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Issue #126

Issue #126

Guten Morgen! 

Although this officially is the 126th edition of the Krautshell, we are dubbing it the “Jonny-Goodbye-Tour edition”, which basically just means he got to do more work than he was expecting in his last week with us. Hooray! But anyways, Jonny took the honors in the House’s View to demonstrate how a board game can, in fact, have wide-reaching geopolitical consequences. Then, our main articles give you some preliminary intel on the European elections and an update on Germany’s battle with green data centers. Finally, check out Jonny’s Swansong WOOM to find out what he actually has been doing these past three years, and where’s he’s onto next. Enjoy! (But not too much because we actually also are quite sad.)


Anna                                                     Szilvia


Who’s Got the Listiest List of Lists?

Not to perpetuate stereotypes or anything (oh wait this newsletter is called Krautshell… nevermind) but if there’s two things Germans love, they’re planning ahead and making a list. If something can be list-efied, Germans will do it. Now, we are one year out from the European Parliament (EP) elections (we briefly spoke about them a few weeks ago) and the German party officials tasked with preparing for them have begun doing what we do best – listing. Have no idea what we mean? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

As a quick refresher: voters in the European elections don’t vote for direct candidates, but rather for political parties. And here’s where the lists come in – before the elections, each party has to put forward a ranking of the politicians they want to represent them in the EP. Then, depending on which percentage of the vote your party receives, you get allocated a number of seats, and start filling them in order of this ranking. 

But enough of “Schoolhouse Rock: Spitzenkandidat Edition” and let’s get to some spicy insights. Most of the buzz we heard this week surrounds gender balance. The Social Democrats have gotten some stick because of their 10:6 male-female ratio in the Parliament. To ensure this doesn’t happen again, the SPD will introduce a rule that any candidate who leaves his or her position must be replaced by someone of the same gender. And, as the other democratic parties are doing, the election list will alternate between men and women. This system is creating some infighting among the Greens, as four men are battling it out for spot two on the list. This spot is particularly important, as various election predictions point towards a significant loss of seats for the Greens. Finally, don’t expect the SPD leadership to stick to any list they agree on – the party leadership has already indicated that they might make some last-minute changes to individual candidates can get out the vote among specific voter groups. Stay tuned for further election updates over the coming months!

Energieeffizienzgesetz: The Hot Air Strikes Back

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for one of our favorite Krautshell games: we call it making-you-give-a-s***-about-something-you-never-knew-you-should-care-about-ball. And yes, we’re still working on the name. This week: Germany’s Energy Efficiency Act. We already reported on this law last year when it first got introduced, but after over half a year of intense rhetorical battles, the draft law is in its final stages.

In a [Kraut]shell, the law takes aim at particularly energy-intensive sectors and introduces a series of measures to… well… make them more efficient. Now, if you’re just here to find out exactly how green your data center needs to be and by when, the answer is 100% by 2027. But, to be honest, what’s interesting about this draft law is rather the debate it sparked around Germany and its competitiveness in a rapidly changing world. 

As part of this “Green Transition,” Germany (and the EU for that matter) will have to simply reduce their energy consumption one way or the other. In absolute terms, data centers use a lot of electricity (like, more than entire countries). On the other hand, data centers are the backbone of Germany’s digitization push. Germany constantly talks about its desire to be digitally sovereign – and attracting data centers into your borders seems like a pretty good way to be less dependent. However, the sustainability concern is legitimate – hence why this debate has been so drawn out and intense. Ultimately, what we are left with is a sensible piece of legislation that, if effective, can significantly reduce Germany’s carbon footprint. However, as the President of Germany’s largest digital industry association, Bitkom, fairly pointed out, Germany is doing this alone. The government has placed its bet that companies will still be attracted to the German market – even if it is more expensive than its neighboring countries. If the government is wrong though, Germany will not reap the economic benefits, and the world will not be any more green than it currently is. We’re excited to see how this plays out.


Source: Eurostat


By Jonny

These are wild geopolitical times; there is no longer just a classic West-East tension as in the good old times. In the meantime, China is also heavily involved in global affairs and is fighting for advantages. If you expect an article about NATO vs. Russia, Xi’s call to Zelenskyy or something similar, I will disappoint you one last time today. I would like to use my last House’s View (see WOOM below) to focus on another global battlefield: the chessboard.

A Supposedly Worthless World Championship

Currently, the World Chess Championship is taking place in Astana (Kazakhstan) and sitting opposite each other in front of the 64 squares are Ding Liren from China and Ian Nempomniatchi (“Nepo”) from Russia. The latter is not allowed to play under the flag of his country because … needless to say. He is allowed to participate at all only because he, together with some other Russian chess players, has condemned the war in an open letter to Putin. He still lives in Moscow and is tolerated because he is too successful. If he doesn’t win this world championship, however, that could change.

If you know anything about chess, you may have wondered already. It’s the World Championship, but then where is this handsome Norwegian guy who has been literally crushing everything and everyone for the last few years? Magnus Carlsen, five-time World Champion in a row and possibly the GOAT is not competing, simply because it’s too much effort for too little return (for him). 

Why Care?

So, the future world champion is not even the best player in the world and somehow everything takes place under strange conditions. So why should you care and WHY THE HELL IN A POLITICS NEWSLETTER? Fair question, I might say. But chess has always been a heavily politicized sport and even was in the times of Bobby Fischer quasi the next proxy war between the USA and Russia. And basically, it’s no different today, just as China has gotten involved here as well. 

Unlike in geopolitics, the role of the Chinese here is not that big. In the women’s game they dominate almost mercilessly, but in the men’s game Ding Liren is the only grandmaster with a really top world-class format.

FIFA, ah sorry, “FIDE”

When you look at the world chess federation FIDE, you inevitably feel reminded of FIFA, the world governing body of soccer. The history of political entanglements, corruption, scandals, all that is longer than probably 10 House’s Views. But the very latest times are also exciting. The president of FIDE is Arkady Dvorkovich, and if you’re thinking, “That sounds kind of Russian,” well, because it is. Dvorkovich has been FIDE President since 2018 and was re-elected in August 2022 by an absurd majority of the federation and its members. The opposing candidate even was a Ukrainian (LOL). Dvorkovich has distanced himself from the Russian regime, which many find rather uncredible, which is equally understandable considering that he was deputy prime minister under Vladimir Putin.

Nevertheless, the influence of the Russian Chess Federation in FIDE has obviously decreased in recent years. No Russian sponsor is consistently allowed anymore, no tournament is held in Russia.

Enters China

In order to qualify for the World Championship, one has to win a Candidates Tournament filled with the ten best chess players. The real World Championship is then played out only between the old champion and his challenger (except this year, obviously). Ding Liren, currently number 3 in the world rankings, finished second in the Candidates Tournament behind Ian Nepomniatchi. Then Carlsen announced his withdrawal, so now Ding and Nepo are playing the World Championship. Ding Liren took part in the Candidates Tournament only because there was a move-up spot. And there was only because Sergei Karjakin, who lost to Carlsen as a challenger in 2016, expressed his enthusiasm for the war in Ukraine right after it started and was subsequently banned by FIDE for half a year. Next in line at the time was Ding Liren, but he hadn’t actually played enough games so far in 2022 to take part in the Candidates Tournament. This prompted Chinese politicians to organize a dozen tournaments within a month, in which Ding was allowed to beat other Chinese players in order to be admitted to the Candidates Tournament.

Otherwise, however, it is fair to admit that China’s influence in global chess is declining, partly because the Chinese version of chess as well as the game of “Go” are simply more popular in the country. Still, if Ding wins the world championship, I’m sure Beijing will be happy to take it.

The House’s View

In Germany, people like to shout “sport shouldn’t be political” when other people demand that, for example, German soccer players in Qatar should set an example of tolerance. Chess is the perfect proof that no matter how much you want sport not to be political, the officials and countries themselves make it political. 

Lastly, a small commercial: the World Championship is really exciting in terms of play. Unlike GOAT Carlsen prefers, these two players are playing with their visors down. Significantly less tactical, fewer games end in draws. At the time I’m writing this article, Ding has just tied the game at 6:6. At the time you are reading this article, the possibly decisive 14th game is taking place on Saturday. 7,5 points to win. If the score is 7:7 at the 14th game, it will go into overtime. If you liked watching “Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix, you will love this drama. Last but not least: I also used my last House’s View for a weird-looking theme. I hope you guys will miss it. Bye bye!


  • Leave My Schengen Alone: As many of you are probably aware of, much of the European Union enjoys open-border travel and free movement of labor between many Member States – the Schengen Zone. Much like how some EU countries don’t use the Euro, some Member States are also not in the Schengen area. And, according to Austria this week, it will stay that way for Romania and Bulgaria for the time being. The country refuses to lift its veto on these countries joining the free-travel club due to “increasing numbers of refugees.”
  • Let’s Get Critical: Last year, following a long debate, the German government approved Chinese state-owned company Cosco partial ownership stake of the Port of Hamburg. Now, it seems that decision will have to be revisited as the harbor was just classified as “critical infrastructure” – and therefore brings some new national security considerations with it. Everything’s still up in the air.
  • Finland Veers to the Right: Finnish Prime Minister-elect Petteri Orpo of the centre-right party plans to begin coalition negotiations this coming week. Part of that process will involve – among others – the anti-immigration Finns Party. We foresee some issues, as the two parties have diametrically opposing views on how migration to Finland should be regulated.


By Jonny

Not Particularly Good at Goodbyes

Today might be a sad day for the broad masses of government affairs professionals in the US that hold a particular interest in getting to know more about the tiny little nuances of German and Austrian culture and politics in this newsletter (thanks to you three guys!). This is because I have to sadly announce that this is my last Krautshell contribution. I’m leaving off to new adventures. And while Szilvia and Anna said something about “being just a little too tight on budget” to grant me a big Zapfenstreich like Angela Merkel had, they offered me to write a WOOM in exchange knowing that I would then head out like


Time for some reflection. I’ve been writing and editing this newsletter since the idea emerged in April 2020. Given that when Christian hired me in 2019, he was under the impression I was 19 years old (which I wasn’t), you can imagine three years of Krautshell actually are a long time for me. Since I don’t come up with Shakespeare-level article headlines like “Last Christmas I Gave You My Insolvency Application” on a full-time basis, I besides had the chance to develop an internal cost accounting and controlling system here. Yes, I’m the fun guy at parties. Krautshell definitely makes all our work weeks very exciting. We developed this newsletter, we had a live interview with an MEP, we brought quite some great guests to give us their insights.


So, for me nearly 4 years of fun at Erste Lesung come to an end and I’m happy to take this chance to say thanks to you who endured my very funny jokes and explanations of weird German cultural references. I highly appreciate that. Thanks to all the great people like Dr. Steven Sokol who I got to know due to the work on this newsletter. Special thanks of course also to Christian, Anna and Szilvia who were always confident to argue this newsletter brings enough value to let us spend considerable amounts of time on it. And lastly a very big thank you to my beloved colleague Mats – words can’t possibly describe the fun and joy I had doing this together with you (but maybe a giphy can).


Well, this got weirdly emotional quite fast. I mean, it’s only the guy leaving who gave you book shopping recommendations here in lack of a better article idea short before Christmas (you’re welcome, by the way). In case you want to stay in touch, happy to talk to you on LinkedIn. For now, I just imagine my goodbye looks exactly like this. Cheers!