Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
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.
So there’s been a lot of “urging” and “warning” in Brussels lately — politicians and central bankers have all been demanding Europe act as international alarm grows that its sovereign debt problems may drag the world into recession. “Further delays are only aggravating the situation,” said European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet on Tuesday in his last appearance at the European Parliament, before he hands over the post to Mario Draghi on Nov. 1.
A day earlier, Germany’s Deputy Finance Minister, Joerg Asmussen, at the parliament to promote his candidacy to join the ECB‘s board, made his call, saying “cooperation has to be increased,” across the euro members, divided as to who should pay to rescue the heavily indebted nations of southern Europe. “I want to see a solution for debt sustainability for Greece,” Asmussen said. So do so many others, especially Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who in Brussels on Thursday said it was a “crucial element to make the necessary decisions concerning Greece.”
The European Roundtable of Industrialists, a business lobby of multinationals ranging from French car maker Renault to Spain’s Telefonica, has also come through Brussels to make its point. The group’s head, Leif Johansson, who is also chairman of Swedish phone maker Ericsson, warned that if European leaders fail to act, businesses could see a repeat of the liquidity freeze that followed the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leader of the opposition Social Democrats squared off in one of the more riveting debates in parliament seen in ages on Wednesday, treating their respective camps to some fiery rhetoric that may galvanize support and help each side recover from steady erosions in opinion polls.
After SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel threw down the gauntlet and spent 40 highly entertaining minutes ripping into Merkel and her centre-right government, the chancellor rose to the challenge — spending the next 40 minutes with a spirited defence of the performance since taking power 10 months ago and attacking the centre-left opposition for such things as putting Germany’s long-term energy security at risk with “ideologically driven energy policies.”
Merkel, who may well face off against Gabriel in the next federal election due in 2013, whipped out a drop-dead argument that will probably make it difficult for anyone from either the SPD or from inside her own somewhat disenchanted conservative party to knock her out of office: unemployment has fallen by nearly two million to about three million since she took office in 2005.
Merkel’s popularity has nevertheless plunged since her re-election last year – due in part to incessant squabbling within the coalition and a perception her government has made little headway in moving the country forward. The centre-right government trails the centre-left opposition by about 10 points in opinion polls, an astonishing reversal of fortunes after they won the election last September by about 15 points.
A German central banker, Thilo Sarrazin, whose outspoken comments on race and religion sparked a fierce national debate unexpectedly quit the Bundesbank board on Thursday evening, sparing Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Christian Wulff and Bundesbank President Axel Weber a messy legal and political battle.
But Sarrazin, 65, made it clear that he will not go away and plans to use his new-found fame to press forward with the issues tackled in his best-selling book: that Muslims are undermining German society and threatening to change its character and culture with their higher birth rate. Whether Germans like his views or not, there is no denying that Sarrazin has struck a chord.
As the sun started to set on the west side of the Reichstag on Wednesday evening — and perhaps on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right government as well — delegates to the Bundesversammlung (Federal Assembly) began switching to beer from the preferred beverage earlier in the day — coffee, water and apple juice.
There was an unmistakeable air of “Endzeitstimmung” (doomsday atmosphere) on the comfortable rooftop terrace of the historic German parliament building, where the catering is superb and the view of Berlin breathtaking.
The conservative delegates on the Reichstag roof were easy to spot — they were the ones with worried looks on their faces after a couple dozen unidentified “rats” from within their ranks twice failed in votes during the afternoon to give Merkel the votes she needed to get her candidate elected.
The conservatives were drinking their beer and trying to forget the day’s humiliation before going into battle for a third and final round later in the evening.
Nobel prize-winning writer Guenter Grass is dressed in a
mustard-brown cord suit and reading his work to a reverent
audience in a hushed Berlin night club.
It feels more like a book launch than a political campaign
event just days before the German election. Yet as far as
celebrity endorsements for German political parties go, this
is as big as it gets.
Getting pelted by eggs or tomatoes is an occupational hazard for most hardened politicians on the election trail.******But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seeking re-election on Sunday, has been confronted with a new kind of protest during her final campaign rallies: flashmobs.******The mobs, groups of people summoned over the Internet to show up at a specific time and place to do something unusual, have materialised at several election events in the last week to wave flags and banners and heckle the unsuspecting Merkel.******Mostly, they have been chanting “Yeahhhh!” after every sentence she utters and the slogan is meant as an ironic expression of support.******It may not sound like the most damaging critique, but Merkel has cottoned on to the flashmobs and now even addresses them at the rallies as “My young friends from the Internet”.******So is this a new form of political protest or just a bit of fun?******Blogger Rene Walter, who writes for nerdcore, says there is a serious idea behind the light-hearted gatherings.******”We are not just going to swallow the election messages, we are spitting back the rubbish Merkel speaks in the ironic form of a “Yeahhh!”, he says in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.******Many involved in the flashmobs support the Pirate Party, who are popular among young voters and oppose what they say is censorship of the Internet that has been brought in under Merkel’s government.******One thing is for sure. Flashmobs are injecting some much-needed spontaneity into the final days of a campaign which many voters think has been the most turgid in decades.******But are flashmobs here to stay? Could they become the political protest movement of the Internet age?
Strikingly different election campaign styles in Germany and Britain, especially parties’ contrasting use of the media, provide some intriguing insights into the political traditions of the two nations.
in Britain, the parties hold daily news conferences, broadcast live, where leaders attempt to set an agenda for the day — be it on health, tax or education — and then get grilled by the press corps.
The German election campaign has so far lacked the riveting debates and explosive issues to which voters were treated in previous battles for power, perhaps because Chancellor Angela Merkel and her rival, Vice-Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier, have worked together in the same “grand coalition” government for the past four years and neither party seems especially eager to rock the boat.
Filling the void have been several somewhat bizarre little scandals that each side has tried to use to tarnish the other, taking pot shots without resorting to full firepower. They are, after all, partners in power.
Between running an election campaign and trying to save European carmaker Opel at the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was baking a currant cake and writing out a shopping list for her husband.
Merkel has sought in recent months to soften her business-like image by opening up about her life at home, hoping to reach out to more voters ahead of the federal election on September 27.