International Relations

Merkel criticized as danger to German democracy

Merkel criticized as danger to German democracy

Gregg Benzow, Deutsche Welle,


24 August 2012

It's the strongest criticism of Angla Merkel's grip on power so far: A member of her own conservative party has published a book, describing Merkel as a danger to democracy in Germany.

"The Godmother" is a book that Chancellor Angela Merkel probably won't read.

Rumors are circulating that the Chancellor indignantly put aside an excerpt published in the German newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" after reading just a few lines. Nevertheless, the 300-page "anti-Merkel" book penned by the 71-year-old-publicist, Gertrud Höhler, a confidante of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, has the makings of a bestseller in political Berlin. More than 80 journalists and camera teams crowded into the federal press conference on Thursday.

Gertrud Höhler (Photo: Oliver Lang/dapd)<br />

Höhler worked as an adviser to former chancellor, Helmut Kohl

Höhler's book is about more than the tired old allegations that Merkel, for instance, pushes all male rivals out of her way, has not internalized any values and makes decisions only when she knows which way the scale will tip.

Merkel, nicknamed "Mutti" or mommy in political circles, becomes a "godmother" in Höhler's book. She establishes a "silent variant of authoritarian power that Germany has yet to experience." The author lists a number of attributes, such as stealing ideas from political rivals, leveling the party system to an all-party-state and sloppily handling legal norms, ethical standards, parliament and the constitution – and often reprimanded by the Federal Constitutional Court. In short, she points to a decline of political morals.

"German-tailored suit" for Europe

Perhaps all of this is linked to the 35 years that Angela Merkel lived under a dictatorial regime in East Germany. No one knows for sure what drives Merkel, who learned in the GDR to read between the lines, act silently, never say too much and be suspicious, Höhler noted when introducing her book.

"How Angela Merkel is rebuilding Germany" is the subtitle of "The Godmother." In Höhler's view, other Europeans should be concerned about Merkel's thirst for power as the Chancellor is giving Europe a "German-tailored suit."

Marlon Brando in a scene from the 1972 movie "The Godfather" (Photo: AP/Paramount Pictures )

Is Merkel running her party like Marlon Brando in the movie The Godfather?

The facts that the author has compiled on a creeping loss of democracy in Germany and Europe aren't new. What is new at first glance is the exaggerated role attributed to Merkel in this process. This reveals how much some conservatives in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) are challenged by Merkel's claim to power and how her "values of abstinence, coolness and dispassion have forced them into a corner," Höhler said.

The sudden change of direction in energy policy that Merkel pushed through practically over night, the end of military service, the plans to lower taxes and abandon traditional views on the family by granting more rights to homosexual couples – these are all examples that have led to insecurity across the party. "Godmother" author Gertrud Höhler, long a member of the CDU, also worked as an adviser to Helmut Kohl.

Biting their tongue

Höhler's book has a dedication "to all who are still biting their tongue." How many of these there are in the party is not clear. The CDU, for a long time, has had the reputation of being overly submissive to their chancellor when they're in government and it is Merkel's popularity that the CDU will have to thank if it manages to remain in power past the 2013 election. Toppling the chancellor from within the party is therefore very unlikely. Whoever wants a career in the CDU avoids crossing Merkel. Only old party veterans no longer seeking new positions dare to speak out. One of them is 72-year old Josef Schlarmann, head of the party's committee on small and medium-sized companies. He recently criticized that the party was merely taking orders. Attempts to go against Merkel's course have so far failed.

The most recent case was when the so-called Berlin circle of some 35 CDU politicians announced a "conservative manifesto" to criticize what it perceived as the CDU taking over too many of the center-left's policies on social issues. The politicians said that they'd been encouraged to do so by thousands of letters from party members and other citizens. But the launch of the manifesto, planned for this Friday, has been cancelled on short notice, with a new date announced for autumn. Angela Merkel – who has just been named the world's most powerful woman again – is most likely not all too worried about it.,,16190325,00.html

Angela Merkel Backs Samaras On Greece’s Euro-Zone Future

Angela Merkel Backs Samaras On Greece’s Euro-Zone Future

Tony Czuczka and Maria Petrakis,


24 August 2012

Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany will stand behind the Greek government as it struggles to overhaul the economy, rebuffing European critics who advocate Greece’s exit from the euro.

Israel becoming concerned by Egypt's Sinai deployment

Israel becoming concerned by Egypt's Sinai deployment

Ryan Jones, Israel Today

20 August 2012

Last week, a leading Israeli media analyst suggested that Israel's government should be more concerned about Egypt's growing military deployment in the Sinai Peninsula, instead of focusing all its worries on Iran.

Greek Shortfall Growing Ever Larger

Greek Shortfall Growing Ever Larger

Der Spiegel

20 August 2012

The Greek prime minister has spent weeks searching for ways to come up with 11.5 billion euros to satisfy international conditions for emergency aid. Now, though, SPIEGEL has learned that the shortfall may be as much as 14 billion euros. German politicians are becoming increasingly exasperated.

Showdown in the euro crisis

Showdown in the euro crisis


Deutsche Welle, 20 August 2012

As the summer break draws to a close, the apparent calm in the euro zone is over, too. No reason to panic, however: The European Central Bank is rumored to bring out the heavy artillery.

The government in Athens has miscalculated once again. It is lacking not just the originally estimated 11.5 billion euros ($14.1 billion) for the next two years, but 14 billion euros ($17.3 billion). That may not sound like much in view of the 240 billion euros ($296 billion) from two rescue packages and the serious cuts taken by creditors to the tune of 100 billion euros. But patience is wearing thin among lenders. It will be difficult to explain a third Greek bailout package to citizens in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland. Accordingly, lenders in the Greek crisis are debating a different route: lowering or even deferring interest for the loans.

Greece is not the only trouble spot: Spain looks to be on the brink of seeking a bailout. According to Madrid mayor Ana Botella, a new call for aid appears to be "inevitable."

Investors are turning their backs in droves on the euro zone's fourth-largest economy. During the second quarter of this year, more capital was drained than ever before in the past 20 years. Spain's high borrowing costs are another sign of the financial markets' mistrust: interest for ten-year bonds hovers at about seven percent. No country can carry such a burden in the long run, prompting Spain's Economics Minister Luis de Guindos to urge the European Central Bank (ECB) to buy sovereign debt to help Madrid cut its refinancing costs.

 Euro-Logo (ddp images/AP Photo/Bernd Kammerer,fls)

All eyes are on the ECB, expecting concrete action

Last-resort lender

Just one month ago, experts would have shaken their heads and wondered, "has the man gone mad?" That would amount to open state financing on the part of the ECB - a barrier that must not be crossed.  But ever since ECB President Mario Draghi announced in July he would do whatever it takes to preserve the euro, the unthinkable has become an option. The fact that the Italian winked and said: "Believe me, it will be sufficient" is regarded as a sure sign the ECB is planning something big. Something that will by far surpass the relatively puny 210 billion euro bond purchase program and the two billion euros in cash injections.

That "something" is fleshing out. Germany's Spiegel newsmagazine reported the ECB plans to set a limit on the borrowing costs of individual countries and intervene on the markets to maintain this level. "Bazookas" or "Big Bertha" - the ECB is expected to mount deterrents to keep speculators at bay. It will win the fight for the common currency because the European Central Bank can print endless amounts of euro bills.

Shares on European stock markets rose at this speculation although most states are hit by recession and companies' profits are draining away - a breeding ground for the next bubble.

"Italian currency union"

The stock bubble and the ECB's apparent rescue plans have one thing in common - both are not lasting.

Jörg Krämer,

The ECB's apparent strategy would prevent a euro zone break-up, Krämer says

By making large-scale bond purchases, the ECB will not only alleviate the debt-ridden peripheral states' pressure versus borrowing costs but will also lighten the pressure on these nations to push through reforms. More rescue funds will become necessary, meaning the ECB's money presses will not stand still. The measures will prevent the euro zone from breaking apart, but higher inflation in the currency's core states will be unavoidable at some point, Commerzbank head economist Jörg Krämer said. In addition, Krämer said, "over the years, the euro would be clearly depreciated compared with other currencies by the ECB's focus on the peripheral states' problems and these states' weariness of reforms." High inflation and a weak currency are reminiscent of Italy in the 1970s and '80s - thus, Krämer predicted an "Italian currency union" for the euro zone.

Central Bank chief Draghi, nicknamed "Super Mario," will make financial markets, the southern European states and political leaders happy - for a short time.

In the long run, the countries on the euro zone's periphery will return to a pre-currency existence.  Ultimately, citizens in the core countries will pay the price for the preservation of the euro zone. It will take time for the consequences to be felt: politicians hope citizens will resign themselves to the stealthy process.,,16180260,00.html

China praises 'wise' Japan move in islands dispute

China praises 'wise' Japan move in islands dispute

BBC News

18 August 2012

China has praised Japan's "wise" decision to free a group of activists who sailed to a disputed island chain, in a state media commentary.

The article on Xinhua news agency's website said the speedy action had averted the deterioration in relations.

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