German party manifestos are increasingly likely to downplay European issues and reflect negative attitudes toward the EU

Although the 2013 German elections were viewed as having wider importance for the rest of Europe, the issue of Europe itself played only a minor role in the election campaign. Sonia Alonso outlines results from an analysis of German party manifestos to assess the extent to which parties have emphasised European issues in elections since 1949. She notes that there is a downward trend in terms of the inclusion of European issues in manifestos, and that where European issues are mentioned they are increasingly likely to reflect negative attitudes toward the EU.
The coalition agreement between the CDU/CSU and the SPD has been recently approved by SPD members in an internal party referendum, with European citizens playing the role of expectant witnesses. Despite the wish of many Germans to the contrary, it matters a great deal for the future of Europe the type of government that is finally formed in Germany. This is why the 2013 German election was so closely followed in other EU states.
Now that we know how the election story ends (and the government’s story begins), it would be a timely exercise to analyse German parties’ positions on Europe, as reflected in their electoral manifestos. These political texts contain the electoral promises made by German parties during the campaign. How much space did German parties dedicate to promises related to EU matters? What were their exact positions on Europe? How close were the SPD and the CDU/CSU on the subject of Europe?
It was a widespread view at the end of the German electoral campaign that Europe had received little attention. This may well be true of candidates’ speeches and mass media coverage (until now we have not seen data on this) but the picture would be incomplete without looking at party manifestos. Figure 1 presents data from the Manifesto Project showing the average percentage of sentences dedicated to European issues by German parties since the first post-war elections in 1949.




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