The collapse of Germany’s coalition talks is the latest shock to hit Europe. No one saw it coming. Of course the blow is of a different nature from the banking crisis, the war in Ukraine, the refugee crisis, Brexit, Trump, Poland and Hungary’s democratic backsliding, or Catalan secessionism. Germany’s politics look upended but the fundamentals are still in place: the postwar democratic set-up is hardly under threat. Still, this is rattling stuff. Europe’s powerhouse is in unknown political territory at a time when so much remains unresolved across the continent. And Germany’s political uncertainty means yet more uncertainty for the EU. Yet doomsayers shouldn’t assume that this crisis has to be fatal.
Tag Archives: Germany
Sometimes we in the West forget that our view of the world is just one among many that are possible. And that neither our understanding of human rights nor our adherence to liberal democracy are attractive across the globe. Is the Western way of life morally superior? And even if it were, is it the most constructive or effective way of organizing human societies?
Der Wahlsonntag zeigt: Es war und ist nicht damit getan, dass ein Bundespräsident – es war vor 32 Jahren Richard von Weizsäcker – den Tag des Endes des Zweiten Weltkriegs zum “Tag der Befreiung” erklärt. Die Befreiung von der Gesinnung, die vor achtzig Jahren in die Katastrophe geführt hat, ist nicht Aufgabe eines Tages, sondern Daueraufgabe. Sie ist ein Auftrag, kein Ritual. Und der Befreiungsauftrag darf nicht, wie das die AfD tut, umgedeutet werden in eine Befreiung von der Befreiung.Der Einzug der AfD als drittstärkste Kraft in den Bundestag ist ein historischer Rückschritt für die deutsche Gesellschaft. Sie kommt nach Auszählung aller Wahlkreise auf 12,6 Prozent. Bitter für die demokratische Kultur; ein Schlag gegen Artikel 1 Grundgesetz, der die Würde aller Menschen schützt, auch die der Flüchtlinge. Gewiss: Die große Mehrheit der Wähler steht anderswo, hat nicht AfD gewählt. Gleichwohl sind die AfD-Stimmen eine Niederlage für die Zivilität des Gemeinwesens.
Which living person has done most to destroy the natural world and the future wellbeing of humanity? Donald Trump will soon be the correct answer, when the full force of his havoc has been felt. But for now I would place another name in the frame: Angela Merkel.
We wanted to leave as soon as we heard the news. But back in that now impossibly distant era of fuel shortages, pointless regulations and bad roads, it was not so easy to drive a car from Warsaw to Berlin. By the time we arrived, it was the night of Nov. 10, 1989 — or rather, very early on the morning of the 11th. East Berlin was dark, lit only by eerie, orangey streetlights, and mostly silent. Without a map, we drove straight to the city center, through Checkpoint Charlie — the guard let us through, against the rules, after we shouted at him: “The Wall’s open, who cares about the rules?” — and arrived at the Brandenburg Gate.
LIKE vinyl records and popped collars, rows between the United States and Europe over Russian energy are making a comeback. In the early 1980s Ronald Reagan’s attempts to thwart a Soviet pipeline that would bring Siberian gas to Europe irritated the West Germans and drove the French to proclaim the end of the transatlantic alliance. The cast of characters has shifted a little today, but many of the arguments are the same. In Nord Stream 2 (NS2), a proposed Russian gas pipeline, Germany sees a respectable project that will cut energy costs and lock in secure supplies. American politicians (and the ex-communist countries of eastern Europe) detect a Kremlin plot to deepen Europe’s addiction to cheap Russian gas. They decry German spinelessness.
At the start of 2017, with the elections in France in the Spring and then in Germany in the Autumn, it may prove useful to return to one of the fundamental issues which plagues discussion at European level, that is the alleged economic asymmetry between Germany with its reputation as prosperous and France which is described as on the decline. I use the term ‘alleged’ because, as we shall see, the level of productivity of the German and French economies – as measured in terms of GDP per hour worked, which is by far most relevant indicator of economic performance – is almost identical. Furthermore it is at the highest world level, demonstrating incidentally that the European social model has a bright future, despite what the Brexiters and Trumpers of every hue might think. This will also enable me to return to several of the issues addressed in this blog in 2016 (in particular concerning the long European recession and the reconstruction of Europe) as well as in my December 2016 article « Basic income or fair wage?« .Let’s start with the most striking fact. If we calculate the average labour productivity by dividing the GDP (the Gross Domestic Product, that is the total value of goods and services produced in a country in one year) by the total number of hours worked (by both salaried and non-salaried employees), we then find that France is at practically the same level as the United States and Germany, with an average productivity of approximately 55 Euros per hour worked in 2015, or more than 25% higher than the United Kingdom or Italy (roughly 42 Euros) and almost three times higher than in 1970 (less than the equivalent of 20 Euros in 2015; all figures are expressed in purchasing power parity and in 2015 Euros, that is after taking into account inflation and price levels in the different countries).
There are times in life that really do count. Times when a person’s character is revealed, when the important is separated from the unimportant. Soon decisions are taken that will determine the further path a person takes. With some, this can be tragic, and the moment comes too soon in their youth at a time when they aren’t mature enough yet to foresee all the potential consequences. They make the decisions cheerfully and they lead to either luck or bad luck. But countries and governments are seldom as innocent when it comes to their decisions.
The change of name for Isis’ online magazine was a declaration of a change in strategy. It had been called Dabiq after a town in Syria where Islam is meant to triumph over the infidels in a final battle. But now in retreat, losing territory, the jihadists no longer see Armageddon as imminent. They declare, instead, that the jihad will be taken abroad to the enemy, striking at the heart of Western political and spiritual power, symbolically Rome, Rumiyah, as the new publication is titled.
Isis has, of course, carried out attacks on Western targets before. But it has been repeatedly asserting the threat lately and instructing its adherents in Europe and America to strike the enemy at home using any means at hand. Its leaders have openly called for attacks to be carried out this Christmas: so the murders in Berlin, with the use of a truck, should not have come as a surprise.
There must be something wrong with me. It’s probably something with my head — or my heart. The mass-circulation Bild newspaper, which acts as a barometer of German public sentiment, says on its front page that I should feel “Fear!” But I can feel no fear.Anis Amri, the suspected attacker — who is believed to have murdered a truck driver and 12 people at the Christmas market at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, and injured many more on Monday night — is still at large and is presumed to be armed. Even that triggers no emotions in me, except the sincere hope that he will soon be caught and locked up for the rest of his miserable days. But fear? Maybe I’d be afraid if I had the bad luck of running into him.