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Indifferent mercantilism. This, according to the bitterest critics, is the paradigm that has dominated German foreign policy throughout the past legislature. The China of Europe, said the angriest, concerned only with selling weapons, purchasing cheap, plentiful energy, asking few questions about democracy and human rights, and turning its back on any responsibility connected with world peace and security.
We often criticise Angela Merkel’s European policy as short-sighted. Remember when the Spanish foreign minister, José García-Margallo, said that Merkel “always arrived 15 minutes late” at the various euro crises? Well, that was perhaps putting it politely when considering the foreign policy of Merkel and her foreign minister in the previous government, the liberal Guido Westerwelle. It isn’t that the train arrived late, it’s that it never left the station. Why this difference
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The announcement came shortly before midnight on Tuesday: there will be no ruling coalition between the Greens and Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). No-one wants new elections, the Greens and the Social Democrats (SPD) reject the notion of a joint coalition with the Left Party, and Germans almost unanimously dismiss the idea of a minority government by the CDU. So it should be no surprise that SPD and CDU struck a deal today and agreed to formally start coalition talks.
The key questions now revolve around who gets what, with the Finance Ministry being the key bone of contention. Current occupant Wolfgang Schäuble is refusing to budge, but the conservative wing of the SPD has already announced that Social Democrat possession of the Finance Ministry is a prerequisite for a "grand coalition".
Evidently, the Finance Ministry has replaced the Foreign Ministry as the most
Back in 2012, Rajoy's conservative government felt that it was often let down and cornered by Germany. Tensions flared in the first semester of 2012, as Spain’s risk premium exploded and the country was placed on the verge of full intervention by the Troika due to its collapsing savings bank sector. Fearing that the comfortable absolute majority which the conservatives had taken 8 years to build would be wiped away in just one semester, the dominant feeling about Germany was bitterness and criticism over what Spanish elites perceived as sheer intransigence. As Spain missed deficit targets one after another, and social tensions exploded due to austerity induced cuts in health, education, pensions, and labour markets, Rajoy went against his conservative instincts
Britain has become comfortable with Mrs Merkel as Europe’s foremost politician. Her sensible demeanour stands her in good stead with a public with an inbuilt suspicion of anybody seen (or supposed) to be peddling greater ambitions for the European Union (as David Cameron’s criticism of José Manuel Barroso bears out). With polls suggesting that she is similarly well thought of among Germany’s voters, most Britons are assuming that things will continue much as they are now once the elections are out the way – notwithstanding residual curiosity over the intricacies of coalition forming, especially after their own recent experience of it.
If Mrs Merkel, thanks to coalition arithmetic, were to be thrown out, Britain might not be quite so sanguine. There’s a real
Germany’s elections are largely a non-issue in Bulgaria, where political life is consumed by a three-month long mass protest demanding the Socialist-led cabinet’s resignation. Germany is also absent on the main foreign policy issue that preoccupies Bulgarians: the war in Syria, which affects Bulgaria thanks to refugees crossing from Turkey. Politicians and pundits alike break spears unpicking the policies of Russia, UK, US, and France, but German foreign policy passivity keeps the country off the radar screen. That’s surprising, as Bulgaria has often taken clues on European matters after looking closely at Berlin. What is more, the centre-right government of Boyko Borissov, in power until March this year, courted Angela Merkel, extolling the virtues
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