry of Finance.

Expectedly, this riled up the conservative wing of the party. But much unlike the SPD, Merkel needed only a few moves to quell the unrest. The CDU’s youth organisation wanted a party convention to discuss the coalition contract – Merkel granted the wish. The conservative wing wanted representation in the would-be cabinet – Merkel axed her close confidante Hermann Gröhe (until now Minister for Healthcare) and gave the position to one of the young leaders of the conservative wing (Jens Spahn, 37). Making place for Horst Seehofer, Chairman of the Bavarian CSU and until now State Premier, is longtime Merkel ally and Minister for the Interior Thomas de Maizière.

Lastly, Merkel needed someone to take care of the party. The last few years saw losses among the party base, members who defected because they didn’t identify with Merkel’s political course. She knew she couldn’t fulfil the integratory role that the party needed. Hence, she pulled Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (otherwise known as AKK), until now State Premier in the Saar region, out of her hat. Technically, AKK (55 years old) isn’t really young. Technically, she isn’t a member of the Christian-conservative wing. Technically, she has been a close ally of the Chancellor for quite a while.

But yet, AKK is enough of an integratory figure that she can represent most of the party base. At the party convention last Monday, she gave a rousing speech that sparked hope that she might also be someone who can transition the party into the time after Merkel.

By Sunday, we will know whether we will soon have a functioning government or not. There is hope, that we do. But in any case, the two parties have a very different path to success. Angela Merkel seems on a good path to allow for a smooth transition of the CDU into the time after her Chancellorship. For the SPD, the transition process seems nothing but smooth., whether they enter the coalition or not.

The Belgian Job: Germany looking for a government

After eight long weeks since the federal election, the outlook for politics in Germany seems bleaker than ever. An election that saw the rise of right-wing populism in form of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) now has resulted in a situation that once seemed reserved for countries like Italy or Belgium: with nothing more than an interim government and no prospective coalition in sight.

After the liberal FPD vacated the negotiation table late Sunday night, the idea of a three party coalition between the CDU/CSU, the Greens and said liberals is off the table for good. After four weeks of exploratory talks, which were as much an extended trust building exercise as they were contract negotiations between embattled partners, the bridges are burnt. Tales of the events are spun already.
For the FDP, their decision to not enter a coalition supposedly was a matter of principle. The Liberals are wary of the experience of their last government under Chancellor Merkel, when they were marginalized and failed to re-enter the Bundestag in subsequent elections. Even though they seemed be able to secure substantial parts of the their policy demands in the exploratory talks, they again felt that they were marginalized between Merkel’s CDU/CSU and the Greens. Strategically, they now have the chance to follow a national-liberal course that would place them well between Merkel’s conservatives and the AfD.
Unlike the Liberals, Conservatives and Greens both felt that substantial progress was made even at the last hour. As such, many of those who took part in the negotiations were stunned when the FDP walked away. With a supposedly almost finished compromise on the table, it felt like it was a move that was very much planned ahead. Even worse was the sentiment, that the FDP stopped to negotiate in good faith quite some time ago.
This leaves Germany in a precarious political situation. The only other viable coalition to have a majority in parliament is the Grand Coalition of CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats (SPD). The latter however made it clear that they will not enter a coalition with the CDU/CSU again, a stance they re-affirmed on Monday. Out of six parties elected to the Bundestag (seven when counting the Bavarian CSU separately), only Conservatives and the Greens want to govern.
Under these circumstances, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier now is the key decision maker. He will have the final say on whether he appoints a minority government – possibly between Greens and Conservatives – or if he calls for a snap election. For now he is trying to get all parties to the negotiation table again, but these efforts are very likely to be futile.
It isn’t entirely unlikely that Germany is headed to an extended period of political uncertainty. A minority government is wanted by nobody and a snap election – as of polls from Monday – is unlikely to show results much different from the September vote. The picture might become a bit more clear over the next few days, as President Steinmeier is meeting with the leaders of all parties, trying to gauge the situation.
If the German people were to make the decision, the choice would be overwhelmingly clear. 65 percent of voters want a snap election, only 29 percent a minority government.

Merkel to return – but other certainties vanish in German election

The 2017 German federal election is in the books and it brought tectonic changes to a political system that has seen remarkable stability. While Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative CDU/CSU technically won the election and the Social Democrats (SPD), led by Martin Schulz remain the second strongest party, yesterday’s result might prove to be the ending point for the idea of the Volksparteien. The two defining parties in German post-war history, partners in a left-leaning Grand Coalition for eight of the past twelve years, had voters running away in droves. The CDU/CSU received 33 percent, a virtual all-time low. The SPD received 20.5 percent, also an all-time low. The combined total is a far cry of the past, even less than that of the 2009 election at the height of the financial crisis.

The reasons are plentiful, but above all is a feeling of misrepresentation by a large share of the German people. Public dispute over political issues under the reign of the Grand Coalition was subdued. Decisions were made within the closed circles of both parties and presented as inevitabilities. Marginalised in parliament, the opposition of the Greens and Socialist Left could not keep the left leaning government in check. Meanwhile, the right side of the political spectrum was woefully unattended.

This election will definitely change the latter. In comes the Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD), oscillating politically somewhere between national-conservative and fully nationalist. Led by former conservatives, but very open to radical right-wing activists, the party is a classical protest party and appears to be in disarray from day one. Frauke Petry, currently Chairwoman of the party, has already declared that she will not join the AfD parliamentary group, but rather become an independent MP. Their success in the popular vote, however, is particularly damaging for Angela Merkel. 20 percent of AfD voters previously voted CDU/CSU. Most of them switched explicitly because of Merkel and her refugee policy.

All of that leaves Angela Merkel in a very precarious situation: She is lacking options to form a government. The Social Democrats only minutes after first exit poll results came in stated they would head to the opposition. That leaves her with only a single realistic option, a coalition with the Greens and the FPD. How they fit together is a complete unknown, even assuming good will among all parties.

  • The liberal FDP is just returning after being ousted in the previous election. It is decidedly pro-business and will fit with the economically conservative part of the electorate. Christian Linder, its charismatic young leader, is a serious candidate to become Minister of Finance. He would most likely increase domestic spending, but is a strong opponent of increased solidarity within the Eurozone. Other issues that the FDP will focus on are education and digitalisation.
  • The Greens had a stronger result than expected and could complicate matters on climate and environment protection, particularly given the situation of the German car industry. The Greens control a lot of the vote in the Bundesrat, the German parliament’s second chamber, which could make governing easier for the coalition.
  • Chancellor Merkel is also burdened with a Bavarian sister party, the CSU, that faces a regional election next year. The CSU lost a higher share of votes compared to the CDU and is expected to make a sharp turn to the right.

All of this will result in some very extended coalition negotiations, which will see additional delay due to an election in the state of Lower Saxony in October. A government being formed before early December would be very surprising.

For Europe and the pending Brexit negotiations, this could spell trouble. Conflict over Emmanuel Macron’s reform plans for the EU is very much on the horizon already. European integration will be a contested issue, particularly ideas of a Eurozone budget. Any hope that Germany could push the EU Commission to be more sensible towards British interests in the negotiations seemed far-fetched anyway. All political parties agree on a strategy that values the integrity of the single European market over short term financial gain through an amicable Brexit deal. Any new government is unlikely to give Brexit a high priority or even result in a policy change.

POLITICAL OVERVIEW: Only three days until election

With only three days to go until the federal election, only one thing is absolutely clear: Angela Merkel will be the German Chancellor for four more years. With whom she will coalesce is less of a sure thing.

Virtually all polls have the CDU/CSU at 36 or 37 percent with the SPD sitting at 22 to 23 percent in all polls. The Greens havre for months been stable at about 8 percent, while the three other small parties fluctuate somewhat between 9 to 11 percent. Prior election results have often pegged the AfD too low and the Greens too high, for what its worth.

Politically, there is no big last push anyone could make. Martin Schulz and the SPD in recent days tried to use the situation of elderly care labour, which is in a very precarious situation, to attack Merkel. In her typical fashion, she just took on the issue head first, announcing that any government under her lead would deal with the situation of elderly care workers right after the election.

Whatever the outcome, we are bound to see very contested coalition negotiations. And, for the first time in many years, right-wing extremists in our Federal Parliament.


Europe is busy discussing the proposals of Jean-Claude Juncker, an the major election campaigns made it a point to comment. Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) expressed his concern about wanting to expand the Eurozone, saying it was good for Juncker to “up the pressure and tempo” on the issue, but cautioned that candidates would really have to meet the economic conditions for joining.

Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) was enthusiastic, calling the speech “engaged and leaded the way”. He also said that the “firework of ideas (…) would give us much to further discuss and debate.” 

Just as Juncker’s speech, the taxation proposal of Germany, France, Italy and Spain regarding the taxation of the digital economy also garnered much attention, albeit not from German politics. Germany media mostly praised the proposal, although some also noted that actually getting companies to pay their taxes dutifully would be a tough task, even for the European Union. It was also noted however, that any action at the European level would require unanimous consent, which seems unlikely as of now.

Regarding the election itself, that still hasn’t been a major swing. Yet, smaller fluctuations over the last few weeks have removed the theoretical option of a coalition between CDU/CSU and one of the Greens or Liberals, respectively.

Overall, the poll numbers currently are as follows: CDU/CSU 37%, SPD 23%, FDP 8%, The Left 10%, AfD 9%, Greens 8%. With a majority requiring 327 seats, CDU/CSU and SPD would be the only two-party coalition that has a majority.

POLITICAL OVERVIEW: Merkel comes out atop of TV Duel with Schulz, election seems all but decided

With little more than two weeks to go until the federal election, Chancellor Angela Merkel seems poised to return to her office. Whether it is going to be with the SPD in a grand coalition or with a combination of Greens and the FDP, however, is not clear.

At the only TV duel that the two leading candidates, Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz, were going to have, both made it a point to not exclude any option but a coalition with the AfD (and The Left in the case of the CDU). Given the current polls, a grand coalition is the only option for the SPD, while the CDU could potentially coalesce with either SPD or Liberals, or a combination of FDP and Greens.

The TV duel itself was somewhat disappointing. Even though Merkel was facing tough questions for her performance in the refugee crisis in 2015 and even tough Martin Schulz at times was really aggressive, the Chancellor was considered to be to be the consummate winner. The duel overall was critiqued for a lack of variety in topics, as issues such as education and digitalisation were not even breached by the moderators, while immigration and integration were given oversize attention.

A later TV duel between the leading candidates of the other parties (The Left, FDP, Greens, AfD, CSU) wasn’t much better. While digitisation was dealt with for a few minutes, the politicians didn’t state much more than platitudes. Only Christian Lindner of the liberal FDP was a bit more concrete, repeating his often voiced attacks on the market power of Google and Apple, which we reported various times in the past.

Overall, the poll numbers currently are as follows: CDU/CSU 38.5%, SPD 24%, FDP 10%, The Left and AfD 8%, Greens 7.5%. With a majority requiring 323 seats, CDU/CSU and FDP would have a slight majority of 326 seats.