Lurching to the Left Is Risky for Germany’s SPD. So Is the Alternative

German finance minister and Social Democratic Party leader Olaf Scholz attends a debate in parliament in Berlin, July 8, 2018
German finance minister and Social Democratic Party leader Olaf Scholz attends a debate in parliament in Berlin, July 8, 2018 (Deutscher Bundestag/Inga Kjer)

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) are increasingly forced into coalitions with the far left. Such pacts haven’t hurt their counterparts in Portugal and Spain, but Germany is a more conservative country with a consensual style of politics and arguably less need for redistributive policies.

The risk is that a left-wing strategy will alienate centrist voters. But the alternative — continuing to rule in grand coalitions with the right — is wearying leftists. Read more

Germany Under Pressure to Spend

German chancellor Angela Merkel confers with her finance minister, Olaf Scholz, in parliament in Berlin, November 21, 2018
German chancellor Angela Merkel confers with her finance minister, Olaf Scholz, in parliament in Berlin, November 21, 2018 (Bundesregierung)

In the face of weakening economic growth, outgoing European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has called on the fiscally conservative governments of Germany and the Netherlands to spend more.

The Dutch are heeding his advice with plans for a long-term economic investment fund. Will the Germans follow suit? Read more

Germany Can’t Blame Trump for Its Slowing Economy

The port of Hamburg, Germany, May 27, 2008
The port of Hamburg, Germany, May 27, 2008 (Flickr/dmytrok)

Germany may be heading into a recession. Its economy shrank .1 percent in the second quarter of this year.

Donald Trump’s trade war with China is partly to blame, but it has also exposed Germany’s home-grown vulnerabilities: an overreliance on exports and weak domestic demand. Read more

Merkel Successor Given Poisoned Chalice?

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer attends her swearing-in ceremony as German defense minister in Berlin, July 20
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer attends her swearing-in ceremony as German defense minister in Berlin, July 20 (Bundeswehr)

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the woman Angela Merkel is grooming to be her successor, was sworn in as Germany’s defense minister last week, replacing Ursula von der Leyen, who was elected president of the European Commission.

The appointment came as a surprise, for two reasons:

  1. Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was elected head of the ruling Christian Democratic Union in December, has claimed she had no interest in a cabinet position.
  2. The defense portfolio is considered a poisoned chalice in Berlin. Read more

Germany Seeks Active Role to Ensure Inclusive Afghan Peace Process

A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter flies over Kabul, Afghanistan, November 26, 2009
A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter flies over Kabul, Afghanistan, November 26, 2009 (David Alvarado)

A week after a Taliban attack in Kabul left six people dead and over a hundred wonded, an all-Afghan peace summit is due to start in Doha on Sunday. Germany is co-sponsoring the meeting with Qatar.

Markus Potzel, Germany’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, made the announcement and said, “only Afghans themselves can decide the future of their country.”

Potzel has become a familiar face in Afghanistan. Just a few weeks ago, he held meetings with key stakeholders across the Afghan political spectrum. In May, he had at least two meetings with the Taliban.

Germany wants to play an active role in the peace process and ensure that it is inclusive. The Afghan government’s exclusion from bilateral talks between the Taliban and the United States is a concern in Berlin. The Germans believe only an all-Afghan process can pave the way to a sustainable settlement. The hope is that the Doha meeting will be a step in that direction. Read more

German Policymakers Worry About Losing Afghan Gains

German foreign minister Heiko Maas attends a memorial service at Camp Marmal, Afghanistan, March 11
German foreign minister Heiko Maas attends a memorial service at Camp Marmal, Afghanistan, March 11 (Auswärtiges Amt/Thomas Imo)

Despite American president Donald Trump earlier ruling out negotiations with the Taliban, recent talks in Qatar could pave the way for a Western withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The prospect is welcomed by many here in Germany, although policymakers worry about the impact on civilian engagement and developmental assistance. Read more

Far Right Fills Gaps Left by Merkel and Rutte

German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in Berlin, May 16
German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in Berlin, May 16 (Bundesregierung)

Mark Rutte has suffered the same fate as his closest ally in Europe, Angela Merkel. Both center-right leaders moved to the middle in a bid for centrist voters only to leave a gap on the right that the far right has filled.

In midterm elections on Wednesday, the Dutch Freedom Party and Forum for Democracy won a combined 21 percent of the votes, their best result to date.

In Germany, support for the Alternative is down a few points in the polls but still at 11-14 percent. Merkel’s Christian Democrats fell from 41.5 to 33 percent between the 2013 and 2017 elections. Read more