Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is on her way out. After almost 15 years in office, the pandemic is likely to be her last great challenge. It could also be the one that seals her legacy: The virus has reconciled Germany to its chancellor.
Before the virus struck, Ms. Merkel’s final term was not going well. Though the chancellor had somewhat recovered from the unpopularity and even open hatred she faced during the migration crisis in 2015 and 2016, her party — the Christian Democratic Union — lost ground in the 2017 election and was falling in the polls.
In October 2018, after crushing defeats in regional elections, Ms.… Seguir leyendo »
For good reason: The curve has flattened. The number of people newly infected each day is stable. The absolute number of deaths and the fatality rate remain low compared to other countries. And the reproduction factor — a key metric to measure the virus’s spread — hovers around one, meaning that on average, one infected person infects only one other person. The first wave of the virus has passed. Germany, cautiously, is reopening.
But as it gradually eases up, opening shops, schools and even museums, the country is learning a tough lesson: The way out is much harder than the way in.… Seguir leyendo »
Europe is in crisis.
Countries across the Continent are in lockdown. Borders are closed off. Health care systems are dangerously overstretched. Economies are contracting. And people are dying, in terrifying numbers.
Here is much the same. Though not in full lockdown, schools, shops, restaurants and theaters are closed; gatherings of more than two people are banned. The economy will shrink and jobs will be lost. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel self-quarantined after learning that her doctor was infected. (She tested negative.) Germany, it seems, is not immune to the ravages of the pandemic.
Except in one way: Very few people seem to be dying.… Seguir leyendo »
If you don’t happen to be a foreign policy wonk, you’ve probably never heard of Instex, the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges. The company, set up by Germany, France and Britain in January 2019, was supposed to enable trade between Europe and Iran in defiance of United States sanctions. Now, a year later, the first transaction is just about to be processed, according to the German Foreign Office.
All this may sound technical, and, well, wonky. I can already see you wondering: Should I really make the effort to keep reading this column? But it really is worth taking a closer look at Instex and its foibles.… Seguir leyendo »
Last month, Tesla announced it would be building a “giga-factory” just outside Berlin. The factory will create as many as 8,000 jobs and crank out up to 150,000 cars every year.
Two weeks after the Tesla announcement, Audi made an announcement of its own — albeit a less cheerful one. While Elon Musk and company are ramping up, Audi will be paring back, cutting 9,500 jobs in Germany between now and 2025.
These two pieces of news seem to confirm a narrative that is gaining traction. It goes like this: Germany has failed to embrace the future. It has been complacent for too long, economically and politically, coasting on former glories.… Seguir leyendo »
Is this city, the former capital of communist East Germany, returning to socialism, this time in both parts of the once divided city? From the tenor of the increasingly anxious debate around Berlin’s housing crisis, it certainly seems so: On June 14, activists handed the Berlin Senate a petition with 77,000 signatures calling for the local government to take over the large companies that control a major portion of the city’s housing stock, the first step toward a public referendum on the proposal. A few days later, the Senate advanced a separate proposal that would put a complete halt to rent increases for five years.… Seguir leyendo »
If there is one lesson to be learned from the recent European parliamentary elections in Germany, it’s this: The era of the big-tent parties is over. Both governing parties, the center-right Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats, who are currently in a grand coalition under the lead of Chancellor Angela Merkel, suffered significant losses. The Christian Democrats won just 22.6 percent of the vote, a whopping 7.5 percentage points off their results in the last European elections, in 2014. The Social Democrats fared even worse, dropping to 15.8 percent, an 11.6 point drop. Voters from both parties flocked to the Greens, who came in second for the first time in a national election.… Seguir leyendo »
Times are rough for the European Union. The news coming from Britain grows more depressing every day. Italy is governed by a maverick government searching for an open confrontation with France. Hungary and Poland are slowly slipping into authoritarianism. And we are headed for a European election in May that could result in further gains by populist parties.
It is tempting, then, to see a ray of hope in an agreement by Germany and France, announced on Friday, for a eurozone budget, which the two countries will present to their fellow member states. Maybe, after years of delay, Paris and Berlin are finally taking the initiative to reverse Europe’s seemingly unstoppable, slow-motion disintegration.… Seguir leyendo »
As the trade impasse between the United States and China grinds on, the rest of the world is reduced to being anxious bystanders — and nowhere are leaders more anxious than here in Germany.
Over the last decade, Germany, the largest economy in Europe but still a middle power by global standards, has steadily adapted itself to the realities of Chinese economic dominance. We have welcomed Chinese investment, and encouraged our companies to play by Beijing’s rules to get access to its markets. At the same time, Germany has remained a stalwart member of the Western political and security alliance.
The geopolitical tumult of the last six months has led to a strategic awakening among Germany’s leaders of the risks involved in trying to play both sides.… Seguir leyendo »
On Friday Germany’s Christian Democratic Union, meeting in Hamburg, elected Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to succeed Angela Merkel as the center-right party’s leader. Given the party’s dominant — if recently weakened — position in German politics, Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer will also succeed Ms. Merkel as chancellor by 2021 at the latest.
Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer — or AKK, as she is often called, because even German tongues stumble over that name — won in a tight race against two other candidates: Friedrich Merz, who returned to the political stage after a decade of absence, and the youthful conservative minister of health, Jens Spahn.
Neither of AKK’s contenders would have radically changed Germany’s role in Europe or the world; nor will she.… Seguir leyendo »
It’s happening: the beginning of the end of the Angela Merkel era. On Monday, Ms. Merkel, the three-term German chancellor, announced she was stepping down from the chairmanship of the center-right Christian Democratic Union party, and that she would not run for re-election in 2021.
The news was not a total shock: Germans have been alternately praying for, and fearing, such an announcement since the migration crisis of 2015. The question now is whether Ms. Merkel will last her full term; most likely, the grand coalition between her party and the center-left Social Democrats will collapse before the next election.
For Germany, this may prove to be a watershed moment.… Seguir leyendo »
On. Oct. 3, Germans celebrated Reunification Day, the moment when, 28 years ago, the former East and West Germany became one nation again. And yet this year, instead of celebrating our unity, there is a growing sense of estrangement. East and west are drifting apart again.
A few weeks ago, a young man was stabbed to death at a city festival in Chemnitz, a city in eastern Germany; afterward two asylum seekers were arrested in connection with the attack. Large demonstrations broke out around the city, dominated at times by hundreds of right-wing extremists. Some raised their hands in the Hitler salute; journalists and counterdemonstrators were verbally and physically attacked; a mob threw stones at the owner of a Jewish restaurant.… Seguir leyendo »
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 »