Pubblicato in: Devoluzione socialismo, Unione Europea

Germania. Voglia di cambiamento e conservazione. – Handelsblatt

Giuseppe Sandro Mela.

2017-09-23.

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Chi chiedesse ad un tedesco come sta, si sentirebbe rispondere “Alles in Ordnung“: tutto bene.

Ma in effetti il nostro amico tedesco ha risposto che tutto è in ordine, quindi tutto va bene.

Il popolo tedesco ha un atavico terrore del nuovo e dei cambiamenti: teme l’incognita insita nel mutamento, apprezza la stabilità anche se scomoda e non soddisfacente.

L’incubo di ogni buon tedesco è il chaos, esattamente come un partenopeo temerebbe un traffico rigidamente controllato.

Questo modo di sentire porta inevitabilmente a situazioni conflittuali: si indossa male l’abito vecchio ma nel contempo si teme quello nuovo.

Così domenica 24 i tedeschi voteranno una riedizione del passato governo, pur non essendone stati soddisfatti.

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Handelsblatt, il giornale della confindustria tedesca, fotografa bene questa situazione.

«It’s one of the strange anomalies of this election …. they will vote for the status quo, and against Mr. Schulz, anyway»

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«a majority of Germans agree with the government’s policy and even want more leadership»

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«opinions about whether there should be a cap on the number of refugees: Six out of ten Germans favor that»

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«Germans also think conservatively when it comes to the future of the European Union, with just under 16 percent in favor of additional powers for Brussels, while 37 percent want more rights transferred back to Europe’s nation states»

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«Germans want more Europe when it comes to defense policy, foreign policy and the European-wide recognition of educational qualifications»

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«the vast majority are not ready to sign up for a pan-European, fiscal utopia or a European finance minister»

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«They want to retain sovereignty over their income and expenditure»

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«Paris is envisaging pots of money, Berlin sees additional supervisory authorities»

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«Just under a third (31 percent) want better relations with Russia, while only 22.5 percent want Germany to distance itself further from Russia.»

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«These desired changes will be difficult for Ms. Merkel»

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Sembrerebbe delinearsi una situazione di riedizione di una stanca Große Koalition, altamente conflittuale nel suo interno e condizionata severamente nei suoi rapporti di politica estera.

Ma quando il 70.6% dei tedeschi reclama una nuova legge sull’immigrazione ed il 59.7% reclama un tetto massimo al numero degli immigrati dovrebbe essere ben chiaro ciò che vorrebbero i tedeschi.

Che poi voteranno ciò che passa il convento, nell’attesa che AfD si consolidi, cresca e possa proporsi come forza di governo.

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Handelsblatt. 2017-09-22. Wanting Change, Voting for None

A new study shows Germans wish Berlin would govern differently and points to immigration, security and fiscal sovereignty.

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German voters are ready for change. At least, that’s what a survey by the Allensbach Institute, commissioned by Handelsblatt, suggests. However that is not what they are going to get with the next administration. Nor is it what they are going to vote for come Sunday, according to the most recent polls, which continue to suggest that the current chancellor will be voted back into power for a fourth term.

Even though his election could mean change, Martin Schulz, the main competition for Angela Merkel’s job as chancellor, effectively has no prospect of being elected. It’s one of the strange anomalies of this election. They greet Mr. Schulz, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, or SPD, with cheers when he appears in public and they jeer and boo Ms. Merkel. But they will vote for the status quo, and against Mr. Schulz, anyway.

In many cases, the Allensbach study shows that desire for change transcends the usual political categories of left and right, progressive and conservative.

On some issues, a majority of Germans agree with the government’s policy and even want more leadership, for example, on topics like climate change. Over 90 percent of Germans believe the current policy for the environment is right, or even want to expand it. It’s a similar situation with development aid for Africa, which the German government has rediscovered in recent months as a means of preventing a new influx of refugees; 39 percent of Germans want more development aid, while only 12 percent would reduce it.

On other issues though, Germans are fundamentally opposed to the government and almost all the major parties. This includes opinions about whether there should be a cap on the number of refugees: Six out of ten Germans favor that. But this position is only supported by the more conservative Christian Social Union, or CSU, the Bavarian sister party to Ms. Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats; and by the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, a right-wing populist party founded in 2013.

The problem with such a complex and often contradictory wish list is which party to vote for. “I’d have to found a new party myself if I wanted to see all my wishes granted,” replies Renate Köcher, head of the Allensbach Institute, adding that the major parties like the CDU and SPD have become weaker over the past few years, while minor parties, especially those that offer a more radical point of view, have become stronger.

So the situation before Germans cast their ballots Sunday, is clearly more complicated than it looks at first. The question for now: Where do German voters want to see change, and where will they actually get it?

Closer to the EU

Germans also think conservatively when it comes to the future of the European Union, with just under 16 percent in favor of additional powers for Brussels, while 37 percent want more rights transferred back to Europe’s nation states.

“The Germans are staunch Europeans in principle. But they have clear ideas about where more integration would be desirable and where nation states should maintain their autonomy,” said Ms. Kocher.

Germans want more Europe when it comes to defense policy, foreign policy and the European-wide recognition of educational qualifications. However, the vast majority are not ready to sign up for a pan-European, fiscal utopia or a European finance minister. “They want to retain sovereignty over their income and expenditure,” Ms. Köcher said.

In some ways this may be the explanation for the different attitudes toward Mr. Schulz and Ms. Merkel. Mr. Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, is a staunch proponent of the EU and as such he comes across as trustworthy and honestly enthusiastic. However there’s no doubt that many Germans fear his enthusiasm will translate into too much EU.

Ms. Merkel faces a dilemma when it comes to this topic. France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, is eager for reform – which means she finally has a serious ally in Paris. And according to the Allensbach survey, 39 percent of Germans want a closer relationship with France under Emmanuel Macron.

“Strengthening the EU is a subject where you can get your fingers burnt.”

Axel Wallrabenstein, political communications consultant

Yet Mr. Macron is also a fan of closer European financial integration. Ms. Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, can also envisage a European finance minister and a European monetary fund but they have very different ideas from the new French administration. Paris is envisaging pots of money, Berlin sees additional supervisory authorities.

“Strengthening the EU is a subject where you can get your fingers burnt,” said Berlin-based political and communications consultant, Axel Wallrabenstein. “What is crucial is how you sell the next steps toward integration. If the new government makes it clear that the EU is dealing with the issues that are overwhelming nation states – such as security policy, finances and structural support – the strong axis of Germany and France can bring Europe a big step forward.”

Still, given the divided attitude that German voters have toward the EU’s powers and a closer financial union, perhaps it is no surprise that, for the time being, Ms. Merkel’s tactic is to postpone all the important questions on EU policy until after the election.

Foreign Policy

In terms of foreign policy, German voters have expressed desire for change there too. Just under a third (31 percent) want better relations with Russia, while only 22.5 percent want Germany to distance itself further from Russia.

Germans living in the east of the country in particular want closer connections between Berlin and Moscow.

Meanwhile, 35 percent of Germans think Germany should distance itself more from the United States under Donald Trump, with only one in ten wanting closer relations. On the other hand, France and Mr. Macron are similarly popular among all demographic groups.

These desired changes will be difficult for Ms. Merkel, who is staunchly trans-Atlantic in her outlook. Russia is occupying the Crimea against international law and continues to behave aggressively towards the Baltic countries and Ukraine. At the same time, the US is now an unknown quantity. Mr. Trump continues to question his country’s obligation to provide military support within NATO, when other NATO states don’t increase defense spending.

The US wants Germany to increase its defense budget substantially, to at least come closer to the NATO target of 2 percent of gross domestic product. Ms. Merkel’s next government may well be pushed into this. But on the whole, the German public remains critical of armament; most want the defense budget reduced or for it to stay the same, at around 1.2 percent of economic output.

Economy

There is one part of the economy where, if Ms. Merkel’s new administration takes note of what Germany’s leading economists have to say, change is coming. Almost without exception, they all say that Germany must focus more on digitalization and education.

But there won’t be any change to another important aspect of the economy: Most politicians are smart enough not to damage their careers, or their terms in office, by cutting tax incentives and other subsidies, even if this is something often called for. It’s no surprise that subsidies have risen further under Ms. Merkel’s leadership: According to a report by the Ministry of Finance, they will have risen by €4.3 billion ($5.1 billion) to €25.2 billion per year between 2015 and 2018.

Unlike in other countries, German voters are not interested in overturning the capitalist system either. “We have been observing the general public’s acceptance of the economic system for decades and we see a very clear pattern,” Ms. Köcher explains. “Acceptance is dependent on economic success and one’s participation in this success. In countries where there are economic problems – like Italy and France – trust in the system is far lower than in Germany.”

Germany is unlikely to experience what economists have been demanding for a long time: a fundamental fiscal reform that does away with exceptional circumstances and lowers income and value-added tax rates across the board. Both the CDU and CSU, and even the SPD are promising to ease the income tax burden, but that’s easy when a bubbly economy is frothy with tax revenue.

It’s all correct and it’s all important, but it’s hardly a massive change.

Still, Clemens Fuest, head of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, believes reform is needed, and especially when it comes to local government finances. “Trade tax is currently being collected at considerable expense, and then a significant portion is being refunded,” he said. “It should be replaced by a local supplement to income and corporation tax.”

Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, is considering a reform of company taxation over the next four years. In particular, he is keen to harmonize the basis for assessment of company taxes throughout Europe, partly in order to prevent multi-national corporations from shifting their profits around the EU.

So there will be a little bit of tax reform, a little more emphasis on digitalization and a little more of a push in the education department. It’s all correct and it’s all important, but it’s hardly a massive change.

Security

The Allensbach research shows that German voters prefer to feel more secure and are willing to give up some of their personal freedoms in exchange. Just over half (52.9 percent) say that security is more important than freedom (34 percent).

Security in Germany involves law and order as well as the prevention of terrorist attacks. And the fact that the right-wing, anti-immigration AfD will very likely enter the federal parliament for the first time after these elections means that Ms. Merkel may well be forced into making changes in that direction. The AfD’s increasing popularity can also be seen as another sign that German voters want change – previously the Left Party was the party of choice for anyone wanting to make a protest vote. Over the past few years, that position has gone to the AfD. Still, no other party is willing to ally itself with the AfD, which will make them an oppositional thorn in the new administration’s side for the next four years. Their agitation could shape Ms. Merkel’s fourth term.

“With the AfD in the Bundestag, we will experience permanent hysteria,” Mr. Wallrabenstein, the political consultant, said. “People need to get the feeling from the new government that they’re safe inside their own country. In eastern Germany in particular, many people feel excluded by politics.”

Additionally, despite the fact that, statistically, Germans are more likely to die in a traffic accident than in a terrorist attack committed by a recent refugee, many Germans see immigration as a security-related problem. But security must be about intelligent management. The attack on the Berlin Christmas market late last year showed that it doesn’t matter how many staff or how much power you have if the relevant authorities do not talk to each other.

The AfD will doubtless push the message that security has much to do with refugees and integration. This topic will also become more important if the CDU and CSU form a coalition with the Free Democratic Party, or FDP, and the Greens.

While at first glance, the results of the Allensbach research indicate that German voters want change, the reality on the ground and at the ballot box will be a lot more complicated – just like the coalition building to come after Sunday.

Ms. Merkel is highly likely to find herself back in power. But the coming four years will decide what kind of political legacy she leaves and whether she goes down in history as the chancellor who allowed her country to become increasingly set in its ways, or whether she prepared Germany for the challenges that lie ahead.

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