Here’s the newest editions of your favorite weekly, for a wonderful start into your weekend and week.
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FIRST, SOME SOLID INTEL:
#RoadToBTW21 What the Greens Should Figure Out
Every campaign has its ups and downs, and after being almost exclusively on an upwards trend, the Greens find themselves in a solid crisis. Only 20% in the polls, clearly behind the CDU again and discussions about false claims on chancellor-candidate Annalena Baerbock’s CV (even though these discussions are becoming quite ridiculous). As if this wasn’t enough, the party has its federal convention this weekend where it is to decide on its final election program. A draft version was presented by party leadership a few weeks ago. This weekend, over the course of three days, the delegates will discuss 3,500 (!) amendments. Let’s take a look at the most controversial points.
Conflict lines are being drawn between the generally more leftist party base and the rather pragmatic party leadership. Regarding the CO2 price, party leadership foresees a price of €60 per ton in 2023, while others like the popular Fridays For Future activist and Bundestag-candidate Jakob Blaser united a group of more than 100 supporters for a price of €120. The current version of the draft program avoids a concrete date for climate neutrality, while one amendment proposed by a group of influential party insiders demands a set date. And while the EU is united in becoming climate-neutral by 2050, the organization demands 2035. Furthermore, some parts of the Greens’ base demand a higher maximum tax rate and other “lefty” ideas. Green party conventions were always a place for rough discussions. Now it’s Baerbock’s and co-leader Robert Habeck’s job to solve these issues without too much of a fight, while simultaneously maintaining the open discussion culture, which is at the heart of the Greens. Or in other words: this weekend is certainly no relaxation for Annalena Baerbock.
Last Sunday, Saxony-Anhalt held their state elections. And there is one major winner: incumbent Minister-President Rainer Haseloff (CDU) and his party. The CDU won by a substantial margin (37.1%) and were able to increase their results compared to the last elections (+7.3%). The right-wing AfD came in second with 20.8% (-3.5%), and the Left Party came in third with 11% (-5.3%). Also in the Landtag are the SPD with 8.4% (-2.2%), the FDP with 6.4% (+1.5%) and the Greens with 5.9% (+0.7%). A showdown between the CDU and the AfD, expected by many, central-right-leaning newspapers and journalists, didn’t become reality, raising the question where these predictions came from. Anyways, congratulations to MP Haseloff.
Currently, Saxony-Anhalt is governed by a so-called “Kenya coalition”, consisting of CDU, SPD and the Greens. But as the FDP managed to return to the Landtag again, another option could work out. The “Germany coalition”, consisting of CDU, FDP and SPD is a possible option for Rainer Haseloff, even though he could also decide to only go with the SPD as well. That being said, he would only have a one-vote majority in the Landtag which is less than ideal. The Greens don’t want to continue the coalition with the CDU and the SPD, so getting the FDP on board to stabilize the government majority looks like a valuable option for Haseloff. What remains important for the CDU is that they showed they can decisively win an Eastern federal state where the AfD is strong. Still, it was certainly worrying to see that the far right would have become the strongest power if people under the age of 30 were the only ones voting. We don’t like that…
Who’s Got the Jurisdiction?
Germany may be the EU’s biggest member state, but this week the Commission reminded everyone that even bigshots need to be put in their place sometimes. Specifically, the Commission launched legal proceedings against the Member State over a controversial ruling from Germany’s constitutional court that challenges the supremacy of EU law.
Without getting too deep into to the nitty-gritty details, last year’s ruling concerns the buying of bonds by the European Central Bank (ECB), a course of action already approved by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) back in 2018. According to the highest German court, the CJEU approved a practice that was outside of the ECB’s mandate, and without adequate justification, Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, would no longer have been permitted to participate in the program. Although the actual issue at hand, the legality of bond-buying, has already been settled (the German government accepted the ECB’s assessment), the Commission has no choice but to take action against Germany. As the EU is currently undergoing a rule-of-law battle with Poland and Hungary, there’s serious concern that a CJEU ruling in favor of the EU could simply be determined as ultra vires, or beyond Brussels’ competence by the two Member States’ courts. Contesting the supremacy of EU law is a slippery slope, and one precedent could easily lead to the whole European project unraveling. One last point: even if the German government wanted to comply with the Commission, the matter will not be easily resolved in a country with a fiercely independent judiciary like Germany. Merkel and co. now have two months to come up with a response, and we’ll be sure to update you when we hear of any new developments.
What Did Spahn Do?
During the past week, some serious allegations against Federal Health Minister Spahn (CDU) arose. Allegedly, Spahn was about to send masks which he knew they were poor in quality, to people with disabilities, homeless people and care facilities. This was supposedly blocked last year by Federal Labor Minister Heil (SPD). As these catchy headlines are also BIG accusations against Spahn, we want to give some insights about what might have happened here. Because, even though we love catchy headlines, we love facts even more.
What’s certainly true: the Federal Health Ministry had to order as many masks as possible last year. And unfortunately, a large proportion of those masks were poor quality and didn’t fulfil the official standards. This is why Spahn’s ministry, together with the TÜV Nord, developed some own quality standards, which are currently under scrutiny regarding their usefulness. The government then worked as a distributor and supplied masks to the federal states, many of which returned in droves due to the poor quality. And, we also know that Spahn’s ministry ordered masks from suppliers which EU authorities already marked as dubious. So, question is: did Spahn perform well in this regard? Certainly not, he wasted a lot of taxpayer money for quite some shitty masks (pardon our French). Did he act “inhumane” like SPD party leader Saskia Esken claimed? Most likely not, as this would require malice and we don’t believe Spahn wanted to hand out bad masks to homeless people on purpose. We hope we could shed some light on the allegations.
She Doesn’t Have The Money
It’s not like Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU, short AKK) wouldn’t want to uphold to the commitments Germany made to NATO. However, it’s conceivable that some German politicians thought: Well, now that Trump is gone, the pressure to spend more on defense is gone, too. AKK is certainly not part of those politicians. She has some ambitious projects to push forward for both NATO and the German military, but she doesn’t have enough money. Currently, it seems her job consists mostly of telling the Bundestag Defense Committee what she can and can’t afford. Not every detail is public here, as the Committee holds its meetings behind closed doors, but allegedly there are over €1 billion missing.
For AKK it’s not just about the money or the military projects. She has to prove, after she had to resign as CDU party leader, that she is “worthy” of becoming part of the next government. Or maybe even of becoming next Federal President of Germany (we predicted that possibility over a year ago, now it’s allegedly being discussed in the CDU; 100 points for us). So, she has to win budgetary discussions, meaning she doesn’t only need to deal with the Defense Committee but also with the Budget Committee and the Federal Minister of Finance, which is unfortunately Olaf Scholz. You know, the SPD’s chancellor candidate. And somehow, the SPD doesn’t seem willing to grant AKK some money, let alone a success just before the federal elections. We’ll keep you posted on this issue, but maybe you’ll hear more through our joint NATO activities before that.
And Back to Strasbourg We Go
Our everyday lives are slowly returning to pre-pandemic normality, and nothing screams “business as usual” more than the return of the age-old debate surrounding the monthly European Parliament (EP) session in Strasbourg, France. Just so we’re all on the same page: Parliamentarians and their staff spend most of their time in Brussels, where committee meetings are to take place. That being said, according to EU treaties, the EP is to travel to Strasbourg for plenary sessions 12 times a year. However, every year, the mass-migration of Parliamentarians across the border is called into question, especially following a 2014 European Court of Auditors report that revealed the regular trips to Strasbourg are costing the European tax payer 109 million euros a year. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you are), French politicians and MEPs have defended the move time and time again to keep at least one seat of European power on their soil.
Coming back to the present day: due to the pandemic, EP President David Sassoli put the regular trips to France on hold for 15 months. This week though, MEPs finally returned to the Alsatian capital. Well, sort of. Out of 705 MEPs, only about 325 made the trip. Some MEPs cited quarantine and curfew requirements as justifications for not going, while others said they saw no reason to travel to France just to sit in their office and not interact with colleagues. Among those MEPs who did go, reactions were mixed: some, like Austrian MEP Evelyn Regner were happy about the return to normality, while others, like French MEP Pascal Durand felt strange with the eerie quiet and lack of usual vibrancy. Either way, we’re happy that politics seem to be returning to topics other than COVID, even if it’s always the same old debates.
LONG STORY SHORT:
- Trojan Horse Software: This week, the Bundestag voted to allow police to use Trojan horse software. This is a big intrusion of peoples’ privacy. And it got through with the votes of the SPD, making their party base furious as this was always a no-go for the party. This could evolve to an inner-party crisis just a few months before the election. Bad timing.
- Macron Got SLAPPED: After appointment, Macron faced a public crowd on Tuesday, where one guy slapped him in the face. The offender got a speedy trial and now faces four months in jail. During the trial, it came out that he was a supporter of a far-right movement in France. Macron, while not taking these incidents lightly, still spoke in favor of keeping the punishment “proportional”.
- Spying: After it came out that Danish intelligence services supported the NSA in spying on European top-politicians, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron now aligned on a demand for clarification. Both clearly stated that spying on friends is inacceptable – a claim with which we can hardly disagree. The Danish government assured its support in shedding some light on the allegations.
WHAT’S ON OUR MINDS
OLDIES ARE GOLDIES
That last week showed us how paradigms in politics can shift. The Green party and her candidate Annalena Baerbock suffered plummeting approval ratings. That might have to do with her “wanna-be”-image after falsely-claimed qualifications were detected in her CV. Additionally, Green statements about tax increases and prohibiting this and that (you know, “Fridays for Future” demands) didn’t help. Yesterday in his speech during the Green party convention, Co-Chairman Robert Habeck even had to state the painfully obvious: “If we know something is not realistic, let’s not vote for it”
So, while the bonus for the Green visionaries, the “grand new generation,” the bold and ambitious ones starts to vanish, old stars rise. Prime-Minister of Saxony-Anhalt Rainer Haseloff, not even leader of his regional party anymore, wins another term with a gain of over 7% for the CDU. And Angela Merkel, clearly in a state of what professionals call “lame-duck,” teams up with Biden and the G7 leaders to actually deliver on very ambitious policies, starting with a minimum corporate tax.
Sure, how old you are or when your time has come won’t affect your legally given power when acting in office. In a very special way though, this week might remind those ambitious campaigners of what Lord of the Rings points out:
You will never rule entirely, if you don’t deal with those knights that you already believed dead.