Change to Stay the Same? : German European Preference Formation During the COVID-19 Crisis
2023-03-28, Heermann, Max, Leuffen, Dirk, Tigges, Fabian
In 2020, the German government supported the COVID-19 recovery fund ‘Next Generation EU’, which according to many observers is breaking with the taboo of joint EU debt liability. In this article, we analyse whether this decision marks a programmatic shift towards fiscal integration, taken in isolation by the Chancellor, or whether it can be reconciled with higher-level principles that guided the Chancellor’s previous European policies? Our analysis builds on a synthetic framework combining a multi-level principal-agent account with ideational components. The empirical analysis of Bundestag debates and original public opinion data reveal that the support for ‘Next Generation EU’ neither breaks with the Chancellor’s established ‘conservational-pragmatic’ approach to EU policy-making, nor separates the Chancellor from the preferences of the Bundestag and the public. Content analyses show how the government and its supporting camp in the Bundestag justified the apparent policy shift, underlining a strong agreement towards strengthening the EU in times of an unseen crisis, while at the same time revealing some noteworthy partisan differences.