“BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday set in motion a plan for Germany to begin lifting social and economic restrictions in place because of the coronavirus, even as she warned that the road ahead would look less like a return to normal than a way to live with a pandemic that has overturned ordinary life.
The chancellor, a physicist by training, was typically restrained and focused on the science as she announced the government’s cautious step-by-step plan, for which she had won the agreement of regional leaders in Germany’s diffuse federal system.
Shorn of any bravado, her announcement seemed again to make Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, a de facto leader on the Continent and something of an example for Western nations looking to navigate the tricky course of rebooting economic activity and fighting the virus.
Her approach stood in stark contrast to the fraught political divisions in the United States, where state authorities have often been at odds with President Trump, who has made forceful but erratic predictions about the virus.”
“Former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and other European officials have lashed out at President Donald Trump and his divisive leadership on the international stage, alleging he has threatened an alliance that took many decades to build.
“He has done damage that the Soviets would have dreamt of,” Gabriel told The Washington Post in a story published on Monday. “We can’t live with Trump,” he warned, before adding: “And we can’t live without the United States.”
Gabriel said that in the beginning, European leaders believed Trump’s unorthodox and aggressive style was just a campaign strategy that would change once he entered the White House. “But he changed the position of the presidency,” Gabriel, who also served as the vice chancellor of Germany from 2013 until last year, told The Post. “I find it shocking that, in such a short time, he has managed to rip apart a relationship that has taken decades to build.”
“COLOGNE, Germany — The last time Henriette Reker ran for mayor, she was nearly killed.
Ms. Reker was handing out flowers to voters at a bustling market in Cologne in 2015, when a man took a rose with one hand and rammed a kitchen knife into her throat with the other. He wanted to punish her for her pro-refugee stance.
Five years later, Ms. Reker is running again. But she is an exception. Since she recovered from a coma to find herself elected, far-right death threats have become an everyday reality, not just for her but for an increasing number of local officials across Germany.
The acrimony is felt in town halls and village streets, where mayors now find themselves the targets of threats and intimidation. The effect has been chilling.
Some have stopped speaking out. Many have quit, tried to arm themselves or taken on police protection. The risks have mounted to such an extent that some German towns are unable to field candidates for leadership at all.”
David Lindsay: This is shockingly bad news about Germany. The rise of the the extreme right there, and the violence and killings, seem to be an unexpected reaction to Merkel’s accepting over a million refugees in 2015, without the support of many Germans who felt threatened or betrayed.
The nuclear plant in Philippsburg, Germany, was shut down on Dec. 31.Credit…Ronald Wittek/EPA, via Shutterstock
“HAMBURG, Germany — Are the Germans irrational? Steven Pinker seems to think so. Professor Pinker, a Harvard psychologist, told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegelrecently that if mankind wanted to stop climate change without stopping economic growth too, the world needed more nuclear energy, not less. Germany’s decision to step out of nuclear, he agreed, was “paranoid.”
My country has embarked on a unique experiment indeed. The Merkel government has decided to phase out both nuclear power and coal plants. The last German reactor is scheduled to shut down by the end of 2022, the last coal-fired plant by 2038. At the same time, the government has encouraged the purchase of climate-friendly electric cars — increasing the demand for electrical power. And despite efforts to save energy in the past decades, Germany’s power consumption has grown by 10 percent since 1990.
Skeptics fear that the country is on a risky path. Sufficient renewable energy sources might not be available in time to compensate for the loss of fossil and nuclear power. Though renewables account for around 40 percent of Germany’s electricity supply, there are limits to further expansion, for reasons that are political rather than technological.
In some rural parts of Germany, people are fed up with ever growing “wind parks”; more citizens are protesting new — and often taller — wind turbines in their neighborhoods. And there is growing resistance to the new paths needed to transport electricity from coasts to industrial centers. According to official calculations, close to 3,700 miles of new power lines are required to make Germany’s “Energiewende,” or energy revolution, work. By the end of 2018, only 93 miles had been built.”
Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France last month in Berlin, where he criticized German policies in unusually blunt terms.CreditAbdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images
“PARIS — Two days after he took office as France’s president, Emmanuel Macron flew to Berlin. It was May 16, 2017, and France and Germany needed a reset. Joined at the hip, the two nations cannot make Europe work if they don’t work together. Mr. Macron had been elected to transform France, and he was convinced that real change in his country would happen only through better European integration.
Hope was in the air as the young, ambitious but untested French president met Angela Merkel, the stern three-term German chancellor. Ms. Merkel quoted the German poet Hermann Hesse: “A magic dwells in each beginning.” Ever the realist, however, she cautiously added, “Charm lasts only if there are results.”
Two years on, the results are nowhere to be seen and the charm has given way to exasperation. When Ms. Merkel and Mr. Macron met on the sidelines of a Berlin summit on the western Balkans, on April 29, their talk was kept to a strict minimum — 15 minutes. Asked at a news conference about the French-German relationship four days earlier, Mr. Macron answered in unusually blunt terms. He openly admitted for the first time that France disagreed with Germany on Brexit strategy, energy policy, climate change, trade negotiations with the United States — and the list could have been longer. Though he chose to stop there, he vowed to voice his differences firmly for the sake, he said, of “fruitful confrontations.”
Mr. Macron went on to suggest that “the German growth model has perhaps run its course.” In his view, Germany, having made belt-tightening reforms that were right for its own economy, had fully benefited from the imbalances created within the eurozone; especially hard hit were the Southern economies like Spain, Greece and Italy, for which austerity was bitter and destabilizing. These imbalances have worsened, Mr. Macron pointed out, and they now “run counter to the social project” he supports.”
“They were called “brown babies,” or “mischlingskinder,” a derogatory German term for mixed-race children. And sometimes they were just referred to as mutts.
They were born during the occupation years in Germany after World War II, the offspring of German women and African-American soldiers. Their fathers were usually transferred elsewhere and their mothers risked social repercussions by keeping them, so the babies were placed in orphanages.
But when Mabel Grammer, an African-American journalist, became aware of the orphaned children, she stepped in. She and her husband, an army chief warrant officer stationed in Mannheim, and later Karlsruhe, adopted 12 of them, and Grammer found homes for 500 others.”
For those of us who still want to see a vibrant, unified Europe, our best hope for the moment is the faint chance for a second referendum on Brexit. If Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan on how to leave does not find approval in Westminster, the question of whether to leave with no deal at all could be put to the British people: Look, is this really what you want?
It is a remote possibility, yet it offers Ms. Merkel her own second chance — an opportunity to do everything she can to show British voters that the European Union is worth keeping. She could begin by endorsing limits — even slight ones — on the free internal movement of labor. Done right, it would send a signal that Brussels and Berlin are listening to voters, while doing minimal harm to Europe’s labor markets.
This would not hurt the principle of free movement as such. It would also be a move that the Germans themselves might find attractive, given that a new batch of countries — this time in the western Balkans — are lining up for membership. Whatever her answer, the choice is pretty clear for the European Union: reform, or face the next revolt.
Jochen Bittner is a political editor for the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a contributing opinion writer.
Every few years I try to write a column staking out a reasonable middle ground on immigration. After all, most big, important issues are clashes in which both sides have a piece of the truth.
The case for restricting immigration seems superficially plausible. Over the last several decades we’ve conducted a potentially reckless experiment. The number of foreign-born Americans is at record highs, straining national cohesion, raising distrust. Maybe America should take a pause, as we did in the 1920s. After all, that pause seemed to produce the cohesive America of the 1940s that won the war and rose to pre-eminence.
Every few years I try to write this moderate column. And every few years I fail. That’s because when you wade into the evidence you find that the case for restricting immigration is pathetically weak. The only people who have less actual data on their side are the people who deny climate change.
You don’t have to rely on pointy-headed academics. Get in your car. If you start in rural New England and drive down into Appalachia or across into the Upper Midwest you will be driving through county after county with few immigrants. These rural places are often 95 percent white. These places lack the diversity restrictionists say is straining the social fabric.
Are these counties marked by high social cohesion, economic dynamism, surging wages and healthy family values? No. Quite the opposite. They are often marked by economic stagnation, social isolation, family breakdown and high opioid addiction. Charles Murray wrote a whole book, “Coming Apart,” on the social breakdown among working-class whites, many of whom live in these low immigrant areas.
Rural areas have been declining, and have done worse economically than urban areas, for decades, and it’s not because of immigration. Small farms were driven out by big industrial farms. Jobs moved South to take advantage of cheap non-union labor, lower taxes (coupled with less government service), snow-free winters and air-conditioned summers. Manufacturing moved to the South, to Mexico, and overseas. The Rural Electrification Agency brought electricity to rural areas in the 1930, but Republicans have refused to force telecom companies to provide internet service to these areas today.
I could go on. The point is, it’s not the fault of some ingrained anti-immigrant attitude. Attitudes didn’t cause economic decline. Decline causes the attitudes. Obama was right when he said that when a community suffers hard times year after year, people cling to their guns and their religion. They also cling to their clans. My guess is that David Brooks has never experienced hard financial times, or lived in a struggling rural community, and I don’t think he’ll ever understand it. But these folks aren’t going away, even if Trump does, and they’ve got an electoral college advantage that coupd swing elections for decades.
“When asked during a news conference on Monday afternoon why he dropped out of the talks, Mr. Lindner listed areas where the negotiations didn’t yield the results his party wanted. The other parties would agree only to a gradual elimination of the “Soli,” a tax used to help the economies of former East German regions. The Free Democrats had also sought limits on immigration, but the Greens insisted on exceptions for humanitarian reasons. These are completely normal and necessary compromises — but the Free Democrats apparently feared that their voters would be told by the AfD that the party had sold them out for a chance to rule.
The sudden end of the talks is a huge blow to Germany’s global image as a stable, responsible power. Compared to what is at stake on the global level, the discussion on when to end the Soli looks tiny. But then it is exactly this, the disdain for what seem like petty concerns in the name of compromise, that has fed the rise of populism in the first place.
Mr. Lindner and others need the political courage not just to compromise, but to explain to the public why compromise is vital to German democracy.”
“BERLIN — She’s running again. Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that she will once again lead her party, the center-right Christian Democrats, in Germany’s national election next September. If the party wins, she will capture a fourth term, running a country increasingly rived by populism and xenophobia.
But in starting the battle, she has also, in a way, called it off. Hillary Clinton made her campaign about defending America against the evils of populism and retrograde nationalism; Ms. Merkel will pretend there is no such war. As her campaign, just a week old, has already made clear, she will do everything she can to avoid standing against ideologies, or for them. And this might be a very smart move.”