Daily briefing

Get used to hearing about Friedrich Merz

Angela Merkel CDU Vorsitzende und Friedrich Merz CDU stellvertretender CDU CSU Fraktionsvor
Source: Imago

Germans want Friedrich Merz to come back to politics and replace Chancellor Angela Merkel to chair the Christian Democrats – with the prospect of becoming chancellor down the line. He was sidelined by the chancellor years ago and moved into the private sector but would likely have little trouble working alongside Angie this time around – 72% of Germans told Bild that he should return to politics from his position with asset manager Blackrock. And plenty of CDU politicians are lining up to support him.

Merz would be a major change from Merkel. He has already called for a renewal of the party with younger, more energetic leaders. But he is not likely to tear up the playbook entirely: Merz is a known quantity, likely to champion the economy and take a tougher line on refugees. His appeal is clarity, though some call him Germany’s Macron, an outsider not born of the party hierarchy. Merz is a member of numerous corporate supervisory boards, a business lawyer and insider.

Who’s to blame the party and the country for picking a familiar face and a safe pair of hands? These are uncertain times internationally. Germany is struggling with the changes to the trans-Atlantic relationship, Putin and an ever-stronger China; while closer to home, powerful forces are tugging Europe apart. And, in Germany, there’s the rise of the far right.

A CDU run by Merz at least could take the wind out of the sails of the AfD, which drew part of its life blood from Merkel’s vagueness and centrist tendencies. The center-left SPD is also happy because it would be easier to claim its own identity back without Merkel’s tendency to head for the middle and hoover up all the good policies. With Merz, it’s back to the future at the CDU – and for most everyone else.

More is happening beyond Merkel: BMW is insisting to Brussels that no, it didn’t collude with other German carmakers to dumb down emissions technology related to the Dieselgate scandal. And Europe’s competition commissioner is not amused: we know Margrethe Vestager as the ambitious tech-busting crusader who fined Google and Apple and is now taking on a complex German car-industry cartel. Daimler and VW are already acting as witnesses for the prosecution in the case but BMW is insisting it’s innocent. Brussels only has a year for the investigation, which is a tougher case to prove than regular competition cases.

Beyond business, there’s more scary news, and I don’t mean Halloween. Step aside, witches, zombies and ghosts: It seems humans are the scariest folk on the planet. Populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have declined on average by 60 percent worldwide since 1970 due to human activity, we learned from the World Wildlife Fund earlier this week. Worst hit are lakes, rivers and wetlands, suffering from overexploitation. Have a piece of pumpkin pie then badger the EU to put climate and diversity protection into key economic policies.

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