It was an exciting week for us, and you can read about why in the first article in this episode.
Have a wonderful start into your weekend and week with the newest Krautshell edition. Enjoy and ping us for more!
FIRST, SOME SOLID INTEL:
Three Cs, Archie Comics, and a Positive Transatlantic Outlook: Our First 1-5-30 Talk
This past week was quite eventful for us here at Krautshell, as we successfully hosted our first 1-5-30 TALK webinar. In case you missed it (there will be more to come, don’t worry): the idea is one guest, five questions, 30 minutes, and our first guest was the European Parliament’s foremost foreign policy expert: David McAllister (EPP). During the TALK, which was hosted by Anna (I think we found her second calling, watch out Anderson Cooper), Mr. McAllister was impressively open and honest, something we’ve learned is not always a given when speaking with elected officials. We even found out he’s a massive fan of the Archie comics!
Regarding the transatlantic relationship, Mr. McAllister was both optimistic and realistic. In his words, the US and the EU are “natural partners on trade, technology and digital governance,” and he hopes that through transatlantic cooperation, the EU will regain its place as a “rule-setter, not a rule-taker.” Despite being natural partners though, he had some important words of caution: “Data management issues will remain highly problematic in the coming years… or, to put it in a Krautshell… especially the American side needs to understand data protection is of much bigger importance in Europe than it is in the US.” All you techies take note. Furthermore, the EU really wants to cooperate with the US as closely as possible when it comes to China, using the EU’s three Cs approach: “Cooperate where possible, compete where needed, and confront where necessary.” Make sure to join our next 1-5-30 TALK to get these exclusive insights into EU and German politics and ping us if you have any questions or suggestions
A New Coalition? US Democrats and German Greens
We are all curious what the next chapter of transatlantic relationships might look like. What is certain is that President Biden is not really impressed by the EU’s and the German governing party CDU’s position towards China. The CDU wants to intensify industry relations with China while Biden actually seems to be more in line with the Trump administration’s policies. Enter the German Greens: the former protest party might become a reliable partner in foreign policy for President Biden. It is quite likely that the Greens will be part of the next governing coalition in Germany, probably as the junior partner and, as a possible result, in charge of the foreign ministry.
The Greens are in line with President Biden as they place importance on a “fair and rules-based world economic order […] that also China cannot ignore” as two of their experts for industrial policy articulated it in a new position paper. The topic of climate protection is a further point where the German Greens and the US Democrats see eye-to-eye, both in terms of what needs to be achieved and how to get there. It might very well be that after the Federal Elections in September, a new and powerful transatlantic coalition can be formed between the two parties. A coalition that favors trade agreements only in specialized areas over solutions like TTIP and also promotes measures like carbon border taxes. Or as the position paper puts it: “A positive alliance for democracy and sustainability.” We are very excited to monitor how this will evolve further.
Privacy Shield, Cloud Act, GDPR, It Will Never Get Easy
We owe you a rundown on one development from the end of last and the beginning of this week. It’s the German (and EU) discussion about whether German (or EU) companies are allowed to use US cloud storage providers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft. Since the European Court of Justice (ECJ) sacked the Privacy Shield in the Summer, the transfer of personal data from the EU to the US is prohibited under GDPR. “Fine”, said some German companies and US cloud providers, “then we will just establish some more data storage facilities in the EU and set up standard contractual clauses that guarantee German data is only stored in Germany or the EU.”
“Hmm… Well…. NO!” said the chief privacy officers of the German federal states (imagine sixteen local super-bosses of data protection). That’s because of the Cloud Act, which requires US companies to hand over personal data when intelligence services request it. Regarding this, GDPR says “nope.” This means, if you want to have full security in Germany right now, you cannot store your data with an US provider, even if it guarantees to only store the data in the EU. This also means standard contractual clauses meant to prevent unregulated transatlantic data flow are basically worthless. And it ultimately means the US administration and the EU Commission would need to quickly sit down and work on a political solution for this. Meanwhile, German companies could face fines in the ballpark of several million Euros for violating GDPR laws.
European Super League: the Intersection of Politics and Sport
The largest players in the market are hugely influential, their actions bordering on anti-competitiveness, making it extremely difficult for smaller players to succeed. No, we’re not talking about Amazon, Facebook, and Google, but rather a topic not normally taken up in a political newsletter: soccer!
Empty stadiums due to the pandemic means lost revenue. Some of Europe’s top clubs see this as an opportunity to take matters into their own hands by proposing a new “European Super League,” consisting of the best teams from various countries. Cool idea in theory, but this sort of arrangement would shift all the attention, and money, away from Europe’s national leagues, leaving smaller teams out to dry. In fact, the matter is so controversial, it has even been a topic of discussion in the European Institutions. Both Commission Vice President responsible for Promoting the European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, and MEP (and former soccer player) Tomasz Frankowski had strong words against the endeavor, both evoking the democratic nature of the sport and condemning this effort to concentrate money among the richest and most powerful clubs. Some actors have even tried to kick this up to the Commission’s competition enforcers for antitrust reasons, but Competition chief Margrethe Vestager would rather not involve the EU. As soccer fans and supporters of these so-called “smaller teams” ourselves, we can’t say we support the movement, but either way, we’re happy we get to discuss our favorite sport in a political context.
Campaigning Under Corona Conditions – Retweeting Over Rallies
Michael Kellner is Federal Whip of the German Greens, the party that might be part of the next government and a potential partner for the US democrats (see above). This week, Kellner acknowledged that big rallies probably “won’t be possible, also not in late summer,” which is why the Greens adjusted the distribution of their campaign budget accordingly. The Greens are willing to pay over €10 million this year for the campaign. Yeah, we didn’t leave out a zero, we just don’t pay as much for campaigns as you might be used to. That being said, while the Greens’ budget is relatively high for them, it is still relatively small compared to the governing party CDU or its coalition partner SPD.
Of those €10 million, the Greens want to spend €2.5 million on their digital campaign. Definitely a workable budget in Germany. According to Kellner, the focus on digital campaigning will not change the contents of the campaign. Important for the Greens is and always has been to have arguments that hold up in the marketplace. Well, the marketplace is digital now and instead of interested discussions the response could be hate speech and malice. This year, the retweet is more worth than the rally and even without the biggest budget the Greens are ready for the Chancellery – at least that’s what Michael Kellner thinks.
France Takes a Bold Stand against Islamic Extremism
For a quite some time now, France has been struggling with rising Islamic extremism. Most recently, the country made international headlines when a history teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded in October 2020 following a lesson on free speech in which he showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. President Macron’s response to this gruesome trend was introducing a law to defend the country’s secular and democratic values.
After 135 hours of debate, and over 300 amendments, the “law reinforcing the Republic’s principles,” was adopted by the National Assembly on Tuesday. So, what does the law actually say? For one, to prevent Islamic radicalization from planting itself in society, the law heavily restricts the possibility to homeschool children over the age of three, introduces stricter safeguards against forced marriages, and uses legal tools to ensure men and women inherit equally. Furthermore, the law makes it easier for authorities to detain individuals threatening public sector employees with violence online. Reactions from France’s Muslim community were mixed. For example, the head of the Foundation of Islam, a secular organization for progressive Islam, called the law “unjust but necessary.” Former president of the Great Mosque of Paris, Ghaleb Bencheikh, added that the bill is “necessary to fight those who want to instrumentalize [Muslim] associations,“ but, he was worried it would be used to bother “the good students.” Whether this law serves its intended purpose will be seen in the coming months and years.
LONG STORY SHORT:
- No Substantial Improvement: Bad news for Microsoft, Zoom and Co. One year ago, these services failed to pass a data protection check by German data protection authorities. One year and another test later, the authorities say: better, but not good enough. This might become critical, especially with view to the other ongoing discussions (see above).
- Who Will It Be?: This question has to be answered by the sister parties CDU and CSU. Will Markus Söder (CSU) or Armin Laschet be their Chancellor-candidate? According to Laschet, the question will be answered between Easter and Pentecost. This week, political commentators and journalists commented that Laschet will have better chances, even though Markus Söder is more popular among citizens. We will keep you posted.
- Not Really Digital: The RKI (Germany’s central health institution for coping with Corona) has to spent four additional hours daily to organize data, as only five federal states are able to correctly use a digital tool to track vaccinations. The other states send e-mails with excel or word files, depending on what they prefer. A hodgepodge that is actually quite embarrassing.
WHAT’S ON OUR MINDS
The season of Lent and the Lenten sacrifice of giving up a pleasure, such as chocolate, meat or alcoholic beverages, is aimed to set our human priorities right by symbolizing that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, fame or power. In normal times, Lent is widely accepted as a popular opportunity to consciously step back from exuberance. In times of the pandemic though, especially for families and their younger members, the sacrificing of (another) pleasure feels a bit like a call to willingly worsen the already stuck-at-home situation, like
And in normal times, the Ash Wednesday political gathering of the CSU* is a promise to see its Leader shout over a crowd in a muggy Bavarian beer tent properly roasting their rivals. However, this week CSU-Leader Markus Söder only sat in a beer hall studio set with an untouched beer and pretzels before him performing rather innocuous political attacks. He even offered his main rival on the way to the chancellorship, CDU-Leader Armin Laschet, a first-ever address at a CSU Ash Wednesday rally by a CDU leader. Laschet sacrificed the opportunity for friendly assaults in return, lauded Söder’s leadership and called for unity in the election year.
Strikingly close to the Christian tradition of uniting during Lent to prepare for the Easter celebration of the paschal mystery (“pesah” meaning “passing over”), the Catholics Söder and Laschet humbly prepare for solving the mystery of which one of the two will pass over to a new role and politically rise as the candidate for chancellor. And for us another desert of suspense lies ahead in that key question of the year…
Now, both agreed to meet and decide on the candidacy sometime between Easter and Pentecost. Until Söder and Laschet decide to end this lockdown of political exuberance, we can already say: as far as our patience is concerned, we are all getting mass tested.
* The CDU’s sister party, also Christian-democratic, operates regionally in Bavaria