Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s first visit to Brussels as leader of Germany’s CDU last week was marked by all the usual stops on the political party circuit that high-ranking officials other than heads of state attend to: a visit to the party, party functions, the address at the foundation. AKK – as Kramp-Karrenbauer is widely known to German and non-Germans alike, had, for the first time, the chance to express her views on any or all matters European to an audience that pays the most attention to the infamous Brussels crowd.
What took Kassandra by surprise is what can be seen as a deviation from German orthodoxy or at least the view that the German Chancellor is accustomed when dealing with us. Most importantly for the denizens of Brussels and Brussels-watchers, AKK’s unequivocal, full-throttle endorsement of the Spitzenkandidat process stands at odds with the Chancellor’s cautious approach. Angela Merkel has supported Manfred Weber’s candidacy, but has also yielded deference to the supremacy of the European Council on that matter, decoupling the party nomination from an automatic selection for the top position by the Council. Her line has been that the largest party’s choice cannot guarantee or pre-empt the Council’s. It is rare that the Germans speak in two voices, especially from within the Chancellor’s camp.
What is it to be assumed? What will happen come June? Will the Chancellor heed Emmanuel Macron’s warning to follow the letter of the law and let the Council pronounce itself on the matter, unbound by any attempt by the parties to maximise their power within the Eurosphere?
It would be unprecedented to see the Chancellor revert to the treaties while her own party chief campaigns for the opposite. This dichotomy is among the keepers of one of the last bastions of certainty in Europe – the German Chancellery and its revolving ecosystem could create a chain reaction on a continent that is experiencing an era of uncertainty and confusion.