When people think of Germany, they think of cars, engineering, a flourishing economy, exports and the arguably most powerful nation within the European Union.
There is no denying it, Germany has been and is doing very well, but still, the country faces several challenges old and new both within and outside the European Union, challenges that could very well tip the scales and influence in what direction the nation will go and develop.
The Refugee Crisis in Germany
The Refugee Crisis has been keeping everyone on the edge of their seats. Since day one, Germany has been the major player in taking in refugees almost unconditionally. A decision that in its purpose is admirable and right, but always lacked the proper concept to make it work in favor of both sides, people in need of help and German citizens. Angela Merkel is usually a very calm personality, but she does tend to occasionally act impulsively, something that became very apparent in the way she handled the stream of refugees pouring into the country. Most issues the country currently has within and outside of it, have to some degree been influenced by this decision, and it will continue to be a problem that Germany will have to face and tackle for many years to come.
To this day, Germany struggles to find proper, quick and efficient procedures to test an individual’s claim for asylum and to return people with false claims back to their home countries. Sometimes countries are found to be not safe for people to return to, even if they don’t have a valid refuge claim or needed documents cannot be provided to prove one’s claim beyond a reasonable doubt. This issue was amplified by allowing people to come to Germany almost unconditionally, something that bothered many and enabled right-wing parties to capitalize on.
Populistic and Extremist Movements
The ever growing numbers of refugees and an increase in terror attacks in Europe nurtured the right-wing everywhere in the European Union. In Germany, it was the AFD (Alternative for Germany), an EU-sceptic right-wing party, that grew incredibly well in the early days of the Refugee Crisis and continues to gain new voters with every subsequent election. Some state-elections saw the party exceeding 20%, though they failed to get into parliament in their first Federal Election. That is most likely to change, as they are projected to surpass the 5% hurdle quite significantly in the next German Federal Election in September.
While the right has been on the rise, the leftmost extreme has not been inactive. Although no extreme leftist parties have been gaining ground in recent years, some of their followers took their anger with Democratic leaders to the streets of Hamburg during the last G20 Summit, destroying shops and setting streets on fire. Hamburg has been the capital for left-winged movements in Germany, and if the G20 in Hamburg shows one thing, then it’s the disparity of politics and people. The Mayor of Hamburg poorly underestimated the effect the summit would have in the city. Police forces seemed overwhelmed and highly aggressive, brutally clashing with protesters on several occasions, raising questions of the necessity of violence on both sides.
Germany Within The European Union
Germany is one of the most important and flourishing countries in the European Union; one cannot deny that. Germany is a strong export-heavy economy that has benefited from a joint European currency, meaning it should have a keen interest in remaining an integral part of it, even though the UK recently decided to bail. After France came very close to electing a president who would’ve been in favor of leaving the EU as well, it will now depend on Germany and France to try and influence the Union to reestablish trust in an institution that has lost most of its appeal, even in countries that benefit from it like Germany. Nevertheless, there are still tensions within the union that need to be worked out. The Greek Debt-Crisis still looms over the Union and Germany. The nation did reduce its debts, though it is still nowhere near complete recovery.
Germany and Turkey
Germany has a significant number of Turkish citizens, so many in fact, that Erdogan is actively touring the country before elections. What started out as a cold but functioning relationship has turned sour in recent years, not least due to the Refugee Crisis and Erdogan’s craving for power while disregarding basic human rights within his country. Erdogan has an issue with criticism, a fact a German comedian had to learn the hard way. Erdogan used an old law to sue Jan Böhmermann over an insulting poem aired on his TV Show.
The Turkish President did lose. Nonetheless, it is worrying that a foreign president goes as far as suing another nation’s comedians for practicing freedom of speech, however explicit it might have been. To make matters worse, Erdogan has a track record of imprisoning his enemies, especially journalists on false charges of terrorism. German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel has been jailed in February 2017 on terrorism charges. He is tried as a Turkish citizen and therefore beyond the reach of the German Embassy and remains imprisoned to this day awaiting trial.
Since then relations with Turkey grow colder by the day. German authorities denied several Turkish government officials to campaign for Erdogan’s Presidential referendum, and since Erdogan won said referendum shortly after, it has been at an all time low. Regardless of all these acts, the German government and especially Angela Merkel cling to Erdogan, just because he currently has significant leverage, effectively controlling the refugee stream into Europe and Germany.
Outside the Union
Germany has to worry about relations with outside countries as well, especially the U.S. since Donald Trump took office November 2016, announcing several actions he would take to weaken trade relationships with Europe and Germany especially. The German Car industry seems to be especially worried about the steps the new American President might take in the future. Trump is the man of handshakes, and in this case, the absence of one when Angela Merkel first visited him speaks volumes.
All in all, Germany is still doing well, yes, but it is in a tight spot. Many old problems stemming back to the beginning of the Refugee Crisis as well as the Greek Debt-Crisis are still largely unresolved. Threats due to the rising force of populism within Germany, the European Union and the rest of the world – going back to protectionism and nationalism – will not make their lives easier as an Export-Driven economy.
As it stands right now, it seems like Angela Merkel will win the next German Federal Election, though regardless of the next chancellor, the trials will be the same. Germany may be in for a wild ride.
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