Germany is a country located in the region of Western Europe. Angela Merkel has been Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany since 2005. From 2015, there was a rapid reversal of the German support for Merkel in step with the increasing refugee reception. In the September 2017 parliamentary elections, Merkel’s Christian Democrats returned, while anti-immigrant Alternatives for Germany for the first time entered the Bundestag. Only after six months did Merkel manage to form a new government – her third together with the Social Democrats SPD.
In the mid-2010s, dissatisfaction among some Germans increased with the policies pursued by the coalition government between the Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union (CDU / CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) that led the country since the 2013 elections. Support for Chancellor Angela Merkel swayed and her strong position was no longer as obvious – neither in Europe nor in the EU context. The cause was largely in her refugee policy.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Germany, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
In the summer of 2015, the government promised that refugees from Syria’s civil war would seek asylum in the country, even if it was not the first country they came to within the EU. The message spread and led to an increasing number of refugees seeking refuge in Germany (see Population and languages). The government allocated additional funds for refugee reception, but also demanded that a quota system for asylum reception be introduced in the EU, so that more countries would share the burden.
German authorities had difficulty finding a roof over their heads for all refugees, and getting interpreters and judges for asylum cases. In North Rhine-Westphalia, 200 mayors wrote a letter to Merkel in October 2015 announcing that they could no longer handle the situation. Many Germans lined up with the help and supplies for the refugees, but fires that were suspected of being built also erupted in asylum houses.
Merkel received support for her refugee-friendly policy from the government partner SPD, but her line was questioned by other Christian Democratic ministers in the government. CSU leader Horst Seehofer, formerly Merkel’s foremost ally, now acted as one of her biggest critics and wanted to limit immigration. At the beginning of 2016, the asylum rules also tightened somewhat, among other things, it became more difficult for people who get asylum from certain countries to take their families to Germany.
The refugee situation appeared to have partly been resolved, albeit uncertainly, with the agreement signed in the spring of 2016 between Turkey and the EU, in which the German government had a driving role. In exchange for, among other things, Turkey undertook financial support and visa-free travel to the EU to take care of Syrian refugees in Turkey and to control who was allowed to move on to Europe. German authorities estimated in the summer of 2016 that the refugee reception would remain around 300,000 people during the year.
Events in Cologne and other German big cities during New Year’s Eve 2015–2016 fueled the debate and dissatisfaction with Merkel and her refugee policy among many Germans. Hundreds of women then reported sexual abuse and other harassment. Most of the men arrested by the police for the abuses had most of North African origin and many were asylum seekers. Suicide bombings and assaults in which asylum seekers were involved in 2016, as well as arrests of suspected terrorists among refugees, also raised critical voices that the refugee reception led to terrorists entering the country.
The Election 2017
Opinion polls showed declining support among voters for both the CDU and the CSU, while the relatively newly formed Eurocritic and populist Alternative for Germany (AFD) shed light on the crisis. The party, which in the beginning of 2015 after an internal power struggle changed its direction towards a more xenophobic line, widened its electoral base with new groups and took seats in several state parliaments. The AFD then set its sights on the election to Bundestag 2017.
In the September 24 election, Angela Merkel was re-elected for a fourth term. But even though her party group CDU / CSU again became the largest, it made its worst choice in almost 70 years and lost 65 seats on the Bundestag. The SPD also suffered a major defeat, which led to the SPD leader Martin Schulz announcing that the party no longer wanted to enter into a “big coalition” with the Christian Democrats. The big winner instead became the AFD, which for the first time entered the Bundestag, where it became the third largest party. Even for liberal FDP things went well; the party managed to get back into the federation day after going out in the 2013 election.
Merkel initially sought FDP and the Greens to form a joint government, but after four weeks of intensive negotiations, FDP withdrew.
But the threat of new elections caused the SPD to change when it came to the government issue and in early 2018 the party began negotiations on a new large coalition with Merkel’s Christian Democrats. After long talks, the parties finally managed to agree on the policy to be pursued in a number of important areas and on the distribution of ministerial posts. The SPD was not least able to seize the heavy finance ministerial post, which is important for Olaf Scholz, former mayor of Hamburg. CDU’s sister party CSU leader Horst Seehofer became Minister of the Interior, while Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen were the only ones to retain their posts from the previous government. Martin Schulz resigned as SPD leader following internal criticism and in April 2018, former Labor Minister Andrea Nahles was elected new party leader. She becomes the party’s first female leader.
Among the most important agreements between the government parties is an annual limit on the number of asylum seekers of 180,000-220,000, a requirement that CSU has long pushed, and to gradually phase out the so-called solidarity tax to eastern Germany introduced after the reunification in 1990. The government also wants to invest in infrastructure and Let 1.5 million new apartments be built by 2022. An important priority is also to work to strengthen the EU and the euro, in close cooperation with France.
Migration policy causes government crisis
After only three months, the new government faced its first crisis. Again, it was migration policy that created problems and the coalition government for a while looked dangerously close to cracking.
The crisis was triggered after it was discovered in the spring that errors were committed when the migration authority granted asylum to refugees. There were suspicions that an employee in Bremen had granted about 1,200 refugees asylum in exchange for money or gifts. Eventually, Merkel herself was drawn into the scandal when she was criticized by the former head of the migration authority for not addressing the problems that existed with the authority.
The asylum scandal became a welcome opportunity for Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, party leader of the Christian Democrats in Bavaria, to push through his comprehensive plan to improve the asylum system in the country. The immigration-critical AFD also seized the opportunity to demand a complete overhaul of refugee policy.
However, Merkel said no to Seehofer’s plans to introduce stricter border controls in order to reject refugees already registered in another EU country directly at the border. Merkel wanted the issue to be resolved by the EU countries together in a major agreement on migration management. In addition, Seehofer encountered opposition from the Austrian and Italian governments, who did not want to deal with asylum seekers who were denied entry into Germany.
Seehofer threatened to resign, but government cooperation was finally saved after he and Merkel agreed to move forward to tighten controls at the Austrian border. In addition, the three government parties agreed to speed up the handling of asylum cases and that asylum cases should be handled at police stations.
However, differences of opinion regarding immigration and integration issues continued to create tensions within fragile government cooperation.
Merkel will leave his post
After the Christian Democrats did poorly in both the Bavarian and Hesse state elections, Angela Merkel announced in October 2018 that she would not run for the CDU chairmanship at the party congress in December. However, she was prepared to remain as Chancellor until the election in 2021. In December of that year Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was appointed new party leader for the CDU.
At the end of November 2019, two left-wing politicians, Walter Borjans and Saskia Esken, were elected as new leaders for the Christian Democrats’ government partner SPD. The new leadership duo had taken a critical stance on government cooperation. But at the SPD party congress shortly thereafter, the participants voted no to a motion that the SPD should leave the government. The participants instead supported Borjan’s and Eskens’ plan to initiate discussions with the CDU / CSU to try to get through important requirements, including investments in digitalisation, measures to combat climate change, an increase in the minimum wage and investment in education and the infrastructure for transport.Finance).
Merkel’s planned successor resigns
In early 2020, the CDU was shaken by a crisis, which ended with party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer deciding to resign. She also announced that she did not intend to stand as the Christian Democrats’ candidate for federal chancellor in the run-up to the 202 parliamentary elections. After the recent elections in the state of Thuringia, when the Christian Democrats came in third place after the AFD and the Left, the Christian Democrats there chose to cooperate with the right-wing nationalist AFD so that Thomas Kemmerich of the FDP could be appointed head of state instead of the incumbent Head of Government Bodo Ramelow of the Left. It became a disaster because it was taboo for the established parties in the country to cooperate with the AFD. Christian Democrats’ coalition partners at the national level The SPD protested strongly and there was a concern that government cooperation was again threatened. Kramp-Karrenbauer had tried to stop the collaboration but failed. After the scandal, Thomas Kemmerich chose not to take up the position of head of state in Thuringia and announce new elections.
Germany received its first detected cases of the new corona virus at the end of January 2020. A month later, cases from different parts of Germany were reported and the virus appeared to have spread more widely. As a result, the federal government’s health minister Jens Spahn commissioned the states to launch contingency plans for a pandemic.
In early March, the first death of the covid-19 disease caused by the coronavirus was reported while thousands of people were infected. A few weeks later, the number was infected four times more and the states then decided to close schools, preschools, bars and restaurants. A few days later, Angela Merkel called the corona pandemic the most difficult crisis since the Second World War, and strict rules for social distance prohibiting meeting more than two people at a time were introduced throughout the country. In addition, the boundaries were closed to stop the spread of infection. Shortly thereafter, Merkel was forced to quarantine herself after her doctor became ill in covid-19.
To try to reduce the effects of the pandemic on the country’s economy, the German Parliament approved a comprehensive rescue package at the end of March. The rescue package of just over one billion euros includes support for companies through increased opportunities for loans and also measures to support healthcare. Further measures to help the economy followed in the spring.
The German strategy to stop the pandemic was based on conducting many tests to check who was infected. This meant that the figures for the number of infected persons were high compared to many other countries. More than 185,000 Germans had been infected by covid-19 in June, while 8700 had died of the disease. But the number of deaths per capita was significantly lower than, for example, in the US, Spain or Sweden. This was thought to be due to the fact that the German healthcare had worked well from the beginning, with well stocked medical equipment, and that the hospitals had primarily taken care of the most severely ill. Another reason why the pandemic affected Germany relatively mildly in the spring of 2020 was that the authorities managed to win the trust of the Germans through updated, transparent and reliable information.
From the end of April 2020, Germany gradually began to ease the severe restrictions as the spread of the corona virus slowed.
Read more about the ongoing development in the Calendar.
READING TIPS – read more about Germany in UI’s web magazine Foreign
magazine : Damaged CSU creates uncertainty in German politics (2018-10-18)
FACTS – POLITICS
Federal Republic of Germany / Federal Republic of Germany
republic, federal state
Head of State
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Head of government
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
CDU / CSU 246, SPD 153, AFD 94, FDP 80, Left 69, Green 67 (2017)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
CDU / CSU 311, SPD 192, Left 64, Green 63 (2013)
76.2% in the federal election in 2017
2021 parliamentary elections