English-Language Media Hype Collapse of German Coalition Talks

American and British reporters immediately reach for comparisons with Brexit and Donald Trump.

German chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Brussels, June 22
German chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Brussels, June 22 (EPP)

“Enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think about me?”

That, I write in my latest op-ed for the Netherlands’ NRC newspaper, about sums up the English-language coverage of the political situation in Germany.

Superficial commentary

When the first round of coalition talks between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, the liberal Free Democrats and Greens collapsed this week, publications in the United Kingdom and the United States immediately reached for comparisons with Brexit and Donald Trump.

CNN reported that the “Merkel myth” had imploded. No matter that superficial commentary outside Germany had inflated that myth in the first place.

The Washington Post predicted one day that the failed talks would weigh on markets only to report the next that they were brushing off the “chaos” in Berlin. Maybe German investors know something the journalists at the Post don’t?

One ignoramus even called this Germany’s “biggest political crisis since late 1940s“. The Spiegel Affair, the Wall, the Rote Armee Fraktion, Willy Brandt’s resignation, mass demonstrations against cruise missiles — all pale in comparison to a mere impasse in negotiations to form a government…

Don’t bet against Merkel

An impasse that is unlikely to last for more than a few days. Merkel still has options: another grand coalition with the Social Democrats, a minority government, a second try at talks with the Free Democrats and Greens.

As I tweeted the other day, we should know better by now than to bet against Merkel. Let’s try to be a little patient.