It’s quiet in Germany. School’s out, Chancellor Angela Merkel is on vacation and the country is recovering from the latest government crisis.
So where is everybody? Judging from my Instagram account, some Germans are hiking the Alps, or visiting temples in Myanmar. But Germany’s summertime soul is in its Kleingärten — literally “small gardens.” That’s where we are. That’s what we are. And that’s where you can see the country change.
This being Germany, what counts as a Kleingarten is defined in the “Bundeskleingartengesetz,” or “Federal Small Garden Law”: A Kleingarten (“Kleingärten” in the plural) is a garden of no more than 400 square meters that is used for noncommercial subsistence gardening and recreation; it must be part of an agglomeration of at least five gardens that also encompasses communal areas and facilities, the Federal Court of Justice has ruled.… Seguir leyendo »
Europe breathed a sigh of relief late Monday night when, at just after 10 p.m., Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats and the heads of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to the Christian Democrats, declared they had reached a compromise on migration policy. The fight, in which the Bavarians demanded a significant tightening of Germany’s borders against refugees, had gone on for weeks and threatened, at the end, to take down the government.
Had Ms. Merkel fallen, even temporarily, the European Union would have lost one of its last stalwart advocates — at a time when the forces of illiberalism are growing even stronger.… Seguir leyendo »
A brutal murder case has gripped Germany: On June 6 the body of a 14-year-old girl, Susanna Maria Feldmann, was found in Wiesbaden. She had been raped and strangled. Two days later her alleged assailant, Ali Bashar, a 20-year-old asylum seeker from Iraq, was apprehended in Iraqi Kurdistan, where he had fled. He reportedly confessed to the murder.
The case is just the latest in a string of murders and assaults by asylum seekers against women in Germany. In October 2016, Maria Ladenburger, a 19-year-old university student, was raped and killed by an Afghan asylum seeker. In December 2017, Mia Valentin, a 15-year-old girl, was stabbed to death in a drugstore by her ex-boyfriend, an Afghan migrant.… Seguir leyendo »
After years of Angela Merkel’s formless centrism and the rise of the far right, is German conservatism making a comeback? Last Saturday the Werteunion, or Union of Values, met in the small town of Schwetzingen, near Heidelberg, to adopt what its members called the “conservative manifesto.” Their mission: taking back their party from Ms. Merkel’s faction and redirecting it to its traditional, conservative roots.
The Werteunion was founded in March 2017, but the event in Schwetzingen, the group’s first national meeting, was also the first time most people in Germany had heard of it. Whether it gains traction, and whether its principles change as it grows, remain to be seen.… Seguir leyendo »
After both right- and left-wing populist parties won big in elections this month, Italy is probably headed for a long, tedious effort to form a government; odds are it will include one of them. In Berlin, the Alternative for Germany, known by its German abbreviation AfD, is already sitting in the Bundestag. Across Europe, populists have complicated the political game, which makes the question of how to contain them an even more pressing one — not least in the national legislatures. Germany might have some answers.
On Oct. 24, a month after the general election gave the AfD enough votes to enter the legislature for the first time, the 19th German Bundestag met for its opening session.… Seguir leyendo »
You have probably never heard of Kevin Kühnert, the 28-year-old head of the Social Democratic Party’s youth organization. But he recently burst into the news after leading an internal revolt against his party’s plans to enter a “grand coalition” with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party.
The revolt is likely to fail; coalition talks will wrap up this weekend. But remember Mr. Kühnert — if he loses the battle, he and his generation may yet win the war over the future of German politics.
Much has been written about the public’s growing fatigue with Ms. Merkel and about the chancellor’s own fatigue with her position atop the German government.… Seguir leyendo »
It has been almost a year since Donald Trump took office, and Germany is still debating what, exactly, his administration means for Europe. Is Mr. Trump just a hiccup in the American political system or an indicator of a chronic disease? Will the trans-Atlantic relationship ever be the same again or is it time Germany and Europe prepared for a post-Atlantic era? But rather than providing insight into the future of the United States, the debate is turning into a Freudian analysis of Germany’s own troubles.
It started in May, when Chancellor Angela Merkel, shocked by Mr. Trump’s first visit to Europe as president, said that “the times we can fully rely on others are somewhat over” and that Europe had to become more self-reliant.… Seguir leyendo »
It was the most preposterous mic drop in German history. On Sunday night, after 56 days of four-party talks on forming a coalition government, the pro-business Free Democratic Party abruptly pulled out of the negotiations, effectively ending them.
Germany’s parliamentary democracy is a system with compromise in its DNA — so when Germans awoke to the news Monday morning, they were shocked. Such a failure is a challenge to Germany’s new role in the world. And it is yet another example of the dangerous political absolutism sweeping the world’s democracies.
In the national election of Sept. 24, six parties earned enough votes to get seated in the Bundestag — most notably, the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party, known as AfD.… Seguir leyendo »
Ever since Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats lost five million voters to the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany in September, mainstream German conservatives have been in a panic. This is not just the usual blame game after a major electoral setback. It’s a long-simmering crisis finally boiling over — and Ms. Merkel is at the heart of it.
The past decades have put conservatism in Germany to an existential test. The grand currents of contemporary history in the Western world have smashed the shrine of its principles. Globalization and migration challenged the Christian Democrats’ embrace of a German “Leitkultur,” the notion that there is a single, coherent “leading culture.” Urbanization has threatened its traditional rural strongholds.… Seguir leyendo »
Sunday was a dark day for Germany. For the first time in its postwar history, a far-right party won enough votes to enter the Bundestag. And not by a hair, either — the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, won 12.6 percent, ahead of stalwart parties like the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats, making it the third-largest caucus among the seven represented in the Parliament. It’s shocking. It’s a catastrophe.
And yet Sunday was also a great day for Germany. It was a demonstration of the stability and health of the country’s postwar democracy. It was proof that its system is resilient in a crisis.… Seguir leyendo »
To many Germans, the violence in Charlottesville, Va., this month and the American president’s reaction to it came as a shock. Even those who have come to expect little of Donald Trump — he’s a uniquely unpopular figure among Germans — were aghast. “It’s racist, far-right violence, and that requires determined and forceful resistance no matter where in the world it appears,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
What a strange moment, when the German chancellor lectures the American president on how to deal with neo-Nazis. But it’s also an instructive one, in that it highlights how the two countries deal with extremism.… Seguir leyendo »
Believe it or not, there was a time when German politicians were cool. There was Helmut Schmidt, the 1970s chancellor, packing up the sails of his boat, sleeves rolled up, his face roughened by the wind, tobacco and the Cold War. But that was then; in the decades since, the country has been run by stolid men and women — and, until lately, we’ve been fine with that. For good reason, Germans have a certain allergy to political charisma.
But then came a new crop of stylish world leaders — Barack Obama, first, and now Justin Trudeau of Canada and Emmanuel Macron of France.… Seguir leyendo »
There are only nine weeks to go until Germany elects a new Parliament on Sept. 24, and with it, the next chancellor. Right now our eyes are on Angela Merkel, the incumbent, and Martin Schulz, her left-wing challenger. But we’re also watching another player in the campaign, one who has been suspiciously quiet so far: Russia.
It’s long been assumed that Russian hackers would attack Germany’s elections, just as they attacked those of its two closest allies, the United States and France. And it wouldn’t be the first time that Germany got hacked: In May 2015 hackers stole data from 16 members of the Bundestag, or Parliament, including Mrs.… Seguir leyendo »
Can you begin a debate and miss out on it at the same time? Consider the topic of the moment among Germany’s political class — whether the country has a “Leitkultur,” or guiding national culture, or whether it is a truly multicultural nation.
The “debate” began last Sunday, when the conservative German minister of the interior, Thomas de Maizière, published an op-ed essay in the newspaper Bild. In the article, Mr. de Maizière asks what constitutes being German, besides the German language and the German Constitution. Mr. de Maizière is decidedly pro-Leitkultur, both as a description of how Germany is and how it should continue to be.… Seguir leyendo »
In a way, Elke Büdenbender is the exact opposite of Melania Trump. Being married to Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the new German head of state, she has given up her job as a judge at the Berlin Administrative Court to fully devote her time to the job of first lady. Mrs. Trump, on the contrary, refuses to be first lady, in order to, well, to continue to do pretty much nothing.
Still, however different the two women may be, Germany is having the same discussion as the United States: Are we still in for a first lady in the 21st century? Is a first housewife still an appropriate representative of the nation we are?… Seguir leyendo »
Who is president of the United States: the Republican Donald Trump or the anti-European populist Donald Trump? To Germany, this is an essential question. The Republican Trump is expected to stick to the close trans-Atlantic relationship that is key to Germany’s prosperity and security. The populist Trump has the potential to pull the rug right out from under us.
There’s evidence for both. Mr. Trump regularly rails against Brussels and NATO, but his surrogates in Europe have made an extra effort to dismiss it all as just talk and to emphasize the administration’s continued commitment to the Continent.
We’ll get a much better idea of which President Trump is really in charge on March 14, when Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany pays her first visit to the new administration.… Seguir leyendo »
It has been almost a week since a truck plowed through a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring dozens. In the following days, the city, the country — all of Europe — were gripped by the Continentwide manhunt for the suspect, Anis Amri, who was shot and killed by the Italian police on Friday.
As I try to get ready for the holidays — to keep things normal — I find myself anxiously looking for signs of how my fellow Berliners are handling it all. When I wait at the train station, I wonder if the people next to me are scanning the platform.… Seguir leyendo »
She’s running again. Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that she will once again lead her party, the center-right Christian Democrats, in Germany’s national election next September. If the party wins, she will capture a fourth term, running a country increasingly rived by populism and xenophobia.
But in starting the battle, she has also, in a way, called it off. Hillary Clinton made her campaign about defending America against the evils of populism and retrograde nationalism; Ms. Merkel will pretend there is no such war. As her campaign, just a week old, has already made clear, she will do everything she can to avoid standing against ideologies, or for them.… Seguir leyendo »
Perhaps it was inevitable that as Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, continued his authoritarian course, relations with his Western European neighbors would worsen. Unfortunately, he’s managing to ruin not just his own relationships with other governments, but also the Turkish-German community’s relationship with the rest of their country.
In recent weeks, many policy makers have audibly changed their tone in addressing German Turks and those who claim to represent them in Germany, culminating in a harsh statement from Chancellor Angela Merkel in late August. “We expect from people of Turkish descent who have been living in Germany for a long time to develop a high level of loyalty toward our country,” she said in an interview.… Seguir leyendo »
Four attacks in a week have left Germany anxious. On July 18, a teenage refugee attacked passengers on a train near Würzburg with an ax and a knife. Three days later, an 18-year-old shot and killed nine people in Munich. And two days after that, a Syrian refugee killed his girlfriend and co-worker at a kebab shop in Reutlingen, a few hours before another Syrian refugee detonated a bomb in Ansbach, killing himself and wounding 15.
In terms of motivation, the attacks came from all directions. The Würzburg and Ansbach attackers claimed allegiance to the Islamic State, while the Munich killer said he wanted to copy the Norwegian right-wing extremist and mass murderer Anders Breivik.… Seguir leyendo »