Alemania

La última vez que estuve en Weimar, en diciembre de 2014, experimenté una aguda sensación al visitar de nuevo el lugar donde se aprobó, hace cien años, la primera constitución democrática de Alemania. Frente al Teatro Nacional, unas pobres bombillas de feria coronaban las augustas cabezas de Goethe y Schiller, eternizados en su apuesto gesto. Se preparaba la Navidad de forma más que humilde, mínima. Sobre la plaza, en una pista improvisada, los niños jugaban en una especie de cercado. Aprovechando las vallas, justo delante de la estatua de los grandes genios, la mutua de salud AOK Plus había extendido sus pancartas, exhortando a los ciudadanos a hacerse socios.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una economía en tren de debilitarse ha reavivado un antiguo debate: ¿Alemania necesita un alivio impositivo tangible para su fuerza laboral y sus empresas de manera de seguir siendo competitiva internacionalmente? ¿O los impuestos deberían aumentar para que haya más fondos para programas sociales e inversión pública?

Los impuestos más altos generan más espacio para el gasto gubernamental, mientras que los impuestos más bajos limitan la capacidad de gasto del Estado. La elección entre estas dos opciones es una cuestión política. Pero una estrategia general que podría obtener apoyo de distintos partidos en Alemania sería garantizar que el porcentaje de la producción económica requerido por el sector público ni aumente ni disminuya en el mediano plazo.…  Seguir leyendo »

German Greens holding cards reading, “Let’s Go!” at a party gathering. The Greens have been enjoying near-record support in recent surveys. Credit Jan Woitas/DPA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

They call Bavaria the Texas of Germany, and not only for its beautiful countryside and roaring economy. Like Texas, Bavaria has been historically divided politically, with traditionally minded conservatives in its small towns and liberals and progressives in its cities.

That is, until state elections last year. The center-right Christian Social Union held onto power, though its grip slipped, while the center-left Social Democrats were nearly wiped out in Bavaria’s cities. The Social Democrats have weakened everywhere lately, so their catastrophic showing in Bavaria wasn’t a surprise. The shock was who replaced them: the Greens.

The rise of the Greens — they have a nearly 20 percent support in recent polls, close to a record high — is not unique among the country’s smaller parties.…  Seguir leyendo »

As exasperation grows in Europe about U.S. leadership of the Atlantic alliance, France has taken the bold and unprecedented step of pledging to extend its nuclear deterrent to cover German territory in the case of armed aggression.

The French action comes as perhaps the strongest signal yet that European governments are reevaluating basic defense doctrines that have underpinned the Western alliance for the past 70 years. Senior officials in France and Germany say Europe needs new security concepts that address the rise of China, the return of Russia as a belligerent actor and the disengagement of the United States.

The implicit French promise is contained in a 16-page treaty signed in the town of Aachen, Germany, last month by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Emmanuel Macron of France speaking at the German Bundestag in November. Credit Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto, via Getty Images

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 »

El presidente norteamericano, Donald Trump, ha demostrado ser verdaderamente disruptivo en la relación transatlántica. Su cuestionamiento de los compromisos de defensa mutua de Estados Unidos pone a la OTAN frente a una crisis agorera y potencialmente existencial. La garantía de seguridad de Estados Unidos, después de todo, es uno de los dos pilares sobre los cuales ha descansado la paz y la prosperidad europea desde el fin de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Y Trump tampoco ha perdonado el segundo pilar: el sistema de comercio global y el orden económico basados en reglas.

Apenas dos años después de la elección de Trump, los europeos descubren que están temblando solos en los vientos helados de la política internacional, preguntándose, y con razón, qué hay que hacer.…  Seguir leyendo »

Alemania está por romper con su adicción al carbón. El año pasado, el gobierno creó una “comisión de carbón” de 28 miembros –integrada por científicos, políticos, activistas medioambientales, sindicatos y representantes de servicios públicos- con el mandato poco envidiable de decidir cuándo el país se volvería limpio. Luego de sopesar consideraciones pragmáticas y reconocer la realidad del cambio climático, la comisión ahora ha fijado el año 2038 como el plazo límite para llegar a un nivel de carbón cero, con un inicio del retiro inmediato.

El Wall Street Journal lo describe como la “política energética más tonta del mundo”. En verdad, el giro adoptado por Alemania es vital y viene con mucho retraso.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chancellor Angela Merkl of Germany casting a ballot at the Bundestag earlier this month.CreditCreditFilip Singer/EPA, via Shutterstock

Women in Germany won the right to vote in 1918, but a century later they still do not enjoy equal representation. Though the country is led by a woman — who will, most likely, be succeeded by another woman — fewer than a third of the members of the federal Parliament, the Bundestag, are female.

That’s why leading figures from all major German parties are now calling for parity: a 50-50 quota for male and female representatives in the Bundestag and the 16 state-level Parliaments. But is achieving a gender balance in Germany’s legislatures worth weakening another hard-fought accomplishment, the right to free electoral choice?…  Seguir leyendo »

Angela Merkel at a cabinet meeting last week.CreditCreditTobias Schwarz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The day after the British Parliament voted down a deal on Brexit, with political instability dominating international headlines, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany sat down for a 45-minute interview with a journalist from the German newspaper Die Zeit.

They didn’t talk about Britain, however, or the future of Europe or even really about German politics. Instead, Ms. Merkel gave a rare and candid account of her experience as a female politician, her thoughts on feminism and how she has been shaped by her gender. It was her first time broaching the topic at such length in more than 13 years as chancellor.…  Seguir leyendo »

La reciente firma del Tratado de Aquisgrán nos invita a reflexionar sobre cómo ha evolucionado la relación franco-germana en Europa desde que ambos países adoptaran por primera vez un pacto de amistad bilateral, el Tratado del Elíseo en 1963.

En esencia, el Tratado de Aquisgrán se plantea formar una Unión de Defensa Europea, lo cual no es una idea nueva. En años tan lejanos como 1950, se discutieron propuestas similares, cuando Estados Unidos se preparaba para entrar en la Guerra de Corea. Estados Unidos llamó a que Alemania Occidental se integrara a una nueva Comunidad de Defensa Europea. Pero en 1954 el Parlamento francés, temiendo volverse demasiado dependiente de los estadounidenses, rechazó la formación de una unión defensiva bajo el Plan Pleven y el Tratado de París.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Xi Jinping of China and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany with a military honor guard in Beijing last month. German leaders have recently become more worried about the risks of having China as a business partner.CreditCreditFred Dufour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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 »

Armin-Paulus Hampel, a former journalist and commentator who now is a member of the Bundestag, is ebullient, affable, opinionated, voluble and excellent company at lunch. But because his party is Alternative for Germany (AfD), one wonders whether he is representative of it, and whether he is as congenial politically as he is socially.

AfD is a Rorschach test for observers of German politics, who see in it either a recrudescence of ominous national tendencies or a healthy response of the political market to unaddressed anxieties. It was founded in 2013, two years before Chancellor Angela Merkel impulsively decided to welcome almost 1 million asylum seekers, most from the Middle East.…  Seguir leyendo »

In one of contemporary history’s intriguing caroms, European politics just now is a story of how one decision by a pastor’s dutiful daughter has made life miserable for a vicar’s dutiful daughter. Two of the world’s most important conservative parties are involved in an unintended tutorial on a cardinal tenet of conservatism, the law of unintended consequences, which is that the unintended consequences of decisions in complex social situations are often larger than, and contrary to, those intended.

In 2015, Angela Merkel, the Federal Republic of Germany’s first chancellor from what was East Germany, chose to welcome into Germany about 1 million people — many of them Syrians — fleeing Middle Eastern carnage.…  Seguir leyendo »

La política del Brexit está sumergiéndose en el caos. La Unión Europea se está fragmentando en tribus del norte, del sur, del este y del oeste. Y ahora el matrimonio franco-alemán en el centro del proyecto europeo corre peligro de desmoronarse.

En mayo de 2017, cuando la canciller alemana, Angela Merkel, y el flamante presidente francés, Emmanuel Macron, se reunieron por primera vez, muchos esperaban una renovación de los votos. Multitudes de personas pro-europeas les deseaban lo mejor y los instaban a continuar. Macron, el reformista lozano, parecía tener un toque político al estilo Midas. Y Merkel estaba en la cúspide de su poder en el escenario internacional: la habían catalogado como la nueva “líder del mundo libre”, en reemplazo del “genio muy estable” en la Casa Blanca, Donald Trump.…  Seguir leyendo »

Este de 2018 no ha sido un gran año para el centro. Por centro político me refiero a aquel estado que promete seguridad, orden, equilibro, ponderación… lo contrario del nerviosismo, agitación y desasosiego permanentes. Cualquier compromiso es centrista.

También el centro de una sociedad, su clase media, es un factor de estabilidad. Si a la clase media le va bien, si es nutrida y ancha, los extremos son tolerables, no llegan a suponer un peligro. Pero a la clase media ya no le va tan bien. Comienza a dudar de sí misma.

Tampoco el ritual de contemplar en retrospectiva el año que ha pasado es consolador.…  Seguir leyendo »

The new leader of the German Christian Democratic Union, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, on Saturday in Hamburg. She will succeed Angela Merkel.CreditCreditThomas Lohnes/Getty Images

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 »

Norbert Winzen at Garzweiler. Nov. 2018. (Sirio Magnabosco for The WorldPost)

Norbert Winzen remembers the winter they laid the cobblestones in the courtyard of his family’s farmhouse here in this small village. He was 12 years old, maybe 13. He and his brothers and sister scrubbed each and every one of the hundreds of heavy stones so their father could lay them in tidy rows. It was the kind of drudgery he despised as a kid but that he looks back on fondly as an adult, especially now that his family’s courtyard is going to be ripped up, the farmhouse torn down and his family unwillingly uprooted.

The Winzen farm and every house and field in Keyenberg sit atop a rich vein of lignite, a soft brown coal widely used to generate electricity in Germany and around the world.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany visiting the Hamburg Messe building this month.CreditCreditJohn Macdougall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Talk of succession is in the air. After 18 years, Angela Merkel is stepping down as chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union, Germany’s main ruling party since 2005. The party’s conference meets this week in Hamburg to decide her replacement. But whoever follows Ms. Merkel — for many, Europe’s de facto leader — will inherit a fractious party and, if Ms. Merkel is unwilling or unable to see out her chancellorship through to 2021, a fragmented country.

The stability (and even monotony) associated with German politics under Ms. Merkel appears to be coming to an end. Her looming retirement marks a deepening crisis of the German political system that threatens not just the future of the country, but of the European Union.…  Seguir leyendo »

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a joint news conference with the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, after a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, last month.CreditCreditMarkus Schreiber/Associated Press

What a springtime for Germany’s conservatives this fall has been. The Christian Democratic Union, the leading center-right party, should be suffering: After months of infighting with other conservatives, followed by steep losses in state elections, its leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, announced that she was stepping down from her post as the party’s longtime chairwoman. Instead, it is enjoying an internal revival.

Ms. Merkel’s decision has set off a race to replace her — three contenders will vie to head the party at a conference in Hamburg on Dec. 8. And for once, the race is about more than power, politics and personalities — it is about ideas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Germany is a peculiar country when it comes to good news about itself, too self-conscious and self-serious to accept anyone’s attempt to see it in a positive light. Every time a foreign newspaper writes about a German scientific achievement or the river surfers of Munich or the hipsters of Berlin, you can hear a low, collective moan: “We’re not cool,” it says. “We’re tragic!”

For years, the fear has been that anyone who tries to move beyond the country’s dark past is opening the door to a resurgence of far-right nationalism. But there are younger generations now, people who are fed up with German angst and pessimism and in utter need of 21st-century political leadership and debate.…  Seguir leyendo »