Merkel’s successor to continue as EU’s chief ‘paymaster’ as Brussels power vacuum develops

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German MEP Gunnar Beck said Armin Laschet, the new leader of Germany’s CDU, will struggle to wield the same sway in Brussels. Mr Laschet, who is now in line to succeed Mrs Merkel as chancellor after the parliamentary elections in September, pipped conservative rival Friedrich Merz to the leadership of their party last weekend. But Mr Beck claimed the new CDU chief would be extorted for Germany’s vast wealth by fellow EU leaders looking to cash in.

He told Express.co.uk: “Laschet won’t have the kind of status Germany has enjoyed for many years now. He can grow into this, that’s possible, but it takes some time.

“Merkel’s role has been that of an honest broker… a kind of paymaster broker. Most of the deals she struck, were struck by paying up.

“Laschet, I suspect, will do exactly the same. He’ll be a paymaster in order to try and attain a certain degree of influence.”

Mr Beck, a member of the anti-establishment Alternative for Germany party, said Friedrich Merz would have “demanded more in return for his money” in negotiations with the EU compared to his rival.

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He added: “Laschet isn’t going to be like that, he’ll just pay – and that’s bad for Germany.”

Mrs Merkel was well known for using Germany’s position as the EU’s top economy, and highest contributor to the bloc’s budget, to stave off a series of crises.

Most recently, she agreed to splash out to guarantee the €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund for the hardest-hit regions and industries by the pandemic.

As the EU’s largest economy, Berlin is the biggest contributor to both the bloc’s budget and Covid bailout.

And this could increase further with Mr Laschet said to be even more ambitious when it comes to the European project than Mrs Merkel.

He once criticised the Chancellor’s government for not being ambitious enough in regards to the EU.

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“Today the French President Emmanuel Macron is making proposals, but we are taking too long to respond,” Mr Laschet told the Munich Security Conference last year.

But there are concerns over Mr Laschet’s moves to previously defend Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Assad regime in Syria.

Omis Nouripour, a Green MP, said he had received numerous complaints about Mr Laschet’s opinions.

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He said: “It’s bad enough that he has these views as governor of one of Germany’s federal states, but if he continues to espouse them as leader of the CDU then it’s a security risk for Germany, and Europe.”

Members of the CDU have also warned that Mr Laschet faces an uphill battle to unite the party he has just inherited leadership to,

Katja Leikert, deputy leader of the CDU parliamentary group, told the FT: “The rift in the party is deep and Laschet will have his work cut out to win over Merz’s supporters.”

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