Weekly Review

After the Election is Before the Election

SPD-Wahlkampf NRW
Welcome to election season. Source: Marcel Kusch/DPA

“After the election is before the election,” as the Germans like to say when referring to permanent campaigning. In 2017 that applies literally, for Europeans seem to be doing nothing but going to polling booths.

The French just chose their president, and next month they will elect a legislature for him. Because Europe in effect dodged a bullet when the French rejected the Eurosceptic and xenophobic candidate, Marine Le Pen, I took that occasion to ponder the future of the EU and the European idea generally. (Be warned: At 2,000 words, that is our longest read of the week, but I wanted to go deep this time.)

As so often when we try to gaze far ahead from the present, we end up looking back to how we got here. So too in my attempt to see how Europe might develop: I looked for analogies between today’s EU and the thirteen founding states of the United States of America and even the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation; and between today’s euro and the gold standard of the 19th century. My diagnosis for our situation today is grim. The future need not be.

On Sunday, meanwhile, the Germans in North-Rhine Westphalia will go to the polls, to choose their new state parliament. Normally, such regional elections would not draw the attention of the wider world. But this one is different, as John Blau, our senior editor, explains in his briefing on NRW, which is Germany’s most populous state. As the traditional bastion of the center-left Social Democrats and home of Martin Schulz, their candidate to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor, this vote is in effect a weathervane for the general election in September. If the Social Democrats lose — or even if they merely eke out their rule with a tiny margin — the momentum will be all on Ms. Merkel’s side.

Speaking of explaining things: We now have a landing page for all pieces in our growing series called Handelsblatt Explains. As you see, we’ve already explained why German women don’t like the word “feminism”, why Germany’s trade surplus is so huge, why even Ivanka Trump is interested in Germany’s dual-education system and more. Stay tuned, for in due course we intend to explain, well, everything about Germany. If there is something specific you want explained, let me know.

We also have a new landing page for a series we’re calling P&L Check. These are rigorous looks into the numbers and business cases of Germany’s publicly listed companies, usually timed to coincide with their annual shareholder meetings. If you’re researching investments, potential partners or rivals in Germany, why not start here? With Adidas, for example, as it takes Nike in its sights, or gas mixer Linde as it dithers about merging with America’s Praxair. As with our Explainers, the list of P&L Checks will grow, because we intend to check in on every large German company at least once a year.

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