Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent a clear “I told you so!” to the United States and Britain at the weekend, criticising them in unusually frank terms for resisting measures that might have contained the current financial crisis. The conservative leader of Europe’s largest economy reminded her partners that she had pushed for steps to boost the transparency of hedge funds during Germany’s presidency of the Group of Eight last year. ”We got things moving, but we didn’t get enough support, especially in the United States and Britain,” she told the Muenchner Merkur newspaper. Merkel expanded on her point in a speech in Austria, suggesting that both Washington and London were only now coming around to her view.
“It was said for a long time ‘Let the markets take care of themselves’ and that there is ‘no need for more transparency’…Today we are a step further because even America and Britain are saying ‘Yes, we need more transparency, we need better standards for the ratings agencies’.
Germany had made greater transparency a key theme of its rotating presidency of the G8, which includes the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Russia. Berlin had expressed fears that hedge funds could threaten the stability of the financial system through their heavy reliance on borrowing to finance risky trading strategies. But it ran into resistance from the United States and Britain, achieving little.
Whether Merkel’s G8 initiative could have averted or limited the current financial market crisis if it had been successful is certainly debatable. But reminding voters that she had sought to address the problem as early as last year could help Merkel score points on the domestic front ahead of a general election next year. Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) rule in an uneasy grand coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD), and both sides have been trying to play up their own role as crisis manager in the current financial market turmoil.
Obamamania has hit Germany hard, but many here are wary of the big show the Democratic presidential candidate will put on in Berlin on Thursday, when his speech at the “Victory Column“ could attract hundreds of thousands.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Die Zeit magazine that the “young and open” Obama was raising hopes of a renewal in transatlantic relations and for that reason he should be heeded.
The ferocity of the reaction in the German media to the fortress-like new U.S. embassy in Berlin, which former U.S. President George Bush will inaugurate on Friday, strikes me as a reflection of the strains in German-U.S. relations since 2003′s Iraq conflict.
It underlines just how long gone the days of the Cold War really are. Then, when Berlin was the front line in the Cold War, America was West Germany’s best friend and U.S. soldiers were welcome across the country.
At any one of the dozen high-powered Berlin summer parties thrown by major media outlets and the political parties in Germany each year you can count on finding a reasonable cross-section of government and industry movers and shakers to rub elbows with. But nowhere in Germany can you find as rich an assortment of A-list government, business, media and entertainment industry types as at the “Sommerfest” held by Bild newspaper.
From Chancellor Angela Merkel and Deutsche Bank chairman Josef Ackermann to heavyweight boxers, assorted actors and actresses, and people famous for just being famous, there is no more eclectic gathering of 750 people who see themselves as Germany’s best and brightest — all on fine form ahead of Germany’s cherished two-month long summer holiday season.
It hasn’t garnered as much attention or generated quite the same excitement as the nomination battle between U.S. Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did, but Germany’s Social Democrats are tying themselves in equally torturous knots over who will lead their party into the next election.
Like their U.S. counterparts, the centre-left SPD has two main candidates vying for the right to challenge for the country’s top job. But the similarities between the American and German contests end there.