Meanwhile in Berlin

Germany Anti-Semitism-3After a tiny bit of summer laziness we, Graduates of Democracy, are back on track. The flow of events in the last two months left dumbfound the whole world, from the exacerbation of the Syrian crisis and the consequent landing of 300,000[1] refugees at the frontiers of the European Union to the shameful bombing of Médecins Sans Frontières Hospital in Afhghanistan few hours ago.

While some actors on the international chessboards were struggling to find a common voice or a common governance to counteract the flow of events, in Berlin things were moving faster. There is no doubt that Germany and its historic Chancellor Angela Merkel, have been the protagonists of the political scene, inside and outside European borders.

The role of the German Chancellor is a delicate and risky one now more than ever, not only because of the 1 million of asylum requests that have been forecasted for the next year or for the imminent Volkswagen environmental scandal , but mainly for a precarious equilibrium inside the German political scene that began to emerge few months ago. The coalition lead by Angela Merkel is currently suffering a severe blow, coming primarily from her own party ranks.

Controversy inside the CDU/CSU arose since the beginning of the negotiations around the possibility of a second Greek bailout in July, mining what has been for years the solid duo Schäuble-Merkel. Wolfgang Schäuble, actual Minister of Finance and representative of the outmost conservative stance of the CDU , who demonstrated to be capable of stepping aside the Chancellor in case of weak position towards the requests of the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Merkel managed to close the ranks behind her in this first round, obtaining the approval at the Bundestag (German Parliament) on the 19th of August for proceeding in the help of Greece.

Refugees at the border of Germany. Source: Deutsche Welle – Reuters B. Szabo (11.09.2015)

The refugees crises indeed opened a new delicate phase for the actual government, a crisis which is not only national and European, but also Federal. After moving proactive with respect to the silent choir of European leaders, Merkel had to face with a wave of resistance.

Once again the harshest critics came from the Chancellor own “family”: the CSU, which is the equivalent of CDU in Bavaria , did not wait longtime to contrast the authority of Berlin in the matter of refugees welcoming, defining her policy blind and contrasting with the jurisdiction at State level in matter of immigration. Not satisfied with the prompt answer that Merkel gave to the Bavarian accusation[2], the State Prime Minister Horst Seehofer felt the impellent need, so-to-say, to bring the discussion to another level, inviting the openly xenophobe and highly controversial Hungarian Premier Viktor Orbán[3] to discuss the reintroduction of borders control in order to protect “the western and Christian values of the European tradition”.

The second component of the Große Koalition, notably the SPD, reacted in this case in a utterly shy and defensive way through its parliamentary representative Thomas Oppermann who underlined the need for the Chancellor to attentively consider German physiological (as to say economical) limitations[4].

Ultimately one can argue that after a decade of political Chancellery sticking to Realpolitik and balancing every action with pragmatism, it was about time for Frau Merkel to stand bravely by an ideal of solidarity and cooperation , attitude which would have been way more productive also since the begging of the European debt crisis.

Gathering support inside her own country and in a diffident and newly separated Europe is becoming more and more difficult for the Chancellor. Situation that has not been simplified by the emerging of the Volkswagen scandal in the last weeks which once again undermined the trust in German governance.

CDU, Bundesparteitag Leipzig 2011. Source:
CDU, Bundesparteitag Leipzig 2011.

After 10 years of success in the opinion polls, will she be able now to limit the damage of eco-environmental scandals and administrate her commitment towards the refugees or will she inevitably have to make compromises in order to avoid the breaking point of her government and party?

That remains to be seen, but one thing is sure: liking it or not, Angela Merkel will be still a key player in the European scenario, this time with the chance to imprint a truly new direction towards cohesion in matter of immigration and not only

… if she will be able and willing to seize it!

Elena Zurli, Graduates of Democracy 2015

[1] UNHCR:;

[2] “If we now have to start apologizing for showing a friendly face in response to emergency situations, then that’s not my country”, Angela Merkel press conference on 15/09/2015

[3] Deutsche Welle:

[4] Financial Time:


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