Trump’s Presence Will Be Felt When Merkel and Putin Meet

Vladimir Putin Angela Merkel
Russian president Vladimir Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel attend a conference in Moscow, November 16, 2012 (Bundesregierung)

German chancellor Angela Merkel is traveling to Moscow on Saturday, officially to discuss the conflicts in Libya, Syria and Ukraine, as well as the tension between Iran and the United States, with Vladimir Putin.

Hanging over the meeting will their countries’ deteriorating relations with the United States. Read more “Trump’s Presence Will Be Felt When Merkel and Putin Meet”

Germany’s Surplus Obsession Hurts the Eurozone

Angela Merkel
German chancellor Angela Merkel attends the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019 (Bundesregierung)

If the German economy does poorly, so will the eurozone’s. A mere .2 percent growth is projected for the first quarter of 2020. This should be a wakeup call to German policymakers.

There are the usual suspects: underdeveloped infrastructure, underinvestment in education, export dependency.

They all stem from Germany’s obsession with surpluses. Revenues generated by exports are not reinjected into the economy. Rather, they sit comfortably in savings accounts. This is the reason for negative interest rates.

Not spending money is one way to get rich. But to grow its economy, or prevent a slowdown, Germany must put its money to work: invest in education, infrastructure and public goods.

Its reluctance to do so affects everyone in the euro area. Germany accounts for nearly 30 percent of the eurozone’s GDP. If Germany spent more at home, it would reduce its current account surplus and increase demand for the products and services of other European nations. Read more “Germany’s Surplus Obsession Hurts the Eurozone”

Nord Stream Sanctions Are No Way to Treat European Allies

American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017
American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Senators in the United States have approved sanctions against companies that are involved in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.

The sanctions, which President Donald Trump has yet to sign into law, are a last-ditch attempt to halt the pipeline’s construction, which the Americans argue will only increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and hurt Ukraine’s position as a transit nation.

They’re not wrong, but placing sanctions on allies is no way to go about it, especially when they have no alternative. Read more “Nord Stream Sanctions Are No Way to Treat European Allies”

Breakthrough Unlikely at Normandy Four Meeting

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France meet outside the Palace of Versailles, May 29, 2017
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France meet outside the Palace of Versailles, May 29, 2017 (Elysée)

For the first time in three years, the “Normandy Four” are due to meet in Paris on Monday.

This negotiation format, consisting of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, brought about the Minsk I and Minsk II ceasefire agreements in 2014 and 2015. Even though their implementation was incomplete, the Normandy Four was still seen as a somewhat successful example of multilateral cooperation.

Its usefulness may have expired. Experts doubt the upcoming meeting will accomplish much for the simple reason that neither Russia nor Ukraine is ready to capitulate. Read more “Breakthrough Unlikely at Normandy Four Meeting”

Germany’s Social Democrats Elect Left-Wing Leaders

Norbert Walter-Borjans, then finance minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, addresses the Bundesrat in Berlin, February 20, 2014
Norbert Walter-Borjans, then finance minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, addresses the Bundesrat in Berlin, February 20, 2014 (Bundesrat/Frank Bräuer)

Earlier this month, I argued that lurching to the left would be a risky strategy for Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), but that the alternative — continuing to rule in a grand coalition with the center-right — is too.

A change could scare off centrist voters, who have an alternative in Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats or Germany’s pragmatic Green party. But the grand coalition has wearied leftists, who have an alternative in the Greens and the far-left Die Linke.

Not making a choice has been worst of all. The SPD has fallen below 15 percent support in recent surveys, behind the Christian Democrats and Greens and neck and neck with the far-right Alternative for Germany. Read more “Germany’s Social Democrats Elect Left-Wing Leaders”

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 politics of consensus 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 “Lurching to the Left Is Risky for Germany’s SPD. So Is the Alternative”

Germany Under Pressure to Spend

Angela Merkel Mark Rutte
German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in Berlin, May 16 (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 Under Pressure to Spend”

Germany Can’t Blame Trump for Its Slowing Economy

Berlin Germany
A bird sits on top of one of the spires of the German Reichstag building in Berlin, December 31, 2005 (Max Braun)

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 “Germany Can’t Blame Trump for Its Slowing Economy”

Merkel Successor Given Poisoned Chalice?

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer
Then-Prime Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of Saarland answers questions from reporters in Berlin, September 19, 2014 (Bundesrat/Henning Schacht)

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 “Merkel Successor Given Poisoned Chalice?”

Germany Seeks Active Role to Ensure Inclusive Afghan Peace Process

Italian soldiers in Afghanistan
Italian soldiers on patrol near Bala Murghab in northwestern Afghanistan, November 20, 2010 (ISAF/Romain Beaulinette)

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 “Germany Seeks Active Role to Ensure Inclusive Afghan Peace Process”