Christian Democratic Union (Christlich-Demokratische Union - CDU)

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is the biggest catch-all party in the German political system. Although the party had to react to the weakening of Christianity in society and growing demands for secularisation, it has returned to being the largest party in the German political system since the 2005 general election. The party incorporated new political and societal challenges such as immigration, the role of Islam in Germany, and even homosexual partnerships (the so-called “Homoehe”). Angela Merkel’s political style is consensual, aiming to shape mainstream public discourse. The 2005, 2009, and 2013 election victories showed that this leadership style is very successful in a consensus-based society such as Germany. This has been demonstrated in the case of the CDU’s profile with respect to issues of national identity and values. Although the analysis covers only the last decade (since 2005), it is evident that party softened its Christian image and its attitudes towards immigration. Possible explanations might include the Merkel leadership. As some opponents have noted, Merkel does not offer any philosophical or social vision, as Helmut Kohl did. As regards issues related to national identity  one might get impression that the party is driven by social demands rather than attempting to actively shape society. Therefore, issues such as gender equality, quotas for women, or integration of immigrants were incorporated into the CDU manifestos.

Election gains
  2005 2009 EP 2009 2013 EP 2014
votes 35,2 33,8 30.7% 41,5 35.3%
seats 226 239 34 311 34

Election manifesto 2005

The manifesto reflects seven years of government by a coalition of the SPD and the Greens. During the election campaign the CDU was expected to win but the final result was not as good as analysts thought it would be. The 2005 manifesto is the result of a consolidation phase between 1998 and 2002 election and reflects changes the left coalition made, especially in the fields of immigration policy and gender equality.

Although the CDU supports supranational integration, the manifesto holds that German European policy should reflect national interests as well. The shift away from deep support for supranational integration is evident. The CDU mentions that the influence of the EU on Germany is not entirely positive. At the same time, the party supports the substantial participation of national parliaments in decision-making processes within the EU. In this respect, it argues that the subsidiarity principle should be strengthened. In general terms, the CDU understands Germany’s role within the EU as a very important one. The party opposes Turkish membership of the EU; offering instead a privileged partnership. The foreign policy with regard to Russia should be based on open cooperation; allowing Russia to be Europeanised. The foreign policy also asserts support for Israel, although detailed justification for this position is missing.

The CDU values national unity, mentioning the German collective identity and the strengthening of patriotism; in German called Vaterland.  The German economy is perceived as a unifying tool for the whole society. Although the party speaks about German unity, the term 'nation' is used rarely. This unity is alluded to through use of expressions like 'culture' and 'economy'. The party perceives Germany as a nation of culture; it is important component of national identity. Christianity, on the other hand, is mentioned only in general terms.

As stated above, the CDU’s position vis à vis immigration policy has changed significantly. The party stress the openness of Germany towards immigrants regardless of their origin while respecting the human rights of minorities in the country. Indeed, the party speaks about “people of immigrant origin”, much as left parties’ do.

Using the term 'national culture' as a unifying factor, alongside the perceptions of European politics outlined above, mean that this manifesto can be categorised as 'homogenising'.

Election manifesto 2009

The 2009 election manifesto strengthened some core issues relevant to national identity in comparison to the 2005 manifesto. The statements regarding European policy give a good example of this. The party proposes efficiency in the enforcement of national interests in the EU. German best practice in decision making process and in monetary policy should be enacted also on the EU level. This constitutes a significant strengthening both of national identity perception and in the understanding of the German role within the EU.  The CDU proposes the idea that the European Central Bank should be governed according to the same principles as the German central bank. Although the CDU still affirms its commitment to supranational integration, it is evident that its understanding of the German role in the EU shifted between 2005 and 2009. As an example, the CDU supports a greater role for the German language within the Institutions.

The perception of culture and economy as fostering unity is very similar to the previous manifesto. However, the references to collective German identity are slightly more robust; particularly when speaking about strengthening ties or encouraging love of the homeland in times of crisis. At the same time, the party softened its attitude to immigrants. Germany is perceived as an opened country to all foreigners; however, the term 'foreigners' is used. The CDU supports full social integration of immigrants to avoid any kind of parallel societies. On the other hand, the party refuses to give voting rights to immigrants; and those that do not respect rules and norms of Germany will expelled. Contrary to the 2005 election manifesto, the party stresses Christianity as a values-based system for individuals and for society as a whole and supports reference to Christian values in the European treaties. Surprisingly, the participation of Islam in German society is mentioned explicitly.

Germany’s role in European policy means that also this manifesto is categorised as 'homogenising', although some elements have been softened.

Election manifesto 2013

The manifesto for the 2013 general election weakened reference to national identity. In the field of European policy the manifesto reflects the turbulent developments in the Eurozone between 2009 and 2013, referring to the common currency as the strongest currency in Europe but opposing the introduction of Eurobonds. Although the party still has the commitment to supranational integration “in its DNA” explicit mentions of this are missing.

Stability is a main feature of the manifesto and the CDU stresses it several times, for instance with regard to the economy, foreign policy and European policy. The party emphasises German commitment to the world by using the army as tool for peace. The issue of immigration is missing completely. Instead, the party asserts the importance of traditional values and its opposition to extremism. Germany is perceived as a country of ideas and this could constitute an element of social unity.

Due to the way in which the manifesto discusses national identity related issues, it is very hard to categorise. Nonetheless, the spirit of previous manifestos is still present.