A difficult week for Angela Merkel and Germany
It has been a tough week for the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and so she has done the only logical thing, left the country. She is about as far away as she can be geographically and culturally working on the one thing all Germany seems to be good at - the economy. She is in Indonesia trying to build better relations with the largest Muslim country in the world with a population of 240 million. The reasons she may want to get away are many.
The first problem she has is that she finally had to kowtow to the rest of Europe's leadership and cave in on a new direction for the European Union (EU) when dealing with the Euro debt crisis. Money which in the past went from Germany to debt-laden countries with strings attached (austerity measures), will now flow with fewer conditions. The more liberal leaders of France, Italy and Spain were able to combine their energies and force Ms. Merkel to accept their conditions or face the bleak possibility of a fracturing EU. But her decision to acquiesce to the rest of the EU, will not be popular at home.
Domestically, and this rubs salt in her wounds, the highest court in Germany, the Constitutional Court, will begin listening to arguments on whether any of the bailouts for other European countries financed with German money were even legal in the first place, according to German law. But many believe this move by the court is more political than legal. As Thomas Jefferson said even the judiciary is made up of people, and at some point they will begin to decide things based on their own personal interests. Since the EU, and much of Germany's desired austerity measures for the rest of the EU are predicated on closer integration and giving up more sovereignty to Brussels, the German Court may be fearful that they may no longer be as relevant in Germany as the European Court of Justice in a few years.
Another problem for Ms. Merkel, and this may be the most 'uncomfortable', was a recent German Court decision that circumcisions for religious purposes would no longer be allowed in Germany. Muslim, and most importantly Jewish groups have decried this act as completely 'unacceptable'. It does not take a history major to see the ramifications of this when it comes to past German-Jewish relations. This news coupled with the recent exposure of yet another neo-Nazi group has dredged up another round of bad press on the state of right wing militancy (and perhaps religious intolerance) in Germany. Ouch.
Speaking of bad press, Germany which prides itself on some of the strongest data protection legislation in the world, has been under fire for passing a law (while Germany was losing to Italy at the European Championships, no less) which would allow governmental offices to sell, yes sell for a profit, information to private companies. Expect this law to be overturned soon with plenty of egg to smear on many people's faces.
But all cannot be bad. But to find much good news you will have to look at sports. Four out of sixteen of the Wimbledon quarter finalists this year were German, and the two men are from Bavaria. Also, the German national Olympic team has recently been announced. It has only 39 team members, small for Germany but it will be a favourite to win its fair share of medals. In fact, if you compare the number of medals Germany usually wins to those from Russia, China and the USA, you find that the ratio of medals per population is often higher in Germany. So after a week like this perhaps Ms. Merkel may want to go for a swim in shark-infested waters while she is in Southeast Asia. It may be safer than returning home to Berlin.