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Issue #90

Issue #90

Guten Morgen!

Rise and shine to another Krautshell edition! This week’s edition may rustle some feathers, as Max takes a sober look at Ukraine’s chances of EU accession and draws attention to some truths that may have been swept under the rug lately. Read our main articles to find out why obscenities were launched across the plenary hall in the European Parliament this week, how the CDU has rediscovered its love for old energy sources, and which familiar face re-appeared in public again this week. Finally, take a peek at Christian’s WOOM to find out what Berlin’s hottest clubs, the Federal Ministries, and the church have in common. As always, happy weekend and happy reading!



Anna                                Christian


European Parliament in Strasbourg: Much Ado about Everything

This week was a tumultuous one in the European Parliament (EP), as the full plenary session took place in the French seat in Strasbourg. Emotions flared, tempers clashed (an entertaining 3.5 minutes), and the jury is still out whether the week was a successful one overall. Let’s take a look, shall we?

We’ve all been here before: you’re out of the house, your phone is dangerously close to dying but no one has your specific charger on hand. If you live in the EU, despair no more! One of the decisions taken this week was that starting in Fall 2024, electronic devices (full overview here) will have to have a common charger to reduce electronics waste. Staying on the green road, Tesla stockholders should rejoice as the EP also approved a motion that would essentially outlaw sales of combustion engine cars and vehicles starting in 2035.

Then, all hell broke loose. Months of negotiating details and compromising on the EU’s landmark climate package, Fit for 55, all came apart in a matter of minutes. After the center-right party (EPP) sided with other right-wing groups to adopt amendments protecting industry from harsh changes, parties on the left side of the spectrum jumped ship. In a strange marriage of interests, the Left, Greens, and Social Democrats (center-left) sided with the far-right to reject the entire proposal, albeit for different rationale (climate change denial vs. beliefs of not going far enough). The result: lots of shouting, the word “Nazi” being thrown around wantonly, and the whole package being rejected. This turn of events is a serious one, as the package included eight proposals on everything from a carbon border tax to rules for aviation emissions. We’ll let you know once the EP has returned from the drawing board.



Politics makes for great viewing. Alliances, policies, long-held convictions – all these can count for little when political interests are at play. Our American readers will recall that it was former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU which initiated the famous Energiewende (Energy Transition) in 2011, heralding the beginning of the end for nuclear power in Germany. Back then, fear over the literal fall-out of Japan’s nuclear disaster had pushed policymakers to reverse their previous decision to extend the operating period of Germany’s power plants. Fast forward 11 years, and an interesting picture emerges: Amidst the threat of energy shortages following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the formerly anti-nuclear CDU has re-discovered a love for nuclear power. And politically, they may be onto something.

Environmental politicians of the CDU/CSU tabled a policy paper this week rejecting the current policy of transitioning to renewables through gas as “obsolete”. Remember that when the war in Ukraine began, Germany received 50% of its coal, 55% of its gas, and 35% of its oil from Moscow. Unsurprisingly, this will no longer do. Instead, Friedrich Merz’s CDU is now calling for the “further development of the civil uses of nuclear energy” and points to new technologies such as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and Dual Fluid Reactors, the second of which can run on its own nuclear waste. But that’s not the point. The point is rather that the opposition leader seems to be pushing a wedge through the governing Traffic Light Coalition. Social Democrats (red) and Greens may be firm in their adherence to the nuclear phaseout, but the liberal FDP (yellow) has been traditionally open to nuclear power. What’s more, they’ve suffered a shellacking in recent state elections and really need to position themselves as a liberal-conservative voice vis-à-vis their voters. Expect the CDU to keep the heat on, and energy policy to stay in the headlines.


It’s Comeback Time, Baby!

You all probably wondered what Angela Merkel has been doing since she stepped down. And if you haven’t, then we will tell you anyways. Since handing over the Chancellery to Olaf Scholz, it has been relatively quiet around our ex-Chancellor. She went back to full private life and nearly no information was shared. Then she came back this week with a first public appearance, where she had a talk with Spiegel journalist Alexander Osang in a Berlin theatre. How was her comeback?

For Angela Merkel, it was a feel-good appointment. Compared to her appearances as chancellor, she seemed almost relaxed. She was visibly refreshed; after all, she had also spent several weeks on vacation in Italy and on the German Baltic coast in her old constituency. Osang, who greeted her somewhat dubiously as “Forever my Chancellor” on stage, still managed to develop quite an interesting conversation. In addition to her private life, which Merkel talked about so much that German journalists probably had to rub their eyes, the conversation then turned to the war in Ukraine. The ex-Chancellor was visibly shaken by developments since she left office. At the same time, she refused to admit to any failings in her own Ostpolitik (policies concerning the countries east of Germany) and in her dealings with Russia. “I will not apologize,” is probably the sentence of the evening that will be remembered for some time.

Having watched her for many years, sometimes critically, on the other hand also with great respect and professional admiration, this was a two-faced performance. After 16 years in top politics and all the stress that goes with it, on the one hand it was good to see a refreshed Angela Merkel in a joking mood. On the other hand, in the light of the war in Ukraine and Merkel’s statements, the question arises as to how the history books will judge her. Krautshell readers with relevant German language skills can watch the performance here. For those who do not speak German, here is a summary.


Source: Eurostat


by Max

EU Membership for Ukraine – a Pipe Dream?

At the risk of incurring the wrath of many well-intentioned people, here’s an issue Europeans and our friends across the Pond will have to deal with sooner or later: Ukraine’s EU membership bid. In normal times, this wouldn’t garner much attention. There is an established application process governed by the ‘Copenhagen Criteria’ – preconditions which must be met to join the family of European nations. Simple enough, right? But ever since President Zelensky’s 28 February bid to join the European Union, signed among sandbags and explosions in downtown Kyiv, the question has taken on a life of its own. Can Europeans deny the heroic defenders of democracy what we ourselves take for granted?

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has made her position clear. “We want them in the European Union”, she said, echoing a widespread sentiment among Europeans of every political color awestruck by Ukrainians’ tenacious resistance in the face of Russian Übermacht. Fourteen weeks later, and the overall mood is still one of goodwill, even though dissenting voices have increasingly made themselves heard. So, what of the case for Ukrainian EU membership? Let’s have a look at the fundamental issues at stake, because Europe’s future may depend on it.


The Problem

The problem with the Copenhagen Criteria is that Ukraine doesn’t meet any of them. Take the rule of law: Transparency International ranks Ukraine 122nd out of 180, making it the most corrupt country in Europe save Putin’s Russia. The sitting president – elected on an anti-corruption platform in 2019 – stands accused not only of offshoring his personal fortune (‘Pandora Papers’) but of illegally firing Constitutional Court judges, blocking the appointment of a chief anti-corruption prosecutor, and shutting down opposition media outlets by decree. This was before the war, mind you. Moreover, Ukraine’s dysfunctional law enforcement system has so far failed to convict any of the country’s powerful oligarchs, though Zelensky’s predecessor Poroshenko (another oligarch) was charged with high treason in December 2021 (here’s a Top Ten of recent corruption scandals). In short, if the European Court of Justice is concerned about Poland’s justice reform, they would soon run out of paper on Ukraine.

A functioning market economy? Sadly, Ukraine’s post-Cold War trajectory has been closer to Russia’s than that of other former Soviet republics. The 1990s saw the plundering of Ukraine’s resources by oligarchs and mass impoverishment of Ukrainians through five-digit hyperinflation. While much has improved since then, underlying structures remain: Ukraine’s economy continues to be dominated by billionaire tycoons like Akhmetov, Kolomoyskyi (Zelensky’s former business partner), Firtash and Pinchuk, whose power extends far into the political sphere. Serhiy Leshchenko, an anti-corruption activist and former deputy in the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, has called it “Europe’s biggest business club”, in which businessmen allegedly pay up to five million dollars for a seat at the table. At the same time, rising debt and economic decline have made Ukraine dependent on the EU and IMF, with negative consequences for the country’s sovereignty and freedom of action.

In terms of Ukraine’s ability to take on the obligations of membership, finally, the picture is similarly grim. Besides accepting the EU’s body of law, the acquis communautaire, the Ukrainian state would have to demonstrate the capacity to effectively implement it. Given widespread corruption in the executive, judiciary, and legislative branches, this is a remote prospect for the foreseeable future. On the issue of the euro – a demand on all new EU members – Ukraine demonstrably falls short on all four so-called ‘convergence criteria’: price stability, sound finances, exchange rate stability and long-term interest rates. Taken as a whole, these facts will likely undercut Ukraine’s membership prospects in the short and medium-term.


The House’s View: The Hell of Good Intentions

What remains is the moral case. The Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) has postulated a “political and moral imperative” and called for a reform of standard accession procedures. But would an acceptance of Ukraine in disregard of accepted EU law really be in that country’s best interests? Apart from the injustice of bypassing states in the Western Balkan striving for EU membership, many of whom themselves suffer from the legacy of wars, it’s difficult to see a net positive outcome. Most importantly, a weak Europe can’t help Ukraine. To paraphrase Marx, Brussels is arguably still suffering from “indigestion” following the last two rounds of eastward expansion, and there are serious unresolved conflicts with some more recent members. The accession of a war-ravished and (overall) socially conservative Ukraine would open two deep wounds: the east-west values divide and the north-south fiscal divide.

There is a way forward. Maintaining its policy of firm support, the EU can direct its efforts towards a diplomatic end to this terrible war, using its sanctions as economic leverage. Europe must then direct the reconstruction of Ukraine, instilling its values and institutions in the process. And in the not-too-distant future, with a consolidated Europe and a Ukraine fully committed to its post-war future, our courageous friends deserve a better chance at membership. But in the meantime, good intentions do not make good policy.


  • Voting into the Void: Another resolution that was passed this week in the EP’s plenary session called for an amendment to the European Treaties (essentially the EU’s constitution). The proposal sought to repeal unanimity requirements for certain decisions so Hungary can’t always play the veto card, and for the EP to gain the right to initiate legislation. Spoiler alert: it won’t happen because too many Member States are opposed. But hey, you at least gotta try.
  • June is Black and Green: After the CDU won the elections in Germany’s most populous state, North-Rhine Westphalia a month and a half ago, they looked towards the Greens as a potential coalition partner. First talks seem to have gone well, as the two parties have agreed on a roadmap for a coalition and expect to have the government up and running by end of June.
  • Hopelessness in Belgrade: This week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is visiting the Balkan states, and today (Friday) one of his stops is Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Scholz hopes to bring Serbia closer to the EU through some facetime with Serbian president Vučić, as his government is very close to Vladimir Putin. A change in course is unlikely, but finding some commonalities can’t hurt in these geopolitically tense times.


By Christian, Founder and MD

Habeck – Dark, Cold and Hot

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16)

Green Minister Habeck, who is not so much of a believer in God but still calling himself a “secular Christian”, is many things but NOT LUKEWARM!

As BILD reported yesterday, Habeck’s ministry (pun intended) will have to take the lead for a vanguard idea of his which shall later become mandatory for all federal government buildings: No AC allowed anymore. And, where ACs are obligatory, they shall not be turned on before the temperature reaches 26 degrees Celsius.* In Germany – just like in church – what the Minister wants must be done, no strike allowed for the administration herd. That is going to be a hot summer in those very old buildings with solid German restrictions on window-opening for security reasons.

But that’s not all. Habeck wants all feds to be sensitized to saving more energy. No heating for unused conference rooms, temperature control for all corridors, turning down the heating during nights and no outside lighting during the night. Dark, cold, hot….especially an equally secular branch, the Berlin clubbing scene, can confirm that such a dimly-lit, cold, hot, not lukewarm policy actually works pretty well for many buildings!

Habeck, himself a passionate purist camper, knows what keeps people up if no heating or cooling is available, even if his party’s success for implementing the softer drug policy does not aim for 72 hours of straight work with one minister in front, “on y sweat (soit) qui mal y pense”


*for those who are not allowed to drink beer before they reach 21 years of age: that is 78,8 Fahrenheit.