(Photo taken from cnn.com)
by Kathrin Beck
Stormy times in Berlin. In the ten years since her first election in 2005, the Chancellor has experienced many uncomfortable situations – and survived. Bank bailouts, the euro crisis, Bundeswehr scandals, the Snowden revelations or a wiretapped mobile phone. Regardless how strong the wind blows, Angela Merkel remains the head of German Government – untouched, unscathed. All opinion polls see the Chancellor ahead of the list of the most popular politicians in Germany.The Germans are satisfied with her policies. Mothers’ pension, retirement at 63, care allowance, and above all hovers the black zero. Welcome to the comfort zone.
Nonetheless, dark clouds start rising. It seemed like the NSA scandal – involving intercepted phone calls and millions of read emails had been over before the 2013 federal elections. But the latest publications put Merkel under increasing pressure. It is about nothing less than the accusation of industrial espionage.
Over years, the American secret service NSA should have foisted so called “selectors” on the German BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst), in order to gather intimate information. Those selectors are keywords including email- or IP addresses, as well as specific words or names – names of certain persons or companies. The reproach: Those “selectors” have not only been used for the purpose of terror prevention, but also to spy on EU institutions, companies, and European governments.
There is a lot at stake for Angela Merkel, should evidences been found for these allegations. Eventually, the BND is under direct control of the Chancellery. Thus, it is a question of integrity and reputation.
Insights in the NSA-list could bring some light in the thicket of rumors. Claims for publishing this list come from the opposition camp, as well as – inconvenient for the Chancellor – from her coalition partner. Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Economic Affairs has called Merkel to show backbone and put pressure on the Obama administration to find a quick and clear solution to this affair – at pinch, this must also mean to publish the selectors list without the agreement of the Americans. In this respect, General Secretary of the Social democrats (SPD) Yasmin Fahimi has found clear words to describe the situation: the German Government must not make itself the vassal of the United States and ignore the rights of the Bundestag.
The tone between the two partners is getting rougher. A quick fix is, however, not at sight. The United States are Germany’s most important ally in the fight against terrorism. And the German secret services need the big brother. The publication of the NSA-list would be an affront. Germany cannot afford to lose the United States as a partner in the prevention of terrorism – that is the official ductus.
A reasonable argument, indeed, and a convenient one as well. Inner security is one of the major concerns of the German government and the German people. It is a concern that for many weights more than clarification and transparency. Security over Freedom – the end judges the means. Or to say it with the famous words of the Chancellor, there is “no alternative”.
That is it. Story told, back to normal, back to the comfort zone. Or not? What are the options? Last week, the call for early elections has been raised. Scenarios of Merkel’s future have followed. And, paradoxically enough, the future does not look as dark as one may have expected.
Early elections would mark the end of the big coalition government in Germany. However, they do not solve what is currently going wrong. Polls have shown that although the conservatives and their frontrunner have lost some support, they remain the strongest party in Germany. Scenarios forecast Angela Merkel to remain Chancellor – in a new coalition or even alone. For the Social Democrats this is what one can call a lose-lose-situation. And the opposition? Too diverse, too small, too weak to form a front against the government.
May the stormy weather continue, it will flag and vanish. And Angela Merkel? She will remain the head of the German Government – untouched and unscathed, as the current political landscape does not show any alternatives. We are awaiting sunnier times ahead once storms have cleared the air.