Global News Journal

Waiting for Europe’s “appropriate response”

October 13, 2011

Will the euro zone finally act decisively?

Investors are hoping for something big from European leaders at the EU summit on Oct. 23 and of the Group of 20 on Nov. 3. But they also know the 17 nations of the euro have a habit of offering delayed, half-hearted rescues that have cost them credibility.

Berlin Wall, 1961-1989, R.I.P

August 13, 2011

There is something a bit bizarre, yet fascinating, about the way Berlin and the local media mark the anniversaries of the Berlin Wall’s construction on Aug. 13, 1961 and the anniversaries of its collapse on Nov. 9, 1989.

What’s really behind Merkel’s nuclear U-turn?

March 29, 2011
(German Chancellor Angela Merkel promises a more rapid shift to renewable energy sources during a speech in the Bundestag lower house of parliament on March 17)

(German Chancellor Angela Merkel promises a more rapid shift to renewable energy sources during a speech in the Bundestag lower house of parliament on March 17)

Germany’s king of the ‘Sommerloch’ silly season

August 2, 2010
PORTUGAL/The Germans have a lovely word to describe the slow news period during the summer doldrums — Sommerloch  (“summer hole” or “silly season). It’s the time in July and August when the main newsmakers in Berlin disappear to holiday retreats in the Alps, to the North Sea island of Sylt or the Baltic Shore. It’s also the time when the second-tier politicians — eager to fill the void — know that it can be relatively easy to get into the headlines with a bit of cunning, good fortune and good timing.
 
Rainer Bruederle is not normally someone many Germans pay a lot of attention to. The Economy Minister from the pro-business Free Democrats party, junior coalition partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right government, does not have a lot of clout and few of his ideas have ever gone beyond the proposal stage. Bruederle,  65, has been called one of the most ineffective ministers since Merkel’s centre-right government took power nine months ago.

But now — with the big cats out of town — Bruederele has turned into mighty mouse. He has played the German media like a fiddle, floating one trial balloon after another with a near daily deluge of newspaper interviews. With little else to write about, German correspondents are filling their columns with Bruederle.
 
“Koenig des Sommerlochs” (King of the summer hole) was the headline in Stern magzine’s website on Monday after a fresh batch of Bruederle proposals over the weekend. “No one has jumped into the Sommerloch with as much vigour as Bruederle,” wrote Hans Peter Schuetz of Stern magazine. “But, let’s be honest about this, Bruederle is helping journalists like me get through the Sommerloch.”
 
Like with most Sommerloch proposals, Bruederle’s will likely not get anywhere close to becoming law. And Bruederle knows that. He also knows his ideas will only cause tensions in the ruling coalition anger Merkel and almost everyone else in her Christian Democrats — and many of her deputies have already rejected his suggestions. But he also knows the publicity could help him raise his profile a bit.
 
Bruederle first said the government should scrap its 2009 promise for a guaranteed minimum pension level, an idea widely picked up in the German media for a few hours one day last week. It was summarily rejected by Merkel’s party. Yet that didn’t stop Bruederle. A few days later, in another newspaper interview, he suggested relaxing rules to allow more foreigners into Germany to counter a looming labour shortage of skilled labour, comments that filled airwaves for a few more glorious hours.
 
GERMANY/And then Bruederle criticised Merkel’s party, the coalition partners, for not having enough enthusiasm about reforms — just a few weeks after party leaders had promised to stop that very same sort of sniping that had sent the government plunging to record low levels in opinion polls. On Monday, Bruederle was at it again with a new banking proposal.
 
“Bruederle is doing his best to fill the Sommerloch,” wrote Sascha Raabe in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.  But he attacked Bruederle as a “colourless minister with an addiction to headlines”.  He pointed out, for instance, that Bruederle’s ideas on cutting pensions actually contradicted the position of his own ministry, which views the steady pension levels as an important pillar of economic growth. “If Bruederle had only read the position of his own ministry instead of frightening millions of pensioners,” Raabe wrote. “Maybe it’s time for Bruederle to retire himself.”

Merkel in trouble, gambles with new ‘swing vote’ spokesman

July 13, 2010

Angela Merkel has come up with a risky – but intriguing – choice for one of the most-talked-about and closely GERMANY/scrutinised jobs in Germany:  her spokesman.
The German chancellor is not normally known for rolling the dice with her decisions. Cautious to a fault, Merkel tends to seek consensus and the “safe road” with just about every decision she makes – whether that angers France when she first drags her feet on whether to push ahead aggressively with economic stimulus measures during the 2008 crisis or annoys Greece in early 2010 when it badly needed cash or at least strong words of support.

Angela Merkel’s “read my lips” moment

May 31, 2010

    Angela Merkel has already abandoned plans to pursue billions of euros in tax cuts next year — the central policy pledge of her 2009 election campaign and main plank of her 7-month-old coalition agreement with the Free Democrats.

EU squabbles feed market frenzy

May 25, 2010
Jose Manuel Barroso

Jose Manuel Barroso

  The European Union can rarely have been more in need of a
show of unity than now, as it tries to convince financial
markets it can handle the euro zone’s debt crisis.

Who do you call to speak to Europe?

May 17, 2010
Obama on the phone

Obama on the phone

Who do you call when you want to speak to Europe? The question, long attributed to Henry Kissinger, has yet to be answered convincingly by the 27-country European Union.

Germany: a tale of two foreign ministers

November 23, 2009

“Self-confident”, “smart” and “rhetorically brilliant” – just some of the adjectives the media have lavished upon Germany’s favourite politician as he has covered thousands of miles traversing the globe on his country’s behalf since Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new centre-right administration took office late last month.

The two faces of Angela Merkel

November 19, 2009
  The German chancellor was described by Forbes last month as the world’s most powerful woman, listing her as 15th overall in its ranking of the World’s Most Powerful people.  Certainly, Merkel has been known to bare her teeth when it comes to castigating others like Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe and she even rebuked Russia’s Vladimir Putin on foreign trips. She did also raise her voice against Pope Benedict, calling on him to make clear the Vatican does not tolerate any denial of the Holocaust.