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by Katja Hoyer
Thursday, 5
May 2022
Explainer
16:30

Why Olaf Scholz stopped acting like a ‘sulky sausage’

The German Chancellor may finally be travelling to Ukraine

Calling someone a ‘sulky liver sausage’ may sound more like something out of a script for Blackadder rather than an example of European diplomacy. But when the Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, used those words to describe the German chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this week, they appear to have forced the government into making an effort to patch things up between Berlin and Kyiv. 

Scholz had declared in a TV interview this week that he had no plans to travel to Kyiv to see the Ukrainian president because the German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier was snubbed last month. The Chancellor has since claimed that the rescinded invitation of his party colleague was not a personal affront to him but “a problem for the German people too”. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Friday, 29
April 2022
Reaction
08:00

European gas companies buckle under pressure from Putin

German giant Uniper claims that a loss of Russian gas would be 'impossible'

The cutting of Russian gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria appears to have had the intended effect this week: gas prices shot up by 20%. Energy companies having since been scrambling for ways to meet Russian demands, in spite of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen retort that this amounted to ‘blackmail’.

Ostensibly, the Russian energy giant Gazprom cut off Poland and Bulgaria ‘due to absence of payments in rubles.’ Moscow has demanded for some time that all payments for energy exports be made in the currency — a move as much intended to stabilise its economy as to exercise control over countries dependent on Russian gas and oil. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Friday, 22
April 2022
Explainer
10:46

Pressure mounts on Olaf Scholz to send weapons

The Chancellor is looking increasingly isolated in Germany

“We will not go it alone,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in defence of his refusal to send heavy weapons to Ukraine. He has drawn international criticism, but less reported has been the increasing domestic pressure. The public, the opposition and even his own coalition partners want Scholz to do more.

It is in fact the German Chancellor who is going it alone. At a press conference this week, Scholz argued that he was already doing as much as “many others who are taking the same course”. But his claim that sending heavy weapons to Ukraine would go against NATO agreements is a weak argument to rely on. The Belgians and the Dutch have already announced that they are sending more heavy weaponry, and talks are underway for Kyiv to receive MQ-9 Reaper armed drones from the US. The UK is set to deliver Stormer armoured vehicles. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Thursday, 14
April 2022
Reaction
10:35

The pro-Putin protests giving Germany a headache

Nearly 1000 demonstrators paraded Russian flags through Berlin

On the day that the horrific images of the Russian atrocities in Bucha went around the world, a different set of pictures also made for uncomfortable headlines in Germany: around 400 vehicles paraded Russian flags through Berlin.

Ostensibly, the 900 demonstrators had draped their vehicles in the Russian tricolour and took to the streets of the German capital in order to draw attention to what they perceive as growing hostility towards Russians in Germany. But the reality is that the community they claim to speak for is diverse and deeply conflicted about the war in Ukraine.

It is a surprisingly little known fact (outside of Germany at least) that there are well over two million Russian native speakers in Germany. The estimated overall figure for people with Russian roots in the country ranges between three and six million. The great majority have emigrated since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but many have roots that go back to the Cold War or the Second World War. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Friday, 1
April 2022
Reaction
11:30

Germany faces a spring of discontent

The country recorded its highest inflation rate in 40 years

Julia Neumann is struggling to keep her crêpe stand on the market in Nuremberg running as the gas that fires her hotplates doubles in price. Julia Kresser, the florist next door, has similar problems: gas is needed to heat the greenhouses where her flowers are grown, and diesel prices are up for the lorries that deliver them. Both women are battling to keep prices low as more and more German consumers are beginning to feel the squeeze of a mounting economic crisis.

The figures released by Germany’s Federal Statistical Office on Wednesday make for grim reading indeed. Consumer prices have risen by 7.3% in the year to March 2021. This marks the highest inflation rate recorded for over 40 years, comparable only to the spikes of the 1970s when the price in crude oil shot up and caused economic turbulence in the West. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Monday, 21
March 2022
Dispatch
11:00

Germany lifts Covid restrictions — and people aren’t happy

Germans are anxious about their sudden freedom

When I was in Germany last week, Covid restrictions were still in full swing. This became all too apparent when I bought a cup of coffee in a petrol station and then proceeded to the empty cafe area at the back to drink it. “Halt!” shouted the lady from behind the counter, “you can’t just sit there and drink coffee,” she added incredulously. “I need to see your ID and vaccination status!” Naturally, I had left my phone in the car and with it the NHS app. By the time I’d passed the checks, my coffee was cold.

This weekend, almost exactly two years after the first lockdown began, Germany lifted nearly all restrictions. It was the first day of spring. Many people were out and about, enjoying the glorious sunshine and a cup of coffee obtained without presenting papers. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Tuesday, 15
March 2022
Dispatch
13:28

Putin’s war sparks an existential crisis in Germany

Schoolrooms and families across the country are reconsidering their nation

“I never thought I’d see an outright war of aggression from our friends in Russia,” Dagmar tells me in the dingy little corner bar in Potsdam. I’d arranged to meet her to discuss her political career in East Germany in the 1970s, but we ended up talking about the present as much as the past. Like Dagmar, many of my compatriots tell me they are deeply shocked by the invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s war has changed Germany.

Russian troops marching into Ukraine marked a “watershed” in German history, as Chancellor Olaf Scholz put it when he announced a doubling of defence spending. Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht has confirmed her intention to purchase over thirty American F-35 fighter jets which “offer the unique potential to cooperate with our NATO allies”. This reversal of German geo-policy was unthinkable just a few weeks ago. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Monday, 7
March 2022
Reaction
10:15

Gerhard Schröder’s legacy will be forever tainted

The ex-Chancellor's position on Russia is indefensible

Gerhard Schröder’s reputation is in tatters. Seventeen years after finishing his term as Chancellor, he is now facing heavy criticism for his bullish defence of Vladimir Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Germany has rightly distanced itself from the man whose affable charm it had once fallen for.

For years, Schröder strove to establish an ‘elder statesman’ role for himself in line with his predecessors Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl. But he struggled to define his role. With the exception of the short-lived tenures of Ludwig Erhard and Kurt Georg Kiesinger, every German post-war chancellor before him had been era-defining in some way. Konrad Adenauer founded West Germany and anchored it in the West; Willy Brandt modernised the country and opened it to the East. Helmut Schmidt defended democracy against terrorism; Helmut Kohl reunified the country in 1990. But what was Schröder’s contribution? ...  Continue reading

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