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'Germany is Sweden's most important EU ally post-Brexit'

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'Germany is Sweden's most important EU ally post-Brexit'
Stefan Löfven and Angela Merkel in Stockholm earlier this year. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
07:59 CEST+02:00
OPINION: As Britain leaves the European Union, Sweden must turn its gaze towards Germany, writes communications expert Magnus Ehrenberg.

Angela Merkel will, as expected, stay on as Chancellor of Germany for the next four years.

The German election results have been referred to as an earthquake. Merkel's centre-right CDU and Bavarian sister party CSU won only around 33 percent of votes, which is the worst result in many years.

CSU lost the most ground. Merkel's main opponent, SPD, got 20.5 percent. That was the party's worst result ever.

Right-wing populist AfD got around 13 percent and became the country's third largest party, followed by the liberal FDP with 10.7 percent. Left-wing extremist party Die Linke got 9.2 percent and the Green Party 8.9 percent of the total vote.

Coalition negotiations are about to start. It will in all likelihood result in a so-called Jamaica coalition consisting of FDP, The Green and CDU/CSU. Germany is going to change.

THE LOCAL GERMANY: Everything you need to know about the German election

But what does the election mean for Sweden and European cooperation? First and foremost, political stability in Europe and a strong German economy is of great importance to Sweden. Germany is Sweden's most important trade partner and represents around ten percent of Swedish exports and 17 percent of imports.

Even if Merkel is forced to lead from a weaker position and in a more complex domestic political landscape, the voters have not rejected Germany's fundamentally trade-friendly economic policies. That is positive for Sweden.

For the past 70 years, Germany has been the engine of the EU. The country will remain in that position after the election. But great plans to strengthen the Eurozone – proposed by the EU Commission and French President Emmanuel Macron – will run into problems.

READ ALSO: Macron confident German government won't oppose EU reforms

Macron is not likely to find much sympathy in Berlin for changing the current Eurozone's rescue fund to a more flexible financial-political tool, as long as new funds are not supplied by countries other than Germany.

The bid for a Eurozone finance minister could also become a point of contention between Berlin and Paris. The FDP has been very clear in its rejection of the proposal to use German money to limit other countries' budget deficits and bad financial-political discipline.

However, Brexit strengthens the French-German engine and a process of EU reforms in the Eurozone gets underway. That's why this is a definitive moment not just for the EU as a whole, but also for the Swedish-German relationship. Angela Merkel is the best leader for Germany and the EU for the difficult negotiations of the coming years about the future of Europe.

READ ALSO: Sweden and Germany emphasize 'shared values'

Sweden will lose a close ally and important partner in the EU when the UK exits the union. Sweden now has to choose a path in the new, likely more tightly-knit, Euro community. Without a doubt, Sweden will have to build stronger bridges with Berlin when the Brits leave.

This shift has been a long time coming, but among the wider public a recognition of Germany's great importance to Sweden is still missing. Far too few young people learn German in school and our eyes are still turned towards the UK and the US.

But recent years have shown that Sweden's interests and future to an increasing degree should be aligned with Germany. That's why our focus has to be on Berlin to a higher degree in the coming years. In the new government in France, almost half of the ministers speak German. What is the score in Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's government?

Germany will now become Sweden's most important ally in the EU and Sweden should see this as an opportunity to influence the EU in a direction which boosts increased economic integration, which in turn would benefit the Swedish business industry.

Delivering financial results for the citizens can alone increase support for the European project. Now, more than ever, we need results.

Magnus Ehrenberg runs an international communications firm with offices in Scandinavia and Germany. This is a translation of an opinion piece first published by Sydsvenskan.

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