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Beyond the World news headlines

Merkel’s 2nd term off to a bumpy start

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After spending the last four years trapped in a loveless grand coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats, Germany’s conservative chancellor Angela Merkel is looking forward to happier, more productive days in a cosy new centre-right coalition with her preferred partners, the pro-business Free Democrats.

However, rather than smooth sailing with her new, more like-minded coalition partners, it’s turned out to be one turf battle after another between Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, on the one side and the Free Democrats on the other.

Weeks of unseemly arguing over tax cuts, healthcare, conscription and other issues in coalition talks has earned the new coalition the nickname Fehlstart” (false start) in the German media.

That awkward beginning was confirmed in a most embarrassing fashion for Merkel on Wednesday when at least nine deputies in her own coalition withheld their support.

“I told you so!” Merkel tells U.S., Britain

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech to members of her conservative Christian Democrats in Berlin, September 22, 2008. Wage gains in Germany have been moderate in recent years, and this will likely remain the case, Merkel said on Monday. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

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’.

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