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by Katja Hoyer
Thursday, 24
February 2022

Putin’s speech reveals a dangerous and distorted worldview

This is no longer a man the West can do business with

It was 5.40am in Moscow when Vladimir Putin appeared on the state-owned TV channel Russia-24 to effectively declare war on Ukraine. Reminding the world that “today’s Russia remains one of the most powerful nuclear states”, he laced his speech with historical references, revealing a dangerous and increasingly unhinged view of the past.

Putin spoke of the US as an “empire of lies” whose ”satellites not only humbly and obediently say yes to and parrot it at the slightest pretext but also imitate its behaviour”. To the Russian president, Nato is an imperialist venture through which American ambitions to destroy Russia will be achieved via allied states in Europe. In Putin’s eyes, the weakness of Russia was proven when its Soviet Empire collapsed in the Eighties; it encouraged the West “to put the final squeeze on us, finish us off, and utterly destroy us”. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Wednesday, 16
February 2022

Finally, Olaf Scholz shows some backbone with Russia

The German Chancellor's summit with Vladimir Putin was his most assured yet

“As for the pipeline, everyone knows what the situation is,” said German chancellor Olaf Scholz in his joint press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin yesterday afternoon. In contrast to his visibly uncomfortable appearance in Washington, the trip to Moscow showcased a more assertive Scholz. At times the usually reserved chancellor even became a little emotional, telling his Russian counterpart that it was “our damn duty” to prevent war. He even mentioned Nord Stream 2 once — and got away with it.

It certainly looked as if Russia was opening the doors to a diplomatic solution. Their announcement of some troop withdrawals from the Ukrainian border was welcomed by Scholz as a “good sign,” but he also expressed hope that ‘more will follow’. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also expressed “cautious optimism”. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Wednesday, 9
February 2022

The German Chancellor won’t say the words ‘Nord Stream 2’

Olaf Scholz refuses to commit to sanctioning Russia

‘If Russia invades…there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2,’ said US President Joe Biden in a press conference this week. Standing next to him, the German chancellor Olaf Scholz was visibly uncomfortable, determined not to say those words himself. Germany would not be dragged out onto the stage of world politics, not even when pushed by its most powerful friend and ally.

As was to be expected, Scholz’s first trip to Washington as German chancellor was dominated by the Ukraine crisis. Both sides were visibly keen to put on a show of unity, for the world and particularly for Moscow. But the deep economic rifts between their nations were laid bare. Though the leaders tried to avoid the topic, the contentious Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was so obviously tiptoed around in the opening remarks that it fell to journalists to bring it up: “will you commit today to pull the plug?” ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Wednesday, 26
January 2022

Friedrich Merz takes Merkel’s old party to the Right

The CDU's new leader wants to offer Germany a conservative option

It’s not often you see conservative hardliners cry in public, but Friedrich Merz visibly fought back tears last weekend as he accepted the leadership of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at their party conference. For years, Merz had been one of Angela Merkel’s staunchest critics — from within her own ranks. Now he says he wants to lift the party and Germany out from under the ex-chancellor’s “inaction and lack of leadership that has for years enveloped the country like a carpet of fog.”

Angela Merkel became chair of the CDU in 2000. After such a long period under her leadership, the party is now crying out for change. The conference delegates confirmed an earlier vote for Merz by the grassroots members with an astonishing 95%, driving the man to tears. They had previously rejected him twice for this role, but now, it seems, the party collective are putting their trust in him. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Wednesday, 19
January 2022

Germany’s Catholic party is back in parliament

The Centre Party wants to be 'a serious conservative-social political force’

Germany’s oldest political party is back in parliament for the first time since 1957. Founded in 1870 to preserve Catholic interests, the Centre Party (Zentrum) is one year older than the German state itself and became a powerful political force in the newly unified empire. But it vanished into obscurity after the Second World War. Now that it has gained an MP in the Bundestag, it says the time is right for a renewed ‘conservative force’.

At first glance the news that Uwe Witt, formerly a member of parliament for Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), has joined a party of only 650 members does not seem to be news at all. He had been the leading candidate for the AfD in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein and as such gained his seat last year — one of 83 won by the party in the election. In addition to Witt, two other AfD MPs have since left the party — nothing new as it had lost 8 members in the previous parliamentary term as well. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Monday, 10
January 2022
Off grid

David Bowie at 75: why Germany will remember him

He is a crucial part of Cold War history

Pop stars don’t come more quintessentially British than David Bowie. But during his Berlin years, the English icon left a deep impact on Germany too. When Bowie died exactly six years ago, the German Foreign Office tweeted out its farewells and thanked him ‘for helping to bring down the wall.’ Bowie would have been 75 this weekend, giving Germans cause to reflect on the legacy of a much-loved Cold War hero.

Bowie first moved to Berlin in 1976 to escape his drug addiction while living in Los Angeles. Reflecting on this period later, he admitted ‘it was a dangerous period for me. I was at the end of my tether, physically and emotionally, and had serious doubts about my sanity.’ ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Tuesday, 4
January 2022

Macron challenges Germany for EU dominance

Energy is the latest strain on the Franco-German alliance

‘The year 2022 must be a turning point for Europe,’ said Emmanuel Macron in his New Year’s Eve address as France took over of the rotating presidency of the European Union.

Naturally, Macron’s European ambitions are causing headaches in Berlin where Angela Merkel had made German leadership of the EU seem a law of nature for 16 years. Her successor Olaf Scholz is now being challenged for it. As his unreservedly Europhile administration seeks to find its feet in Europe, it will have to compete with a French president keen to appear as the man who puts France at the centre of the map — and all without visibly exacerbating the existing rifts within the EU. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Tuesday, 28
December 2021

The Covid wars ruined Germany’s Christmas

My home country is being pulled into familiar conflicts

Berlin, Germany.

“It’s like you’ve never been away,” my uncle said as we raised a glass of herb liqueur to toast my arrival at his home in the Thuringian Forest a few days ago. Due to Covid, I hadn’t seen many of my German family members since Christmas 2019, and he was right, at first glance, nothing had changed. We sat on the same sofa, told well-worn family stories and drank too much of the usual local brew.

But things were different. As evening turned into night, the jokes about “Stasi-like” state control turned into serious conspiracy theories. The tension in the room was palpable as vaccinated family members said they had still not fully recovered their sense of taste and smell weeks after a Covid infection my unvaccinated uncle had brought into the house. The situation caused deep and permanent rifts in the family that even comforting Christmas routines could not heal. ...  Continue reading