GlobalPost, March 1, 2012
BERLIN — Angela Merkel is facing yet another difficult juggling act.
When European leaders gather in Brussels Thursday for another summit, the German chancellor will be under immense pressure to boost the euro zone firewall — that is, spend more money — to prevent contagion from a still fragile Greece from spreading to other struggling states.
At the same time, the “Iron Chancellor,” as she is known in Europe, is facing a rebellion in her government coalition and a public that is balking at the costs of bailing out Greece and the other EU states.
This week, Merkel had to rebuke a cabinet member, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, after he broached the idea of encouraging Greece to exit the euro zone. She then was forced to rely on the opposition to push through the bailout for Athens in the wake of a backbench revolt.
Most Germans — 62 percent — are opposed to the latest rescue package for Greece, according to recent polls.
Still, Merkel remains a popular leader, not despite but because of the euro crisis. Germans have been impressed by her tough stance on the crisis, which has yet to have a direct impact on them. Continue reading
GlobalPost, Feb. 7, 2012
BERLIN, Germany — President Nicolas Sarkozy is not yet officially a candidate in the forthcoming French presidential election, but that hasn’t stopped German Chancellor Angela Merkel from backing him. After all what would become of ‘Merkozy’ and, more importantly, her crisis-driven vision for reshaping Europe, without her side-kick in Paris?
On Monday night, Merkel defended her position in the French election during a joint TV interview with Sarkozy, arguing that the two belonged to the same party family. Indeed both Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), belong to the center-right European People’s Party (EPP).
Merkel, who was in Paris for the joint Franco-German cabinet meeting, said during the interview that she would support the current occupant of the Elysee Palace “whatever he does.”
Yet her blatant favoring of Sarkozy in the contest scheduled for April 22 has raised some hackles back home.
Green parliamentary floor leader Juergen Trittin was particularly scathing. “A German government leader who campaigns for a president who has his back against the wall damages the Franco-German relationship,” he told the Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper. Continue reading
Despite rising international pressure, Merkel refuses to allow the ECB to act as the lender of last resort
GlobalPost, Dec. 2, 2011
BERLIN, Germany — Over the past twenty-four hours, both French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have delivered landmark speeches advocating deep changes to the euro zone to address the debt crisis. The changes, if agreed to by member nations, would impose real fiscal discipline over nations, with the goal of giving Brussels the power to prevent countries from falling into fiscal trouble.
The approach is a risky one. It asks countries to sacrifice national sovereignty in the name of economic stability, but in recent years citizens have signalled an unwillingness to forfeit more control to Brussels. But an even bigger problem is that it’s a long term approach to an urgent problem. If successful, it may prevent countries like Greece and Italy from ammassing huge debt burdens in the future. But it won’t solve the continent’s current crisis.
European nations need huge loans, and they need them fast or they risk defaulting. With the debt conflagration now blazing across borders, Merkel and Sarkozy are essentially gazing off at the horizon as the world urges Europe to deploy its most powerful option: unleashing its central bank to act as a lender of last resort.
The problem: Germany is resolutely opposed to using the ECB in this way. Merkel, appeared to reiterate her objections today, stating that “The European crisis will not be solved in one fell swoop.” Continue reading
The Guardian, Nov. 18, 2011
Loss of sovereignty may be an abstract notion, but this week Irish people were confronted with what it means in reality. Revelations that draft proposals for the Irish December budget had been circulated in a German parliamentary committee were met with horror in Ireland. It has since emerged that they were sent to every finance minister in the EU.
Members of Irish opposition parties have been in uproar at the fact that parliamentarians in Berlin were privy to vital information, such as a proposed 2% hike in VAT. Meanwhile they and other elected members of the Dáil would have to wait with the rest of the population until budget day, 6 December, to learn where exactly the axe was to fall.
The Guardian,12 July, 2011
There may be high fences and security cameras around the building site in Berlin, but that wasn’t enough to prevent the blueprints for one of the city’s biggest construction projects from going missing.
The site is for the headquarters of Germany‘s answer to M16, making the loss all the more embarrassing.
The spy agency is facing difficult questions after it emerged that it could not even keep the plans for its new hi-tech offices from going astray. According to a report in Focus magazine, the blueprints contained sensitive information relating to the security of the Berlin headquarters. Continue reading
The Sunday Business Post, April 10, 2011
The reaction in the political corridors of Berlin to the fact that Portugal has finally faced the music and asked for a bailout has been one of relief.
This is tinged with determination that this will be the last country to require a lifeline from its eurozone partners.
The German government, battered by a string of losses in key regional votes since the beginning of the year, is loath to be seen by the electorate as wasting yet more of taxpayers’ money on their profligate neighbours.
With just two years to go to federal elections, the ruling coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) is fully aware that any further bailouts – of, say, Spain, Italy or Belgium- could spell electoral doom. Continue reading
As a parliamentary inquiry is launched into the deadly air strike near Kunduz, the top general fired over the scandal has called Defense Minister Guttenberg a liar. With Germany braced for requests for more troops in Afghanistan, Chancellor Merkel’s government is coming under increased pressure over its handling of the attack.
The German government is struggling to contain a scandal over its handling of a deadly air strike called in by a German officer in Afghanistan in September. In particular, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Defense Minister Karl-Theoder zu Guttenberg are coming under fire for the way they handled information about the strike.
Both are to be called as witnesses to face a parliamentary inquiry into the air strike in January just as they prepare for an Afghanistan conference in London later that month, where Berlin is likely to face pressure to commit more troops to the NATO mission. The country’s involvement in the conflict is highly unpopular at home. Continue reading