Europe, Germany, Politics

Germany in 2017 – Shining Beacon or Fractured Nation?

Germany is a nation of many things, known for its food and culture, its cars and exports and its key role within the European Union. The country is not known , owever, to be currently able to deal well with rising tensions created by a variety of different sources from outside and within. Apparently, they’re not known for having a sense of humor either, which is not entirely true, they do chuckle occasionally when comparing their public healthcare system to that of the US.

Like with many other countries, especially within Europe, the refugee crisis and the rise of populist right-wing parties in conjunction with a significant amount of EU skepticism, have created an atmosphere, that will shape the political landscape of the EU and Germany for years to come.

2017 will be a crucial year for the country as it is still battling with the fallout of the still ongoing refugee crisis, leaving important questions about integration and future developments largely unanswered. This alone may prove to be Chancellor Angela Merkel’s doom as the national elections are fast approaching and tensions within the country are as great as ever.

Germany: National Elections and the Fate of the EU

While the right winged EU skeptic party AFD (Alternative for Germany) has gained a lot of traction in recent years, catered by the seemingly never-ending stream of refugees pouring into the country without being properly registered at times, they have lost their footing recently. The Social Democratic Party SPD was able to benefit from some of their losses with the surprising introducing of their new candidate for the national election, Martin Schulz. The former President of the EU parliament might prove that Germany still has faith in the European Union by providing a compelling alternative to Merkel at the next election, that is unmistakenly pro EU and could send strong signals to other nations. This could give some momentum in times where a lot of other union members face similar issues with the rise of right-wing parties with an increasingly large following.

At the same time it seems that Germany‘s neighbors, the Netherlands, have renewed their trust in the EU in their recent national election by voting for a variety of different parties that are mostly pro EU, leaving the populist party PVV on a strong second place, but most likely not in a position to form any part of the active government.

France will be the next country to hold national elections and the outcome won’t be less important. After the Brexit caused the EU construct to start shaking and actively give fodder for right winged populists, the elections in France and Germany will be a good indicator where the union is heading in the near future.

Germany is Torn Between Left and Right

The biggest issues right now in Germany seems to be the left/right division within the country. While the most popular parties keep drifting to the left, it leaves the right wing wide open for previously niche parties to grow substantially. It almost seems that Germany has lost its middle ground. Everything gets labeled in either left or right, lacking a compelling compromise in between.

The recent events from the New Years Eve Scandal 2015/2016 and the resulting NAFRI incident caused by police forces the following year, as well as the truck attack in Berlin at the end of last year, spread confusion and uncertainty that may erupt soon enough.

Foreign Affairs are Becoming Increasingly Difficult

But it’s not only forces within Germany that proved to be a challenge. The election of Donald J. Trump as president of the USA will make the usually bright relationship between the two countries hard to maintain. Time will tell how well the collaboration will work out in the future, despite evident discrepancies.

Good relations with the US are not the major concern at the moment, however, as Turkey’s Erdogan is heavily clashing with Germany over several conflicts of interest. Germany has to rely on Turkey to keep the refugee stream at bay or at least well regulated, while Erdogan has used this to his advantage in several recent cases to put pressure on Germany and other European nations. The sentiment between both nations is on a terrifying low at the moment after Turkey’s imprisonment of German-Turkish Journalist Deniz Yücel and the recent dispute about pre-election parties of Turkish officials in Germany to promote Erdogan’s new presidential system. A dispute that could potentially hurt both of them and, of course, the European Union if it escalated.

2017 could and probably will be the year that’ll define Germany for the future in more ways than one. There are a number of things that need to be solved both in domestic and foreign affairs, that could otherwise prove to be major issues for the country in the long run. With all those unanswered questions leading up to a national election in September, we will be in for a wild ride which outcome will eventually impact many more countries than Germany alone.

About Andreas Salmen

Born and raised in Germany, learned a job in IT and Business and ultimately decided that this wasn't exactly where my life was going to end. Left everything behind to become a writing backpacker instead. The world's crumbling away anyway so why not write about it and get a few good Instagram pics on the way, am I right?

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