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A right-wing party in the new German government

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The reasons to vote for right-wing AfD are the problems, not the AfD itself.

On one hand, the elections to the Bundestag on September 24 2017 in Germany were somewhat boring. The programmes of the parties in charge and designated parties, CDU and SPD, look similar. Too gibberish and far from facts were the appearances of Martin Schulz, designated candidate for chancellor of the social SPD.

Too “mum-like” and an encumbrance to people the statements of Angela Merkel. Most other parties were toothless. On the other hand, the “Alternative für Deutschland AfD” (Alternative for Germany) – a party at the far right – was able to attract the attention all the time. Politicians and even more the media picked up each deliberately or undeliberately failed statement from AfD, ripped it apart, attacked the sourcing politician of AfD and embarrassed them, issued opposing items and questioned the AfD in general. If foreign media were interested at all, they joined this round dance and supported the local media on giving the AfD a much larger platform and more airtime for distributing their programme, than it would have deserved taking its relevance in account.

Condemning, stereotyping and ignoring

The AfD was and will be denounced for its right-wing national and xenophobic statements. This image is created particularly by Alexander Gauland, and – after her withdrawal as leader and recent leaving of Frauke Petry – by Alice Weidel. In venturesome staggering walks along the cliff to criminal offenses, both agitators made the Media work for them.

The journalists appeared being the servants in the slightly random media tactics of AfD. The media boil the AfD down to the subjects Racism and Refugees and in immediate reflex cover merely these two topics. In parallel, the commentators and TV hosts tend to distort the subject under discussion with AfD, adding their own personal opinion on these subjects. It appears the bashing of AfD being some sort of substitutional to wipe off the guilt resting on the shoulders of the Germans after World War 2.

The throughout biased representation of the AfD in the media classifies the party in a fixed place and the politicians happily join in. In doing so, they ignore all those positions of the AfD that made the excellent 12.6% election result possible. The projections for AfD stated just 9.5%. However, a non-representative survey by the Counter Narco-Terror Alliance Germany unveiled just about 60% of the voters for AfD dared to confess openly in doing so. Therefore, our projections were between 11% and 15%.

Germany – a class society?

It seems worthwhile to approach the AfD in order to understand how this acceptance was accomplished – something the media neglected and they still neglect it. As soon as a hot topic was risen – such as the “left- behind” people – the media quickly execute surveys and cites studies, and based on this information they try to rectify the issue and to put the AfD’s position and statements into perspective. This happened and happens with lots of indignations and sound.

This is well known from Austria where the politicians and the media had chosen to apply this procedure against the right-wing national FPÖ and their former chairman Jörg Haider. The media and the politicians opened unhesitatingly the stage for them and tried to support the governing party by attacking the right-wing politicians. However, this proceeding didn’t serve the purpose – in contrast, the FPÖ, its politicians and their programme became well known among the voters.

Prior the elections to the Bundestag 2017 it was the liberal German-French thematic TV channel “arte” wanting to find the people in Germany left behind by the politicians and most media – if they exist at all. The verdict of the German-French media people as well as the numerous fates of people living in Germany are upsetting, just like the title of the broadcast: “Being poor in a rich country”. A similar perception of Germany was transmitted out of Switzerland. The Gini coefficient – it describes the wealth distribution in a country – issued by the Swiss bank Credit Suisse states unpretentious and mathematically a high wealth inequality in Germany. Many rich, a few very rich people and broad base of people with minimal to no wealth live in Germany. Similar to Argentina and Morocco – truly not a glorious chapter for a country with such a big self-conception in social and economic life. This, however, never was brought to the attention of the Germans and the parties packed it into set phrases such as “Time for more equity” („Zeit für mehr Gerechtigkeit“, SPD) without giving any idea how to materialise it.

The same applies to the poverty rate in Germany rising from an already high 14% (2006) to an even higher 15.7% (2016, source: Paritätischer Gesamtverband) – with a high number of unreported cases since particularly elderly people not applying for social welfare out of shame. This rating puts the highly praised country between two countries with a heavily struggling economy and therefore a comprehensible poverty rate: France and Spain. Associations bringing this issue out several times already were respected with minimal coverage.

“But the unemployment rate is at an all-time low for decades” politicians like to state. 5.5% truly is a low figure but looking behind the raw number might be sensible here as well. For instance, an increasing quantity of contracts are for temporary work, today close to one million of the 43 million employees have no permanent appointment. All of them not being able to plan ahead – e.g. to start a family – due to the uncertainty of their employment. Not to overlook the multitude of jobs with low salaries. In many cases, it includes job groups the citizens of Germany rely on, such as personnel in care, education, upbringing but also employees in middle- sized businesses and the industry. The grandparents had only one income and this was sufficient to feed the family, cover the cost for education and to build a house. Today, this is out of reach for a rising number of particularly young people, even with double-income. Quietly, a new class society has been established.

Export surplus and the workforce

In spring, Donald Trump approached Angela Merkel bluntly regarding the high export surplus of Germany. Infamous for his attacks, the Donald included some true word within his rumbling. The export surplus of Germany is respectable – and it hurts the United States as well as other countries and foremost Germany’s European partner countries. Angela Merkel often is perceived as the Chancellor or Economy, particularly for the automotive industry, and the whole economic engine Germany is running smoothly. But the close relation to the economy and the panic-fuelled “angst” of the loss of jobs seduces many politicians including Winfried Kretschmann of the Green Party to react extremely tolerant on the recent criminal activities of the industry. This proximity to the economy is perceived as distant to society by various organisations, some parties and the voters.

The export surplus of Germany is made possible by the low salaries in relation to the cost of living of the majority of the society. This circumstance was denounced by the left media and left parties for some time now, but with no sign of change. The low salaries of a large part of the society shows the first signs of an erroneous trend: Due to the minimal salaries, many citizen can no longer build up a decent retirement pension plan. Even today, many pensioners have to live on 400 Euros per month – this is for one of the richest countries such as Germany simply shameful. Poverty among the elderly will struck more than 20% of the people, with an increasing trend. Particularly women are affected if they are a single mother, divorced women or if they do not live with their married partner – they slip from low income into poverty among the elderly.

The Unions fight and deal ever single year with the industries and employers to improve the situations of the employees. Given the noble goals, the results are eminently pitiful. For instance, last year the kindergarten teachers went on strike to get a reasonable rise of their salaries to cover the real cost of living. Today and depending on their wage bracket, they get not even 100 Euros more per month, with employees in part-time – the majority – not even being able to notice the difference at the end of the month. The improvement in their situation of living and appreciation of their work has been missed by far. The Unions like their power and this has caused several fights among competing Unions. For the kindergarten teachers the Union obtained a homeopathic rise of the salaries hesitatingly touching or even leaving out the real problems of the employees. If the Unions pursue proper solutions, the Unions afterwards would be needed for few cases only, thus their comprehensive power would fall apart. Therefore, the Unions in their inactivity mutate towards servants to the employers, on the expense of the employees and the future generations. The Unions faced an alarmingly insight after the Bundestagswahl: According to the Forschungsgruppe Wahlen (senior researches in the election) about 15% of the union members voted for the AfD – where they usually voted for SPD, and some for CDU. A verdict not being a surprise to political observers. The moaning of the IG Metall Union Head of Baden- Württemberg, Mr. Roman Zitzelsberger, unmasks much: „… it is frustrating to see the actual not so bad politics of the past years being punished so mercilessy” („… frustrierend zu sehen, dass die eigentlich nicht schlechte Politik der vergangenen vier Jahre so gnadenlos abgestraft wird“). How shortsighted such statements are still seem not to be within the scope of the guiding people, politicians and Unions. As a member of the AfD stated figuratively during the survey held by the Counter Narco-Terrorism Alliance: “They haven’t heard the shot yet”.

A society splitting itself

It’s a popular opinion xenophobia of the recent times in Germany being an invention by the AfD – but this is past the reality. With the Fall of the Wall and the reunion of the Germans, many East Germans faced the first time xenophobia. Despite the noble promises by the politicians and after the first euphoria, they were not welcome at all in many places. The history repeats itself today with the refugees coming from war zones. Angela Merkel stating „Wir schaffen das!” („We can make it!“) was good for the motivation and well said. But it is indisputably the government, the many voluntary workers and the society being massively overstrained by the rush of refugees. The terror attack on the Weihnachstmarkt in Berlin by Anis Amri was just the visible part of the failing of the government on many levels.

Even more dangerous are the nearly invisible tensions within the society not being related to refugees and terrorists – even if the real threat by refugees and terrorists are belittled by the government, the Verfassungschutz and the secret service in a negligent manner. It is the increasing trench in the society being the real danger. Noticeably those enjoying some wealth and/or occupying a hierarchical higher position fight with exertion for limiting those in lower positions. This has many causes and they neither are racist or xenophobic – but racism and xenophobia could become the symptoms of diverse causes in the medium term. Often, it is just the fear to loose status or coming close to poverty or even to slip into poverty. Furthermore, the German mentality – in contrast to many others – does not know “failure” or not “working”. The intensely believe in hierarchies, the strive to climb up and the circumvention of the ones in lower position/status in all areas of life are the objectives. The overestimation of the own values, the contemptuousness of other or foreign values and the low esteem towards others in general (not just towards certain jobs) doesn’t make it easy for the society to cope with the upcoming complex times. Such concepts will not work if digitization expands into all areas of our life, they will be knocked down.

This fight in defence for the own position and the own life in the German society is omnipresent, but not yet truly visible. The established parties face difficulties to sense these subjects and to adjust themselves to these pestering problems – in the contrary. Instead of fighting low salaries the call for a better rental price limitation and more social house building arose right before the Bundestagswahl. Such measures would be complex, though ineffective and would increase the split in the society and stigmatisation. This politics of symbolism conveys the message of helplessness; it brought the AfD many protesters votes. It also means many AfD voters are not right-wing by far. At the other hand, more than a few voters could be easily radicalized if their difficult personal situation and their social periphery continuously will be neglected. This latent instable condition of an increasing part of the society should force the elites in politics and economy to rethink and act accordingly. Terror doesn’t always come from the outside world, it of course can rise straight out of the middle of society. Moreover, this kind of terror is one of the toughest challenges for society and government. Germany faced it already once, about 40 years ago.

As of today, it is unclear what the AfD wants and can achieve for its voters when sitting in the opposition in the Bundestag. On one hand, the AfD must find itself after the leaving of some of its politicians. On the other hand, the government and the opposition have to consolidate first. Despite the indication the AfD moving to the right– based on the departure of some of its politicians –, the effect of “domestication” of the Bundestag should not be underestimated. Fuss and doing the right-wing rabble will not convince most of the moderate AfD voters. It is safe to say the previous flimsy consensus, waving through of resolutions and the numb debates will become more lively. The new government has the chance to discard the ignorance and lethargy of the past years and focus on the pestering issues lying ahead.

Co-Founder and Co-President of the Counter Narco-Terrorism Alliance Germany; consulting, research, communications specialist and entrepreneur; develops strategies and subsequent concepts for economy, communications and politics; information gathering; analyst, translator, writer and content developer; international experience in industry, technology, media tech, research and education institutes, governmental entities, politics, the UN and more

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Dayton Peace Accord 23 Years On: Ensured Peace and Stability in Former Yugoslavia

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For the past twenty-three years life has been comparatively peaceful in the breakaway republics of the former Yugoslavia. The complicated civil war that began in Yugoslavia in 1991 had numerous causes and began to break up along the ethnic lines. The touching stories and the aftermath effects of the breakaway republics of Bosnia- Herzegovina, Croatia and in Kosovo are still unfolding. Though the numbers of deaths in the Bosnia- Herzegovina conflict in former Yugoslavia are not known precisely, most sources agree that the estimates of deaths vary between 150,000 to 200,000 and displaced more than two million people. During the conflict a Srebrenica a North-eastern enclave of Bosnia once declared as a United  Nations  (UN ) safe area” saw one of the worst atrocity since second world war.

It has been estimated that more than 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks were massacred in Srebrenica and it was one of the most brutal ethnic cleansing operations of its kind in modern warfare. The US brokered peace talks revived the a peace process between the three warring factions in Bosnia- Herzegovina. For Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina a United States (US ) -brokered peace deal reached in Dayton on 21st November 1995. In a historic reconciliation bid on 14 December 1995 , the Dayton Peace Accord was signed in Paris, France, between Franjo Tudjman president of the Republic of Croatia and Slobodan Milosevic president of the Federal Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), Alija Izetbegovic, president of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

When conflict in Bosnia- Herzegovina, Croatia ended, the reconciliation began between ethnically divided region. The US played a crucial role in defining the direction of the Peace process. In 1996, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) -led 60,000 multinational peace enforcement force known as the Implementation Force (IFOR)) was deployed to help preserve the cease-fire and enforce the treaty provisions. Thereafter, the Court was established by Resolution 808 and later, Resolution 827 of the United Nations Security Council, which endorsed to proceed with setting up of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to try crimes against humanity . International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was the first United Nations (UN) war crimes tribunal of its kind since the post-second world war Nuremberg tribunal.

In the late 1990’s, as the political crisis deepened a spiral of violence fuelled the Kosovo crisis between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the Yugoslav forces. Unlike the Bosnia- Herzegovina, Kosovo was a province of Serbia, of former Yugoslavia that dates back to 1946, when Kosovo gained autonomy as a province within Serbia. It is estimated that more than 800,000. Kosovos were forced out of Kosovo in search of refuge and as many as 500,000 more were displaced within Kosovo.

Subsequent t hostilities in Kosovo the eleven week air campaign led by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) against Yugoslavia in 1999 the Yugoslavian forces pulled troops out of Kosovo NATO. After the war was over, the United Nations Security Council, under the resolution 1244 (1999) approved to establish an international civil presence in Kosovo, known as the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Nevertheless UNMIK regulation No 1999/24 provided that the Law in Force in Kosovo prior to March 22, 1989 would serve as the applicable law for the duration of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

In this  context reconciliation is a key to national healing of wounds after ending a violent conflict. Healing the wounds of the past and redressing past wrongs is a process through which a society moves from a divided past to a shared future. Over the years in Serbia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Croatia and in Kosovo the successful peace building processes had happened. The success of the peace building process was possible because of participation of those concerned, and since appropriate strategies to effectively approach was applied with all relevant actors. The strengthening of institutions for the benefit of all citizens has many important benefits for the peace and stability of former Yugoslavia. Hence, the future looks bright for the Balkan states of Serbia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo.

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Hungarian Interest, Ukraine and European Values

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Diplomatic conflicts that have recently arisen between Hungary and its neighboring countries and the European Union as a whole most clearly show the new trend in European politics. This trend is committing to national and  state values of a specific  European country, doubting  the priority of supranational  interests within the European Union. Political analyst Timofey Bordachev believes that “the era of stale politics and the same stale politicians, who make backstage decisions based on the“ lowest common denominator,” are finally coming to an end. Politicians with a new vision of the world order come to power, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Austrian Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz, or the new head of the Italian Interior Ministry, leader of the right-wing League of the North Party, Matteo Salvini ”.

It is not the first year that Hungary is trying to protect the interests of its citizens and the state from external influence, to protect the Hungarians in the territory of neighbouring states  by establishing for this  a special position (Commissioner  for the development of the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine), to determine relations with other countries on the basis of their attitude to the rights of Hungarians. This is how conflicts with the European Union arose, after Hungary refused to let migrants into the country, in the same manner, a conflict  arose with Ukraine, which is trying to build a state ideology, based on nationalism, which a priori does not provide for the proper level of realization and protection of the rights of non-titular nations.

In relation to Hungary, Ukraine follows the same policy as in relation to Russia – to initiate various accusations, to call for punishment, to talk about the inconsistency with European values of the Hungarian policy under the leadership of  Orban. Doing so Kiev has its multifaceted interest: cooperation with NATO and the EU, support  for any decisions of Brussels, the anti-Russian course, domestic policy based on the nationalist  ideology. And in all these areas  Hungary poses  a problem for Ukraine. In the description of relations with Hungary  Kiev even  uses the word “annexation“.

Hungary is hardly planning to seize any Ukrainian territory, but on what  grounds Ukraine falsely accuses Hungary of its annexation intentions in relation to Transcarpathia?  The Ukrainian side highlights several positions:

Issuing Hungarian passports  to Ukrainian citizens (ethnic Hungerians)

This  is an old story, it has come to light again recently due to the growth of Ukrainian nationalism. Moreover,  there are concerns about the implementation by Hungary of the “Crimean scenario” in relation to Transcarpathia.

The Hungarian government has created the position of  “Commissioner  for the development of Ukraine’s Transcarpathian region and the program for the development of kindergartens in the Carpathian region”.

Ukraine demanded an explanation. A note of protest was delivered to the Hungarian Charge d’Affaires in Ukraine, and the Foreign ministers of Ukraine and Hungary had a telephone conversation on the problem. Hungary continues to ignore the requirements of Kiev.

Ukraine fears further disintegration processes

At the same time, in Kiev there is no understanding  of the fact that combining the ideology of nationalism with the country’s national diversity and European integration is hardly possible.

Ukrainian experts note the growth of separatism in the Transcarpathian region, as well as the “strange behavior” of the governor, who plays on the side of Hungary. They also complain that “pro-Ukrainian ideology”(?) is not being сonsolidated in Transcarpathia, and this region is not controlled and monitored by  the Ministry of information. In a word, the state is losing control over the territory, which it neither develops nor controls. Such behavior of the governor and the region’s residents may indicate that the state is not sufficiently present in the lives of residents of Transcarpathia, and this a financial and humanitarian drawback they compensate with the help of Hungary, – experts believe.

Apparently, Ukraine is unable to reach an agreement with Hungary as relations are tense. In response to the Ukrainian law on education, adopted in the fall of 2017, which infringes the rights of national minorities, Budapest blocked another, the third, Ukraine-NATO meeting. Ukraine witnessed this embarrassing  situation  in April 2018.  At the same time elections were held in Hungary, in  which Viktor Orban’s party won a majority in the parliament. Such a tough stance of Budapest in relation to the Ukrainian educational policy Kiev considered to be just a sign of electoral populism. However, this was a mistake.

Viktor Orban’s victory in spring 2018 was convincing, and a convincing victory means obvious support of his migration policies as well as his support  for compatriots abroad. The party of Orban – Fides – not only won a majority but a constitutional majority – 133 of the 199 seats  in the National Assembly of Hungary.

There is no doubt  that Hungary has become Ukraine’s another serious opponent in the process of its European integration. And it is unlikely that either  country  will take a step back: there will be presidential elections in Ukraine soon, and in Hungary, the victory won by Orban, apparently, confirms the  approval of his independent  foreign  policy  by  the citizens.  So the conflict is likely to develop.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Belt and Road Alternatives: The European Strategy

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The European Union (EU) has put forward a plan for enhancing connectivity within Asia, which has been dubbed as the Asia Connectivity Strategy.

The EU does not want to give an impression, that the Asia Connectivity Strategy (ACS) is a counter to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Yet, senior officials of the EU, while commenting on the broad aims and objectives of the project, have categorically stated, that the primary goal of the Asia Connectivity Strategy, is enhancing connectivity (physical and digital) while also ensuring, that local communities benefit from such a project, and environmental and social norms are not flouted (this is a clear allusion to the shortcomings of the BRI). There are no clear details with regard to the budget, and other modalities of the project (EU member countries are likely to give a go ahead for this project, before the Asia-Europe Meeting in October 2018). EU has categorically stated, that it would like to ensure that the ACS is economically sustainable.

Other alternatives to BRI 

It is not just the EU, but even the US, along with Japan and Australia. which are trying to create an alternative vision to the BRI.

The US alternative to the BRI, is being funded by the recently created United States International Development Finance Corporation (USDFC) (an organization which will merge Overseas Private Investment Corporation and other Development Finance Programs) which came into being after the passing of the BUILD  (Better Utilization of Investments leading to Development) Act recently.

It would be pertinent to point out, that the US which has been accused of lacking a cohesive vision to counter China’s BRI has in recent months spoken, on more than one occasion, about greater the dire need for robust connectivity in the Indo-Pacific. In July 2018 US Secretary of State while speaking at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum committed an amount of $113 million for U.S. initiatives to support projects related to digital economy, energy, and infrastructure. The Secretary of State, while speaking about close links between US and Indo-Pacific, also spoke about the need for greater private sector involvement in projects in the Indo-Pacific. Pompeo off late, has also been reaching out pro-actively to a number of countries in South East Asia, and visited Malaysia, Indonesia in August 2018.

It would be pertinent to point out that OPIC  (now part of USFDC) has already signed with the overseas finance development arms of Japan and Australia, and is in talks with India to work jointly. Some of the areas being explored for joint investments are energy, infrastructure.

It is not just the US, even Japan has come with it’s own alternative, Partnership for Quality Infrastructure (PQI), to the BRI.

Potential Appeal of the Asia Connectivity Strategy

So the question then arises, why would countries seeking an alternative to China, not come on board the US’ connectivity initiative. The ‘Asia Connectivity Strategy’ may be especially acceptable to leaders, who do not want to be seen as blindly following US diktats, but who are also uncomfortable with Beijing’s economic policies, and want to avoid falling into what has been dubbed as Beijing’s ‘debt trap’ diplomacy. A perfect example being Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohammad who scrapped projects worth 40 Billion USD, and also referred to the rise of a ‘new colonialism’ being promoted by China. The Malaysian PM has not shared a particularly cordial relationship with the US in the past. While addressing the United Nations General Assembly (unga), Mahathir made some interesting points, saying that Malaysians want a Malaysia, which seeks relations based on ‘mutual respect’ and a Malaysia, that is ‘neutral’ and ‘non aligned’

EU itself trying to strike a balance

EU Chief, Jean Claude Juncker, has been pitching for a more pro-active response to Trump’s insular policies, as well as China’s BRI. Given the fact, that EU has taken a divergent stand from US on the Iran issue, and has proposed a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which will ensure that trade with Iran continues, even before the impending US sanctions to be imposed on Iran in November 2018. The SPV was announced, jointly with Russia and China, on the sidelines of the UNGA.

At the UNGA, French President, Emmanuel Macron disagreed with Trump’s views with regard to Iran, and supported the 2015 Vienna Accord. Said Macron: We know that Iran was on a nuclear military path but what stopped it? The 2015 Vienna accord.”

While it remains to be seen, if the SPV set up by EU works or not, but a number of countries which do not want to be part of the Chinese or American orbit would be attracted towards the EU, in spite of all the problems it is facing, due to it’s capacity to take an independent stand.

Asia Connectivity Strategy is not only about competition

It remains to be seen whether the Asia Connectivity Strategy can gain traction. In terms of connectivity, there may even be strong overlaps with the ‘Indo-Pacific vision’. France, which has strengthened strategic ties with Australia and India, is already seeking to play a pro-active role in the Indo-Pacific.

French President Emmanuel Macron had referred to the need for a strong Paris-Canberra-New Delhi axis, during his Australia visit, as a counter to China’s increasing assertiveness.

Interestingly, while there is a realization, that Asian Connectivity Strategy has a competitive element, and there are some clear differences between EU’s strategy and BRI, there are also some who believe, that there is space for collaboration between the Asia Connectivity Strategy and BRI. This point has been put forward by some policy makers and strategic commentators in EU, as well as sections of the Chinese media. Wang Wen Wen in an article for the Global Times, argues:

‘Asia needs Europe as much as it needs China. Since the EU and China are the two largest economic entities in Eurasia, it is vital that they steward the continent’s economic development agenda. Some programs in the BRI have carried out cooperation with the European side on technology and equipment procurement.’

In conclusion, the Asia Connectivity Strategy is an interesting idea. A lot will depend upon available resources and the response of potential stakeholders. But EU going ahead with such an initiative in spite of numerous problems within is truly laudable.

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