The Social Democratic Party (SDP) have swopped roles with the CDU in the last decade. Since they lost the 2005 general election, the party has not been able to return as a serious challenger to the CDU. In the period from 1998 to 2005 the party ruled with the Greens. The left coalition implemented substantial reforms to the labour market, to immigration policy and in terms of liberalising civic law. During the governing period, the SPD fell into a deep internal crisis that caused the erosion of the governing coalition in 2005. Gerhard Schroeder, the former party leader, tried to modernise the party on a “New left”, much as Tony Blair did with the British Labour Party. Some of the reforms, such as labour market reform and reform of Harz IV, were for many party members too liberal. That was the case for the popular minister of finance, Oskar Lafontaine. Due to the fact that party was in the time of the left coalition responsible for European policy, the party's profile regarding European issues changed significantly. However, the foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, was leader of Greens. The support of supranational integration has shifted between the CDU and the SPD. The SPD does not emphasize the role of economic integration as much as the CDU or FPD, but the party leads the discussion on the supranational integration of the EU’s social dimension.
Election manifesto 2005, election manifesto 2009
This election manifesto has three main concerns: EU policy, orientated towards supranational integration; support for integration of immigrants into German society; and emphasis on German unity and culture. In the paragraphs below, each of these will be described.
The party supports tax harmonization and common rules for social affairs as well. The SPD claims social harmonisation can prevent the rise of nationalism in the EU. Another reason for harmonisation is to avoid a social dumping in the EU that could lead to misuse of the social system in particular EU member states. Although the party supports the supranational spirit, a greater role should be given to the German language. In this sense, the party supports the extension of the German system of governance to the European level. The manifesto does not specify any policy field for the enactment of this however. Foreign policy must be based on the promotion of human rights and the “export of stability”. In this respect, the EU enlargement process should continue. Although the SPD does not specify the countries involved in the enlargement, the manifesto stresses good relations with Russia that will led to democratization.
The SPD emphasizes the integration of immigrants living in Germany and refuses any proposals aimed at restricting immigration. These immigrants must be integrated into society, for instance through the use of the German language as an instrument of integration. Therefore, parallel societies should not be allowed to develop. Every new generation of incoming migrants should be represented in the education system. The SPD supports education of Islam through the media of the German language. In this sense, SPD strongly encourages the integration of women.
Similarly to the CDU, culture is understood as an element of identity-building.
Considering the global crisis, it is not surprising that SPD stress its traditional values in this manifesto, including as an emphasis on social justice, basic social standards etc. The proposal regarding social issues includes also the European level. Similarly to the 2005 election manifesto, the SPD supports the supranational integration of social and tax affairs. In the 2009 election manifesto, the party claims that besides economic and monetary union, there must be a comparable social, tax, labour, and environmental protection union. The party claims that the EU will become more social if German EU policy adopts that tone. However, at the same time, the SPD claims that some features of German decision making process should be transferred to the EU level. Foreign policy is slightly more pacifist than in the previous manifesto. Social democrats claim that Germany has an aggressive foreign policy and opposes the idea of an EU battle group. The positive attitude towards spreading of European and German values is detectable in support for EU enlargement. The party claims that positive developments in Poland and in the Czech Republic bring benefits for Germany as well.
The integration policy of the SPD is very liberal in substance: it proposes granting of German citizenship to all German-born children. The manifesto shows a significant shift in terms of acknowledgement of the languages of immigrants. However, the German language is still perceived as a tool for successful integration. The SPD confirms that Germany remains a country which is friendly to immigration and integration. Social diversity is perceived as a positive feature. Generally, the party supports immigration mainly because of economic interests.
The party undertook a significant individual values shift, supporting any kind of cohabitation arrangements regardless gender or race. Family is no longer understood as the cohabitation of a man and a woman. The emphasis on German culture as an identity building tool remains unchanged.
Election manifesto 2013
The 2013 election manifesto confirmed the 2009 SPD’s shift in European as well as in integration policy and elaborates on some of the previous proposals. The party tried to avoid another deep election defeat as in the 2009 election. The Greens helped the SPD in that they shifted their manifesto significantly to the left. Therefore, the SDP did not propose any new policies or become ideologically adventurous. Most policies follow previous manifestos quite closely.
European policy follows the path set by previous manifestos in the main, while elaborating on social integration, which is the most relevant issue for the SPD. It proposes that the civic integration of the EU must be expanded significantly to protect citizens’ rights. For instance, a common EU cultural policy should be constituted. The roles and competences of the EU institutions (namely the European Parliament and the European Commission) should be broadened. Also, the political parties should put forward European wide candidates for the 2014 European Parliament Election. The manifesto mentions the quest for transnational democracy in the EU. Unfortunately, the manifesto does not go into great detail on what this might mean. Proposals to weaken German political and decision making are evident, even in the case of the common currency. However, the manifesto makes no mention of some key issues, such as Eurobonds. The SPD still considers the EU enlargement process as a way of spreading European ideas and the accession of Turkey is supported. Cooperation with Russia is based on the principle of modernisation: the more the EU cooperates with Russia, the more it will be modernised. However, there is a slight shift in this respect: the party does not mention democratization but modernisation.
Cultural and social diversity is understood positively, as is social inclusion. The SPD supports the effective integration of immigrants and argues that education should be accessible to all children living in Germany. Contrary to previous manifestos, the party supports dual citizenship and the right to automatic citizenship for children born in Germany. Immigrants having permanent residence in local municipalities should be granted voting rights in local elections as well.