Austria Is Turning to the Right While Germany is Turning Into Jamaica
"Never before has there been such a mish-mash of political parties in power (in Germany) that have such different views on internal, foreign, financial and economic affairs."
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
This is a report from this past Sunday's flagship week-in-review news show, Vesti, hosted by Dmitry Kiselyov, which most closely reflects the views of the government. (Full transcript follows below)
The report is from one of Vesti's most senior correspondents, Mikhail Antonov, who heads all European coverage - and interestingly is based in Berlin, which is indicative of Russia's regional priorities. Most Western media European coverage is headquartered in London.
What happens in Germany is very important for Russia - hence the in-depth, 7 minute segment.
Compare this to US coverage of Germany, which is practically zero, and certainly non-existent on the mainstream news shows. Germany? Who cares?
In the part about Germany - Antonov examines the unprecedented fact that Merkel, because of her historically poor showing in the elections, is going to have to take in far left partners in her ruling coalition - which is bound to cause friction, and might in fact, not work at all.
A Turk is actually the front-runner to be foreign minister - a shocker for many Germans.
As for Austria, - "Austria is likely to join the rebellious Visegrad Four and become another Hungary in terms of immigration policy."
Another Hungary? That can only be good news for Russia.
Austria is also holding elections today. Everyone's attention is focused on the far-right Freedom Party. According to the polls, they have a chance of coming in second which will change the configuration of power in the country.
In Germany, the parliamentary elections are over, but the winner, Angela Merkel, is still looking for possible coalition allies. This job has become difficult as a result of her party, the CDU, losing electoral points. According to Die Welt polls, the CDU only has 31% at the moment, the lowest rating for the party since 2011.
Let's get some more details from the Head of our European office, Mikhail Antonov.
This week, there were two events in Germany, that had to do with big names in literature, both in Frankfurt am Main. The first one is the opening of the famous book fair, that was visited by Merkel and Macron— France is leading the effort this year.
The second event was a fire. The wooden Goethe Tower that was built in 1931 to commemorate the writer's 100th birthday burned down like a 40-meter match.
It happened so fast that there wasn’t even an attempt made to save it. The reason is so far unknown so perhaps it can be chalked up to the fickle nature of life itself— festivities in one place mean a funeral in another.
In the same way, the election winner, Merkel, has had to deal with the hard consequences of her parties loss of standing. It's been 3 weeks already, but the coalition talks haven't even started yet.
Prior to negotiating with the potential partners in power— and for the first time in German history there have to be two of them— the Chancellor had to settle differences with her closest ally.
Angela Merkel, German Chancellor:
"Germany needs a stable government. The main prerequisite for that is and has always been that the CDU and the CSU are on the same page when they hold coalition talks."
The first significant compromise is the CSU itself, the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, which has gotten tired of the refugee question. Merkel was forced to agree to a limit of 200,000 immigrants per year. And, apparently, no more than that.
Horst Seehofer, Bavarian Prime Minister:
"We are satisfied and very happy, that while new waves of migrants are expected to come in the next 2 years, we finally have a system of rules in place for processing them."
Do these new rules make allowance for the refugees who already have a right to move to Germany through the family reunion program?
They number in the hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions. Merkel should be grateful to the Bavarians for not bogging the talks down with details because the agreement reached between the CDU and the CSU, though vague has already been attacked by other parties who will have to be potential coalition partners. The Greens attacked it for supposedly violating human rights.
Cem Özdemir, Co-Chair of The Green:
"They might want to invite us to the preliminary talks of the union and explain their decision."
The Greens, predictably, have decide to up the ante, in hopes of getting 1 or 2 important positions from Merkel. And for the first time, an ethnic Turk—Cem Özdemir— could become the Foreign Minister.
Some say that the Green strategy is completely out of control. Many of Germany’s EU neighbors, like Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia, probably Israel and, of course, Turkey should be mentally prepared for a new presence in the German Foreign Ministry (which wouldn't sit well with Merkel).
Also, among those with whom the Greens and the Foreign Minister is most certainly going to damage relations, now also includes Germany’s good neighbor Austria. Austria has decided to turn to the Right.
The first results of the parliamentary election initiated by the Austrian People's Party indicate that the government in the country will most likely change. The soon-to-be Chancellor is the leader of the ÖVP and the incumbent Foreign Minister— 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz.
The ruling coalition, apart from the conservatives, might also include the far-right Freedom party while the Social Democrats and the incumbent Chancellor Kern will become the opposition.
The fear of refugees has pushed the Euro skeptics into the German Bundestag. The AfD is the third biggest party in the Parliament. In Austria, it pushes them even further, fully into the government.
Heinz-Christian Strache, Chairman of the FPÖ:
"We are happy with our huge success. One thing is clear— around 60% of the Austrian people have voted for the Freedom Party."
Sebastian Kurz, Chairman of the ÖVP:
"I want to promise you today that I will do everything I possibly can to bring about changes in our country. We have a lot of things to do. Our job is also to work together with all the other parties."
Austria already had an alliance of the right and the far-right once before. 18 years ago, the nationalistic Freedom party, led by Jörg Haider, got into the government as a younger partner to the People's Party. 14 EU countries then initiated a boycott against Austria which was lifted only after Haider, the most scandalous figure, agreed to bow out.
But now, the Austrian Euro skeptics have friends all over Europe.
Austria is likely to join the rebellious Visegrad Four and become another Hungary in terms of immigration policy.
For Merkel, it means that European politics turns into something that will require more patience and skill than can be expected from the old-school Eco-socialists.
Sure, the Foreign Ministry can be given to another possible coalition partner, the SPD, but then The Greens will demand the Ministry of Finance and make sure to get rid of the black zero policy.
Under that policy, Germany doesn't take out loans and lives only off the budget income, which is what Merkel wants. But the era of smooth sailing is over now. Compromises need to be made.
The only thing that in some way makes the talks easier for the Chancellor is that not one of the parties invited to join the coalition wants to have snap elections happen again out of stubbornness.
Wolfgang Thierse, Ex-President of Bundestag:
"The chances of reelection are very small. We don't really practice that in Germany, because it gives the impression that politicians are incapable of honoring election results in the first place. German citizens do not like that.
"We voted, and now you should make something out of it."
In some way, the Germans give the responsibility to the politicians who cannot simply give it back. The party that causes another round of voting will lose that election. It's that simple."
Germany is going to have a Jamaican (a black-yellow-red) coalition. Never before has there been such a mish-mash of political parties in power that have such different views on internal, foreign, financial and economic affairs.
It will start resembling Jamaica in more ways than one —it's going to be hot, noisy and even somewhat fun.
The first round of the coalition talks is scheduled for next Wednesday. The talks are expected to end around Christmas.
Angela Merkel has a little more than 2 months to replace the well-oiled governmental mechanism with a new one, assembled with mismatching parts. It means that although she kept her power, using it now will be more difficult.
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