There’s a rumble ahead on Thursday, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes to town. He’ll open a mosque in Cologne and will meet politicians and other mucky mucks in Berlin. In a sign that trouble is expected, police officers have been forbidden from taking vacation days during the visit – it’ll be all hands on deck with a slew of planned demonstrations. Politicians are divided. Some want confrontation while others are grandstanding by rescinding RSVPs for a state dinner with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Why does it matter? Germany is Turkey’s main economic partner, and the biggest population of Turks outside Turkey live in Germany. Many voted for Erdogan in the past election. Mindful of trouble, Erdogan has released a handful of Germans who had been arrested in Turkey. But as he builds new prisons to accommodate his continuing crackdown on critics at home, here’s a chance for Berlin to nudge him on human rights.
Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser is busy saving the Iraqi government, according to insiders. Mr. Kaeser is apparently close to signing the biggest deal in his company’s lengthy history, to rebuild Iraq’s power grid. That’s good news given the state of Iraq’s infrastructure: Iraqis are struggling without power and clean water, waiting for the government to form amid 50-degree heat. Now there’s the prospect of 60,000 jobs coming out of a €13 billion contract. Building infrastructure in Iraq is a good look for Siemens as people are increasingly concerned about companies and their social impact. The deal isn’t done yet but we’re hopeful.
And that’s a welcome distraction from the great Grand Coalition tug-of-war that runs on and on and on here in Berlin. Last week, the spy boss accused of sympathizing with the far right was promoted out of trouble. After popular outrage at this sleight of hand plus a pay raise for the chief (Hans-Georg Maassen), party leaders held a third emergency meeting this weekend. This morning, Chancellor Merkel finally spoke. Mistakes were made, she confessed. She’s been squeezed between Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, whose purported care for his employees outstripped his concern for voters; and theatrics from the Social Democrats. Voters, meanwhile, are getting outrage burnout, and wish the government would finally focus on old-age poverty, affordable housing and climate change. (It reminds me of the opportunity cost that is Brexit but am saving you that rant in the interest of coherence.)
Let’s look instead to Munich, where Oktoberfest fans are getting soaked in every sense of the word. The drunk-fest dates to the festivities for the marriage of King Ludwig I and Princess Theresa of Sachsen-Hildburhghausen in October 1810. It’s pouring rain this year, but folks clad in dirndls and lederhosen are out there vying for a glance of big cheeses from former chancellors to soccer stars to Arnie. Alcohol poisoning is already rife, and for those still standing there’s righteous pain about the price of a Mass: the same as a case of beer, in some places. For now though, let’s get the party started.
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