Reminder Not to Rely on American and British News About Europe

A breakthrough in coalition talks in Germany repudiates those who said the country was facing a political crisis.

German chancellor Angela Merkel waits for other leaders to arrive at the G7 summit in Bavaria, June 8, 2015
German chancellor Angela Merkel waits for other leaders to arrive at the G7 summit in Bavaria, June 8, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

Remember when Germany faced its “biggest political crisis since the late 1940s,” as one BBC journalist put it?

Or when, according to National Review, Angela Merkel had been “marooned“?

Or CNN reported that the “Merkel myth” had “imploded“?

Keep calm

When the first coalition talks in Germany — between the Christian Democrats, Free Democrats and Greens — collapsed in November, I said don’t panic. Merkel still had plenty of options, I pointed out: another grand coalition with the Social Democrats, a minority government, a second try at talks with the Free Democrats and Greens.

Option #2 seems to be working out. Social Democratic Party members can still torpedo the pact, but party leaders agree that another left-right coalition is in the national interest. You can read all about it here.

Over-the-top

The over-the-top reaction in the English-language press to the setback in November is another reason why you shouldn’t read only American and British reporting about European politics.

With exceptions (The Economist, Financial Times, The Guardian), American and British journalists tend to project their own politics on the continent’s.

For the British, everything is about Brexit. Hence the immediate speculation about what a government with the Social Democrats, as opposed to the Free Democrats, could mean for the negotiations with the EU. (The answer: very little.)

Americans are not familiar with multiparty democracy, so they tend to overanalyze events like the collapse of coalition talks and underestimate the strength of governments once they have a legislative majority.

For better English-language coverage of Germany, try the European Politico, Handelsblatt (center-right), Der Spiegel (center-left) or Die Zeit (centrist).