Germany. The Constitutional Court in February rejected a contentious law on support for long-term unemployed. The fixed compensation levels that applied after one year’s unemployment, equal to all, were sentenced as arbitrarily set. The law was part of the multi-year reform package Agenda 2010, which aimed to reduce government spending. The government was commissioned to find a new solution.
In the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in May, Christian Democratic CDU and liberal FDP lost power. The Social Democratic SPD also backed down somewhat but was able to form a minority government with the Greens, which has progressed strongly. Support was promised by the Left Party Die Linke. The result was seen as a defeat even for the bourgeois federal government; the election in Germany’s most populous state is usually seen as an important value gauge for national politics. The bourgeoisie also lost its majority in the Federal Council, the parliament’s first chamber, where the 16 states are represented.
On May 31, President Horst Köhler resigned unexpectedly, four years in advance. He was upset over sharp criticism of him following statements about German participation in Afghanistan. Köhler had spoken of German export interests as a motivation for military operations. One month later, CDU candidate Christian Wulff was elected new president. Wulff won in a third round of votes over SPD’s and Green’s candidate Joachim Gauck. The president, who mainly has ceremonial duties, is indirectly elected by a special parliamentary assembly.
A techno party in Duisburg in July ended in tragedy. An uproar and panic ensued at a long tunnel that was the entrance to the festival area, and 21 young people perished in the congestion. Police and organizers were criticized for lack of security.
An intense integration debate was triggered by an immigration-critical book in which author Thilo Sarrazin criticized Muslims for not wanting to integrate. He also argued about heredity and intelligence that many found offensive. The criticism prompted Sarrazin to leave his post on the board of central bank, Bundesbank. The Social Democrats’ party board also discussed excluding him from the party.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Germany has a population of 83.02 million (2019). Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement in the debate that multicultural society has failed and that immigrants need to integrate better. But she also stressed that Germany needs immigrants: the country’s low birth rates are lower than death rates, while emigration during the year was greater than immigration.
The Sarrazine business contributed to continued difficulties for the SPD, which made a lousy choice a year earlier. Instead, they had the green wind in their sails and in an opinion poll in September received support from as many as SPD: 24 percent of the voters.
The green rise was partly due to the nuclear energy issue. When the government in September tore up a resolution on winding up to 2020, the reactions became strong. The opposition intended both to turn to the Constitutional Court and try to get a referendum on the issue. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Berlin against the decision. When nuclear fuel waste was to be transported to the village of Gorleben for final disposal, the usual protest actions became unusually extensive. The train delivery was delayed by several days through blockades and some sabotage. Clashes occurred between police and protesters.
Merkel’s CDU also struggled with falling opinion figures. One reason was criticism from taxpayers for having to sponsor “wasteful southern Europeans” in connection with the crisis in several euro area countries. Pressed by public opinion, Merkel took a tough stance in the EU and at a summit in October, among other things, pushed through demands for a new revision of the EU constitution.
However, the economy in Germany was robust. A savings package called the largest since the war was adopted in June, with savings of € 80 billion over four years. At the same time, growth was the strongest in almost 20 years, although it slowed to the end of the year. Unemployment then stood at 7 percent, the lowest figure in 18 years.
In June 2010, the public employees’ union organized demonstrations in Berlin and Stuttgart against the cuts.
CDU politician Christian Wulff was elected German President in June 2010. In the third round, he got 50.2% of the votes in the electoral college, while his counterpart, the independent Joachim Gauck (nominated by the SPD and the Greens) had to settle for 39.7%. The rest of the voices were blank. Wulff, however, did not sit for long. In December 2011, it was revealed that as prime minister of Nieder Saxen, he had received € 500,000 in bribes from a wealthy businessman. Wulff quickly stated that in future he would probably be more accurate in his statements of personal wealth, but then it emerged that he had also put pressure on the Springer press to postpone the disclosure. He also lost confidence in his conservative hinterland and had to resign in February 2012. The Federal Council now chose his counterpart from 2010, Joachim Gauck as new president. He was posted to the post in March 2012. Gauck was a great supporter of commemorating history, and therefore visited places abroad where the Nazis had committed serious human rights violations during World War II. In December 2013, his office announced that he was boycotting the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in protest of Russian human rights violations.
After the FDP’s best election ever in 2009, it steadily went downhill for the Liberal Party. In December 2010, party chairman Guido Westerwelle fired his personal assistant Helmut Metzner after WikiLeak’s leak of North American embassy telegrams revealed that Metzner regularly served as a spy for the United States. After the FDP in several national elections in the spring of 2011 had fallen below the 5% threshold, Westerwelle resigned as chairman. He was succeeded in the post by Philipp Rösler. However, he was unable to save the FDP from the barrier, so in 2013 the party smoked for the first time since 1949 out of the Bundestag. In December 2013, Rösler resigned and was replaced by Christian Lindner.
In 2010, the financial crisis sent Greece to a census. A significant portion of Greece’s debt was in German banks. Chancellor Merkel was therefore aware that both the euro and the German banking system were at stake. In May 2010, therefore, the Federal Day voted for Germany to contribute 22.5 billion. € for a rescue package to Greece. The German public did not understand the connection and the contribution was therefore immensely unpopular. In the same month, Merkel’s CDU coalition lost the majority in North Rhine Westphalia, thus losing the majority in the upper house. In March 2011, the decline continued as CDU lost Baden-Würtenberg. The first defeat in the state in 60 years.
In September 2010, the government adopted a controversial plan to extend the life of the German nuclear reactors. It thus reversed a 2001 decision to phase out nuclear power until 2021. However, Germany’s changed A-power policy did not last long. In March 2011, a Tsunami triggered a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima A power plant in Japan. The meltdown led to the government deciding that the German A-force should be phased out by 2022.
On March 1, 2011, CSU Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg had to resign from the post. Two months earlier, it had been revealed that he had copied large parts of his doctoral dissertation from 2007. Although the government and the formerly so popular zu Guttenberg himself tried to curb the scandal, it still cost him his political life. In October 2009, he had replaced Jung in the post of Minister of Defense when he was overthrown in the wake of the Kunduz massacre in Afghanistan
On November 4, 2011, a bank robber shot himself and two of his friends after a failed bank robbery. It was the start of a scandal with threads into Germany’s neo-Nazi environment and the intelligence service. The three were members of the National Socialist Untergrund (National Socialist Underground), which since 2000 had killed 8 Turkish businessmen, 1 Greek and 1 German politician, carried out bomb attacks and carried out 14 bank robberies. Over the following weeks, a few surviving members of the group were arrested. However, during the spring of 2012, it emerged that the German intelligence (Vervassungsschutz) had an excellent knowledge of the group. In fact, Vervassungsschutz had had members infiltrated into the group for several years. The scandal got even bigger when it was revealed that the Vervassungsschutz on 12. November had tried to cover the connection by disrupting all information about the collaboration. On July 2, 2012, the chief of the Vervassungsschutz, Heinz Fromm had to resign. The scandal reaffirmed the left’s claim over several years that the intelligence service was closely linked to the right wing, which allowed it to commit serious crimes when the intelligence service could simply use it against the left. The case came to court in 2016. (The neo-Nazi murder trial revealing Germany’s darkest secrets, Guardian 15/12 2016).
In 2009, the German economy shrank by 5%, but preliminary figures from January 2011 showed that the economy had grown by 3.6% in 2010. It was primarily exports that had driven growth. However, the economy slowed down again in 2011.
In December 2011, Chancellor Merkel explains to the Bundestag that Germany is supporting the formation of a European banking union as a means of solving the ongoing financial crisis. She declares her judgment as a continuing opponent of the European Central Bank issuing its own government bonds.
In August 2012, the Constitutional Court grants the German military the right to use weapons in Germany in the event of an “catastrophic scale” attack. The military must not, however, respond to demonstrations. Sharp restrictions were written into the Constitution after the World War II crimes.
In September, the Constitutional Court rejected calls to block the European Stability Mechanism and the European Banking Union. At the same time, however, it places a ceiling on Germany’s contribution to the bank packages, which can only be bypassed by a majority in the Bundestag.