It’s Endspurt (Engl. final sprint) time in the Krautshell team. Michael Buble is blessing our ears, the house smells like cinnamon and pine trees, and the Adventskerzen are almost burnt to little stumps. Before we close our laptops for some long-awaited R&R though, we wanted to bring you a box of holiday surprises in the form of 6 short articles and a WOOM from Anna. Mats writes about how Qataris have taken a liking to a very prominent Greek, Jonny shares his jarring experience with Austrian Christmas traditions, and Max writes about some gassy problems Germany’s been having. Finally, Anna rounds out the year with a heartfelt Christmas WOOM. Enjoy and see you in 2023!
FIRST, SOME (SOMEWHAT) LONGER LONG STORY SHORTS:
The Swedes have Entered the Chat
Another 6 months have gone by, and that means a new country takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Essentially, in addition to pushing its own agenda, this country is in charge of coordinating the Member States’ positions in one of the EU’s legislative bodies, the Council. From January until July 2023, the new presidency in town is Sweden. Contrary to previous country’s presidency programs which often include flowery, expressive language, Sweden’s is remarkably dark. A precarious energy situation, a potential economic crisis, and constant challenges to internal EU cohesion means that the Stockholmers in Brussels have their work cut out for them. The program can be found here.
Corruption in the European Parliament: a Greek Tragedy
In case you haven’t heard yet, the European political bubble was shooketh this past weekend when Greek Member of European Parliament (and one of 14 vice presidents) Eva Kaili was arrested on charges of corruption. Essentially, Kaili (and likely other associates that are still to be pulled out from the woodwork) accepted bribes in return for favorable decisions on Qatar in the European Parliament. Let’s get this out of the way first: we’re deeply shocked and saddened at this erosion of trust in one of Europe’s democratic pillars. But, as European political meme websites have correctly pointed out, someone in Qatar probably didn’t do their homework. The Krautshell team by no means supports anything that even has a hint of bribery and corruption, but if you’re going to bribe a European institution, at least figure out where the most effective place to do so is first. (Hence why the EU Council Presidency mentioned in the article above is so key)..
Christmas Time Is Reading Time
We are very sure many of you need to read a lot for job purposes. How wonderful that Christmas is a special period of the year where you might have some time to read something just for fun and enjoyment. If you don’t have a sophisticated reading list for this year ready, don’t worry, we got you covered. How about you try The Capital by Robert Menasse – the Austrian author has the European Union as one of his favorite topics. But don’t worry, it’s not a boring non-fiction book explaining the difference between the Council of the EU and the Council of Europe: The Capital is a very well-written novel with Brussels as the main place of action. It has everything: EU institutions, a mysterious criminal case and you learn a lot about the EU bubble. 10/10 would recommend. You can order it on Amazon or you can pay you favorite local book store a visit – they’ll for sure appreciate it.
German Austrian Christmas Traditions
As you might have read in one of my last house’s views, this year I found a new home in Vienna, Austria. Even if hard to believe, I stumbled upon a few Christmas traditions here that were entirely new to me. To scare the sh*t out of you a few days before Christmas, meet Krampus. In Austria, this hairy fellow is the counterpart to St. Nick who brings small presents to children on (you guessed it) St. Nick’s Day. However, only the nice kids get presents because we love being a sadistic society (NO MUM, I am always kind and it’s not “rude” to not live with your parents anymore when being 24 years old! – ehm, sorry for that). The bad kids get a visit by Krampus whose origin is in the pre-Christianity days. In Austria, especially in rural areas, we have a lot of “Krampus processions” where many local associations present their Krampus costumes. I really like it here in Austria, but – not gonna lie – I’m happy I didn’t grew up here.
German Gas Troubles (Vol. 133)
We hate to sound like a broken record, and we’re sure you’ve heard it all before, but Germany is facing a potentially tricky winter following the shutdown of energy (especially gas) imports from Russia. What makes this relevant today is that winter has struck in a big way, and the German government is clearly uneasy at the prospect of Germans turning on their heaters. First off, this came as a bit of a surprise following meteorologists’ predictions that this would be a mild (read: good) winter. No more: Temperatures in Berlin have dropped to -10 C (14 degrees Fahrenheit) and on Monday alone, Germany used one percent of its total gas reserves. Amidst much nailbiting by the government, we’re settling down for a frosty jolly Christmas.
Zeitenwende in Action?
Chancellor Scholz’s loudly proclaimed “Transition” to a more assertive foreign and defense policy has recently come under metaphorical fire, not least due to Germany’s notoriously gaffe-prone defense minister and a series of revelations about the parlous state of ammunition supplies. This week, however, the Bundestag greenlit a substantial defense package, including most prominently the purchase of 35 cutting-edge US-made F-35 fighter jets. But before anyone gets too excited about Germany catching up on its NATO commitments: Recent press reports suggest that the German military has about two days’ worth of ammunition, so we would carefully suggest stocking up on that before investing in prestige projects that will take years to realize. Welcome to the world of German defense procurement.
WHAT’S ON OUR MINDS:
2022. It’s over. Almost. We made it. But. Reflecting on the year there is not much positive that comes to mind, quite the contrary. Energy crisis, record inflation, hottest summer in history, weather extremities, not to mention all the political turmoil in several European countries, and then, overshadowing it all, a pointless, wrongful war in Europe, a mindless destruction to no end, horrific suffering, unimaginable to all of us going on with our daily lives, trying to ignore the inherent cynicism of it.
I could have just copied most of last year’s WOOM, because the tone was similar, with hopes that the upcoming year will be better and brighter than the passing one. Instead, it got worse in a way we thought impossible in a unified and peaceful Europe. On the bright side it’s being said that the war has brought together the western states, the EU, the NATO, that it made the united front stronger. To me, this is too small a win to celebrate given the price.
There is no obvious solution, and thus no end, in sight. And we can be certain that there will be many more victims before Ukraine can even start thinking about rebuilding its country, and much more hardship before there can be anything close to normality.
But, because it’s Christmas, hope is kind of mandatory. In that spirit, I hope that the West stays united, that we will increase our efforts to support Ukraine, that we will continue welcoming people forced to leave their homes, and I hope that next year’s last WOOM of the year will look back onto a more joyful and peaceful 2023.
P.S.: Do you remember how you used to make mixtapes for the people you valued the most? We made one for you. Merry Christmas. ☺