Tag Archives: berlin

Merkel may be down, but don’t rule her out for a fourth term just yet

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Germany’s chancellor since 2005, Angela Merkel is widely believed to be preparing to seek fourth term in the 2017 federal elections. (Facebook)

It’s entirely possible that September 2016 marks the worst month of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s career.Germany Flag Iconmecklenburg-vorpommern berlin

Merkel’s center-right party, the Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU, Christian Democratic Union) fell to third place in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a relatively low-population state of just 1.6 million that sprawls along the northern edge of what used to be East Germany. While the center-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, Social Democratic Party) has been traditionally stronger there in elections since reunification, two factors made the CDU’s loss particularly embarrassing. The first is that it’s the state that Merkel has represented since her first election in 1990 shorly after German reunification. The second, and more ominous, is that the CDU fell behind the eurosceptic, anti-refugee Alternative für Deutschland (Afd, Alternative for Germany), a relatively new party founded in 2013 that today holds seats in 10 of Germany’s 16 state assemblies and that, according to recent polls, will easily win seats in the Bundestag in next September’s federal elections.

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Two weeks later, on September 18, Merkel’s CDU also suffered losses in Berlin’s state election. As left-wing parties have long dominated Berlin’s politics, and the SPD placed first and Germany’s Die Linke (the Left) and Die Grünen (the Greens) placed third and fourth behind the CDU. But even in Berlin, the AfD still won 14.2% of the vote.

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Taken together, the state election results forced a mea culpa from Merkel on Monday. The chancellor, who is expected (though by no means certain) to seek a fourth consecutive term next year, departed from the calm, steely confidence that since last summer has characterized her commitment to accept and integrate over a million Syrian refugees within Germany’s borders. Merkel admitted, however, that she would, if possible, rewind the clock to better prepare her country and her government for the challenge of admitting so many new migrants, and she admitted lapses in her administration’s communications. With the AfD showing no signs of abating, it’s clear that its attacks on Merkel’s open-door policy are working. Merkel’s statement earlier this week admitted that her policies have not unfolded as smoothly as she’d hoped.

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RELATED: Can Hillary Clinton become America’s Mutti?

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Indeed, German polls are starting to show that voters are souring on Merkel and her approach to migration, so much that in one poll in August for Bild, a majority of voters no longer support a fourth term for Merkel. All of which has led to hand-wringing both in Germany and abroad that Merkel’s days are numbered.

Don’t believe it. Continue reading Merkel may be down, but don’t rule her out for a fourth term just yet

Should Europe be concerned about the threat of Kaliningrad?

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If Russia can get away with annexing Crimea from Ukraine to correct a ‘historical mistake,’ perhaps Germany should be able to retake Kaliningrad? Russia Flag Iconkaliningrad_oblast_russia_flag_round_stickers-rb808e4c40c704821b8d03556a312c426_v9waf_8byvr_152

The Soviet Union took the tiny strip of land, nudged today along the Baltic coast between Poland and Lithuania, in 1944 at the end of World War II from Nazi Germany — just a decade before Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea  (perhaps in a drunken stupor) from the Russian Soviet republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Previously known as Königsberg, it’s the homeland of one of the world’s most renowned German philosophers, Immanuel Kant.

Today, it’s an exclave separated from the rest of the Russian Federation — but it’s a strategically crucial piece of real estate for Russia.  Kaliningrad gives Russia an ice-free port on the Baltic Sea and territory within the heart of the European Union surrounded by  North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.

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The city of Königsberg was arguably even more important to Germanic culture and history before Kant was ever born. It was the capital of the State of the Teutonic Order, the crusader state, between 1457 and 1525, when the Teutonic State became the Duchy of Prussia, and Königsberg continued to serve as the Prussian capital until 1701, when Berlin became the capital. Russia occupied the ciy for the first time between 1758 and 1764, during the Seven Years’ War. Like many European cities, it was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War.

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RELATED: Forget 1938. Here’s another historical analogy — 1914.

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An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a Crimea for a Kaliningrad.

Right?  (In the meanwhile, Karelia, here’s your chance — with Russian president Vladimir Putin’s focus diverted to Ukraine, you’ll never have a better opportunity to make a bolt to Finland). Continue reading Should Europe be concerned about the threat of Kaliningrad?