John Palmer over at Social Europe Journal, has questioned whether the SPD really do have the policy prescriptions that might help the Eurozone. Are the SPD putting forward vague promises or a more substantive platform for Europe? The SPD has published its election manifesto (PDF in German), where you can find the relevant European sections on pages 21-23 and 89-92.
Miteinander fuer mehr Soziale Marktwirtschaft in Europa - Working together for a more social market economy in Europe (pp.21-23):
"Wir wollen kein Europa, das Spielball der Maerkte ist, sondern eines, das im Interesse der Menschen handelt. Nur geeint und im festen Zusammenschluss der Europaeischen Union hat Europa eine Chance im globalen Wettbewerb von Ideen und Werten, von Politik und Wirtschaft. Aus diesem Grund wollen wir die Politische Union Europas weiter vertiefen.
[We don't want a Europe that is a plaything of the markets, but one that works in the interests of people. Only with a united European Union does Europe have a chance to compete globally when it comes to ideas, values, politics and economics. For this reason we want to further deepen the political union - (Own translation)]"
Finally, the manifesto sets out the SPD's support for a European Debt Fund to ensure the capacities of the Eurozone members, in return for a binding debt reduction and reform plan.
Ein anderes und besseres Europa - A different and better Europe (pp.89-92):
This section is mostly rhetoric setting out the SPD's European identity and credentials in comparison to the governing parties. The SPD supports the development of the Commission as the executive of the EU, but with a stronger role for the European Parliament in electing it and holding it to account. The manifesto also highlights the PES primaries for their Commission president candidate. I'm glad to see the SPD explicitly support creating a parliamentary tradition on the European stage ("Auch so wird ein Stueck Parlamentstradition die in den Mitgliedsstaaten selbstverstaendlich ist, auch auf die EU Ebene gebracht" - Thus will a part of the parliamentary tradition of the Member States be brought to the EU stage).
Strikingly, the SPD places a "competence division" at the heart of the reform process - though the manifesto clearly aims towards a more European economic policy, the possibility for the return of powers to the national level is left open. Cameron's renegotiation policy may find more success if the more federalist opposition is elected than if his ideological neighbour is.
The SPD calls for a strong European Social Union, and an European economic government subject to European Parliament control, but these concepts remain vague (no doubt leaving more room for negotiation if the other Eurozone Member States accept the idea).
A victory for the SPD-Green opposition this autumn is not going to be revolutionary: the SPD support a lot of what is already in place or what will be put in place in terms of the Banking Union, Financial Transaction Tax and the bail-outs. But it would signal to the rest of the EU that a second pillar could be negotiated alongside the rigid rules for fiscal rigour.
It's still quite a vague vision, and a limited one. No mention is made of the possibility of a Eurozone budget and a Eurozone Parliament (or part of the European Parliament) when it comes to economic government, so investment funds, bonds and banks are the vehicles for economic investment. This means that essentially additions to the institutional architecture are being envisaged rather than a more flexible (and electorally responsive) vision of a central budget subject to the European Parliament. The manifesto may be more realistic when it comes to winning electoral support, but the worry on the left must be that these new bonds and institutions may not generate enough investment to counter the depressive effect of fiscal rigour in a recession.