Friday, April 01, 2005

Has the German Government Lost It?

The disintegration of the German government would be laughable were it not so harmful to the interests of Germans and their neighbours.

Germany's current foreign policy, especially, is ill-considered, irresponsible and irrelevant. Its incoherence shows Germany's government to be acting without any firm set of principles or beliefs:

- The (post-WWII) German politician's traditional pose of championing peace and brotherly understanding has been well and truly ditched by the Green Foreign Minister and the SPD Chancellor, who favour selling arms to China, the biggest violator of human rights in the world. In this they are opposed not only by this blog, the US and a majority of the Bundestag, but also by their own parties!

So at a time when "democracy is on the march" across the globe, and this is widely seen as the only effective means of combatting international state-sponsored terrorism, the Germans are committed to propping up the rabidly aggressive and repressive Chinese government. (It isn't just the Germans of course. The EU as a whole - or rather, the folks who define and execute the EU's foreign policy - supports this morally depraved policy. All EU citizens should be ashamed that we have let politicians of such towering moral turpitude take over our governing institutions. But the German government should take the lion's share of shame, as it has betrayed German values so fundamentally.)

- At a time of record unemployment, the German government encouraged mass illegal immigration into the country. This policy is shorthanded as the "Visa Scandal" and has been on the front pages of German media for weeks now. As a result of the policy, hundreds of thousands of eastern Europeans have illegally entered the European Union. The man responsible for this travesty is the Green's Joschka Fischer - still, incredibly, Foreign Minister of Germany - and it seems, in the absence of any justification from the very busy man himself, that he only wanted to further international understanding. A noble ambition, frustrated by the policy it inspired. The good old expression "hoist by his own petard" comes irresistibly to mind when one thinks of Fischer and his Visa policy.

- The German government, acting in tandem with the French, has destroyed the Stability Pact, which was designed to protect the strength of the EU's currency and its independence from short-term political considerations.

The Pact, for all its shortcomings, was another measure largely inspired by a German wish for financial stability; it was the Germans, after all, who gave up the rock-solid Deutschmark in favour of the euro. As it happens, the euro is currently strong: ditching the Stability Pact won't cause too much ruction just yet. However, killing the Pact will likely lead to higher interest rates soon, and it has certainly undermined markets' confidence in the euro - a currency whose strength, as conventional wisdom has it, is more an expression of the dollar's weakness than the euro's own inherent robustness. Be all that as it may, the dismantling of the Pact was badly handled, with some of the smaller EU countries (who had stuck to the Pact's strictures) feeling roughly treated by the arrogant French and Germans.

These three policies (Arms for China; the Visa Scandal; the killing of the Stability Pact) are not merely policies with defects, they are policies with no dicernible benefits. They betray German values. They are signs that the current German government is nearing its end.

The opposition parties have been unable to mobilise large-scale expression of voters' disgust. National elections are over a year away, so perhaps they feel there's still time. In Nordrhein-Westphalen, the biggest and most powerful of Germany's Länder, the regional elections are on May 22nd. If the ruling SPD-Green coalition is toppled there, it will represent a dramatic shift in political power. The left has been in power there for decades. In most countries this shift would be an expected outcome. But, although the centre-right parties have recently squeezed ahead in opinion polls, it is far from a given in Germany.

Chancellor Schröder is an effective, charming politician with the common touch, far more popular and accessible than the centre-right's Angela Merkel. And Fischer, for all his self-indulgence and love of power, remains an electoral asset, although less so of late.

The opposition hasn't yet articulated a coherent stance to voters yet, nor set out a programme to counter the government's depredations. It badly needs to do so if it wishes to upset the electoral apple-cart this May.

The German government has lost it all right. The opposition must be hoping that the electorate notices. It would be more effective if they got out there and showed everyone why they would be a better alternative. Of that, so far, no sign.

No comments: