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September 19, 2013

Analysts: German Vote Will Not Affect Relations With US

by Zlatica Hoke

German voters will cast ballots on Sunday to select a new federal government. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union party is predicted to win the most votes, and she is likely to have a third consecutive term in office.

Analysts say the outcome of the German elections will have little effect on the country's alliance with the United States. Some Germans are worried, however, that a new U.S. focus on Asia could adversely affect their country, and Europe as a whole.

During a recent visit to Washington, German parliament member Hans-Ulrich Klose said that as the United States turns its attention to Asia, the European Union will have to make more of an effort to resolve its own economic and political problems.

“So far, Europeans have had a good living knowing that if there are difficulties in Europe or the European periphery, be it in the south or be it in the east, the United States will be ready not only to assist, but also to take a lead and help us to overcome these difficulties,” said Klose. He said the U.S. “pivot” to Asia could weaken trans-Atlantic commerce, which accounts for nearly half of all global trade.

Europe's 'neighborhood'

But Klaus Larres, professor of international relations at the University of  North Carolina, said Europe has no reason for concern.

“The Europeans themselves are looking increasingly toward China - and Asia [in general] - to sell their products. And we also know that the successful export industry of Germany would not be as successful without exporting to China and Asia and India and Brazil, and similar countries.”

Analysts agree, though, that Europeans will have to pay closer attention to what is happening in their immediate neighborhood.

“Which is quite something to realize, because our neighborhood is Northern Africa and our neighborhood is the Middle East, that for good reasons we call Near East because it is pretty close to us," Klose said. "And what's going on there is of immediate relevance to us and, of course, we are interested in what's going on."

As Europe’s strongest economy, Germany is sometimes expected to take the lead in the continent’s foreign policy. Larres said German politicians, including Merkel, have been hesitant to take political and military leadership of Europe, for fear of evoking the specter of Nazi Germany.

"Many people call on her [Merkel] and say: you have to give a big visionary pro-European speech. And I think we will wait in vain for that because she probably does not have a deep enthusiasm herself [for it], and secondly, she does not want to estrange any part of the population who wouldn’t like that sort of speech," said Larres.

But analysts say Germans have no problem taking the lead of Europe’s economy. And Merkel has shown no hesitation in imposing unpopular measures to save Europe's common currency.

Larres said most German politicians deeply believe in a strong and united Europe, as does the United States. And he said both countries will benefit from expanding ties with Asia.