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Issue #115

Issue #115

Guten Morgen! 

Welcome to another edition of the Krautshell! This week, Jonny’s House’s View takes a sharp look at this weekend’s Berlin repeat elections following a recent court decision that the 2021 elections were bungled (oh, Berlin). In addition, our main articles discuss a recent German petition against the war in Ukraine (and the strange alliances that has produced), the EU’s struggle for migration reform, and the European debate on supplying fighter jets to Ukraine. Finally, enjoy Anna’s glimpse into Berlin’s washed-up urban planning efforts.


Anna                                Christian


I’d Like A Large Coke And A Moral High Ground, Please

You can believe the war in Ukraine should just end no matter how and you can believe it should end but only on Ukraine’s terms. Both is credible. What’s certainly interesting around this question is the emergence of self-identified intellectuals in Germany that advertise for an end of the war, basically no matter under which conditions. Under the leadership of Left party politician Sahra Wagenknecht and German feminist icon Alice Schwarzer, a loose alliance of public figures posted a petition against German arms deliveries on Friday that had several 10,000 signatures already after a few hours. Among others, they have (unsolicited) support by the leader of Germany’s far-right AfD, Tino Chrupalla – something, I’m sure, Sahra Wagenknecht as a prominent left-wing figure wasn’t expecting to happen to her on any issue whatsoever.

The initiators of the petition, like US General Milley, believe that Ukraine cannot win this war by military means, so peace negotiations should start as soon as possible. They basically judge Western hypocrisy in Russia-related topics and call out politicians to stop delivering weapons to Ukraine, which would effectively force the country to peace negotiations. All the well-known counterarguments against this view aside, the group makes one major intellectual mistake. While they acknowledge Ukraine has the right to self-defense, they believe to act in Ukraine’s best interest when they want to force them to negotiate by ending Western support. This view of “we know what’s best for you” is not much better than the hypocrisy they like to blame other people for. As long as Ukrainian people want to fight, and a survey ahead of the Munich Security Conference shows they want to (only German source, sorry!), we can’t blame them for asking for support. Instead of just cutting the once-started support we can try to argue with them about negotiating with Russia. Everything else is also just a very comfortable moral high ground, again.

BUILD THAT WALL (and Make Normal Taxpayers Pay for it)

It was but a few short years ago that Donald Trump appeared on the global political stage with his hard-hitting slogan to “build the wall and make Mexico pay for it.” Trump’s harsh rhetoric was received particularly negatively over here in Europe. This week, the tables turned as it was the European politicians creating border-related outrage.

So, what happened? In short, this week, the Heads of State of the EU Member States met for a summit in Brussels. Right after applauding Ukrainian President Zelenskyy out of the room for his country’s heroic fight, the conversation turned to the topic of migration. And it got ugly. Countries like Austria, Hungary, Denmark, Estonia and Greece pointed to last year’s 64% spike in irregular border crossings (330,000 to be exact) as the reason for why the EU needs to fund more border fences. In stark opposition to this position were Luxembourgish Prime Minister Bettel and German Chancellor Scholz. Essentially, they made the case that walls don’t work and that these sorts of barriers are a slippery slope that will eventually turn Europe into a fortress. Various experts also weighed in, for example over Twitter, to add some more spice to the debate. At 3AM on Friday Morning, leaders finally agreed on a statement which called for the Commission to immediately mobilize funds to help “border protection capabilities and infrastructure,” specifying that it was not meant for fences, but rather surveillance equipment. 

This ongoing debate is particularly juicy given the European Elections occurring in 2024. Parties are already beginning to position themselves for certain voter groups, and yesterday’s happenings are a sign that migration policy could be a deciding factor. A new European approach to migration has been long overdue according to both sides. However, in the absence of concrete proposals and a political will for more cooperation, a vacuum exists where any- and everyone throws their two cents in. We will keep you updated.

Red Lines, Or: How to Cross Them

European (like American) support for Ukraine has followed a curious pattern. Step 1: Ukraine asks for a certain weapon system – guns, rockets, tanks, you name it. Step 2: Western leaders refuse, citing fears of escalation. Step 3: Western leaders relent and deliver the weapons. This process has occurred almost every step of the way, from defensive to offensive weapons, and found its conclusion – so far – in the recent announcement by Germany and other European partners to deliver Leopard 2 main battle tanks to the Ukrainian government. In essence, there has been a regular crossing of self-imposed red lines in terms of what European governments considered acceptable military support. Which brings us to today’s topic – fighter jets! Because if the German government’s recent refusal to deliver military aircraft to Ukraine signals anything at all, it is a further red line which (based on the crude process outlined above) will sooner or later be crossed. 

The pressure is already growing on Chancellor Scholz following his 9 February refusal to countenance a fighter jet debate. The United Kingdom seems at least willing to consider the possibility, while French President Emmanuel Macron has refused to refuse them. In that sense, Ukrainian President Zelensky’s Europe tour has already borne some fruits: What seemed inconceivable only a few weeks ago – F-16s and Typhoons flying over Ukraine’s skies – has become a real possibility. What the delivery of fighter aircraft would mean on the battlefield is another question entirely. They are more complex, training- and care-intensive than any tank by far, and it would take months at least for them to be operational, even if they were delivered today. Finally, there is the political dimension: Once Europe delivers fighter jets, there’s nothing new to provide save boots on the ground – a red line if ever there was one.


Source: IMF


By Jonny

Chaos In Germany’s Capital

An election is being repeated in Berlin this weekend. One and a half years ago, when Berlin held state elections at the same time as the federal election and for unknown reasons thought it was a great idea to simultaneously host a marathon, there were various irritations such as missing ballots, closed polling stations and many more. This was enough for the Berlin Constitutional Court to decide that the election for the state parliament and also for the local district assemblies had to be repeated. Time for a brief overview.

The Status Quo

The mayor of Berlin, just like the mayors of Hamburg and Bremen, is not merely a simple mayor, because these three cities simultaneously enjoy the status of a federal state. Accordingly, the position is at the same time equivalent to that of a Minister-President in other federal states. Last time, the SPD came out as strongest force in Berlin. Front runner and Franziska Giffey finally formed a government coalition with the Greens and the Left Party – a center-left alliance. It is not a secret that Franziska Giffey would have preferred to govern with the conservative CDU and the FDP or perhaps – analogous to the federal level – in a traffic light alliance instead but was allegedly pressured to the current constellation by her party.

New Chance For The Opposition(?)

It is a German running joke that Berlin resembles a failed state. Germany is probably the only country in the world that has such a divided relationship with its capital. The popular story is that of the capital’s permanent rather left-wing government, which is “fun and games” but gradually runs the city down. A narrative that even ex-mayor Klaus Wowereit of the SPD adopted in allusion to the large budget deficit when he once said Berlin was “poor but sexy.”

Berlin was governed by the center-left alliance even before the chaos of the 2021 elections, and it is accordingly easy for the opposition of CDU and FDP to blame the current government for the past chaos election. And then there is New Year’s Eve, which I have already reported on in a past House’s View, when street battles dominated the capital, triggering a migration debate that went completely out of hand and generally gave the impression that Franziska Giffey doesn’t have her city under control. 

Who Will Win?

The New Year’s Eve chaos was, if we want to be cynical and we are always cynical here, the best thing that could happen from an opposition point of view. As a conservative party, the CDU in particular stands for law and order and was able to capitalize on the chaos in the capital just in time. The narrative of left-wing politics that has nothing under control writes itself anyways. Accordingly, the CDU’s election campaign, which (just as cynically) could be titled: everything sucks – but we’ll make it better.

As is well known, such a narrative is not without risk, and some voters may well resent it if politicians badmouth one’s own region, but it seems to be working, at least in part. In the polls, the CDU is ahead of the SPD and the Greens. So, everything should be clear, right?

The Risk of Winning but Still Losing

Even if the CDU becomes the strongest force in the state elections, it is by no means certain that it will also lead the future government. Even though the CDU leads in polls with about 24-26%, the SPD and the Greens are close behind with 18-21%. Accordingly, both parties would have a credible threat to form a government with the around 11%-ranking Left Party despite a CDU victory. The FDP, perhaps the most natural coalition partner for the CDU, must fear whether it can jump the 5% threshold to enter the state parliament. No one wants to forge an alliance with the far-right AfD anyway. In other words, it could happen that the CDU wins the election, but the distribution of votes is such that the SPD, the Greens and the Left again have a parliamentary majority. Then nobody could prevent them from forming a coalition again.

The House’s View

Not without reason, the SPD and the Greens criticized the view of Armin Laschet (CDU) after the 2021 federal elections, when the CDU came in second after the SPD, to claim a government mandate for himself. Even if it is mathematically possible to form a government as the second-placed, it is difficult to convey to the voter. Nevertheless, the CDU’s election campaign tactic of discrediting everything the SPD and the Greens are doing could prove to be a hindrance if, after the election on Sunday, it is mathematically enough for the continuation of the center-left alliance. To form a CDU-led government, perhaps as a grand coalition with the SPD or as an alliance with the Greens and the FDP, the party would have to make a lot of concessions. So even if the CDU wins the election, it is in an unpleasant position. It would have to achieve over 30% of the vote to celebrate a major success. The fact that it does not seem to be able to do so, despite the poor performance of the current government, could also quickly cost top candidate Kai Wegner his post, because one thing is sure: success looks different.


  • Moldovan Government Steps Down: On the same day that a Russian missile violated its airspace, the pro-European Prime Minister of Moldova, a small Black Sea littoral state wedged between Romania and Ukraine, has stepped down. The resignation of Natalia Gavrilita comes amid economic turmoil and rising tensions with Russia.
  • German Defense Minister Wants More Funding: Boris Pistorius, Germany’s Social Democratic new defense minister, this Friday reportedly requested a 10-billion-euro annual increase in Germany’s defense budget of approx. 50 billion euros. Several policymakers, including Pistorius, had recently stated that Germany’s 100-billion-euro “Special Fund” for the Bundeswehr was insufficient to meet the armed forces’ needs.
  • Next Arrest in Connection with Qatargate: Belgian police on Friday arrested a further Member of the European Parliament in connection with the Qatargate bribery scandal. Marc Tarabella, who was already ejected from his socialist party group, will be detained as part of a wider investigation which has already seen several arrests and harmed the Parliament’s standing.


By Anna, Senior Consultant at Erste Lesung

Dit is Berlin.

Moving away from world politics and fundamental questions of policies and zooming in on the daily annoyances: The Berliner Friedrichstrasse. For those of you who didn’t get a chance to visit Berlin yet: It is quite a big street in the center of Berlin, close to the parliamentary quarter, with retail shops, restaurants, and coffee houses. Connecting the Leipziger Strasse with Unter den Linden and the train stations, it is a significant traffic axis.


Well, the Berlin Senator for Mobility, Bettina Jarasch from the Greens, in August 2020 decided to close the street for traffic and establish a pedestrian zone. No cars, just some potted plants on the street (Yes: potted plants). Unfortunately, she forgot to ask local business owners and residents what they thought about the idea. She also forgot to come up with a plan for what to do with that street (apart from the greenery). And, to top it all off, she forgot to pass a regulation allowing for that closure. Some of the businesses sued, won, and in November 2022 the potted plants disappeared, while the cars reappeared. Unfortunately, Bettina Jarasch is quite a stubborn person. Without consulting the senate, or anyone for that matter, she put in place the necessary regulation. So, about 2 weeks ago the cars once again disappeared, and poof, the plants were back. Now, the residents are once again starting an initiative.


Well, it might have stayed an annoyance for the directly affected (like ourselves, our offices being right around the corner). Except, as you read above, Berlin is heading for another state election this weekend because the last one went terribly embarrassingly fundamentally wrong (reread the WOOM here for a reminder), and after a court decision the Berliners need to reelect their state government. And the question of the Friedrichstrasse all of a sudden has become a major election campaign topic.


85% of Greens’ voters are in favor of the closure, hence Senator Jarasch is determined. Basically, everyone else is opposed, so not only the opposition parties are campaigning for opening the street again, but Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey (from the SPD, and governing in a coalition with the Greens) as well. In fact, she publicly said she doesn’t approve of that whole course of action without a clear concept. The CDU is gaining approval in the polls, and depending on who will win the election, we might get back the cars back. Or keep the potted plants.

I know that this is utterly insignificant compared to everything else that’s going on nowadays. But then, it’s also highly entertaining. The capital’s election might be decided over 500 meters of street closing. Dit is Berlin.

And for some more impressions of what Berlin is, check out the unofficial Berlin hymn: