There’s a new party on Germany’s political scene, though it started with a whimper, rather than a bang. Aufstehen, translated as “get up” “stand up” or “rise up” (be glad I’m not doing a song yet), was launched by Sahra Wagenknecht. She’s a polarizing Left Party politician who wants to address a “crisis of democracy” and shift the focus of the political mainstream. Aufstehen aims to unite Germany’s Greens and left-wing parties and, as a self-proclaimed movement rather than a party, it’s drawn comparisons to Momentum, of the British Labour Party.
In her opening speech, Ms. Wagenknecht noted how Germany builds fancy cars but its schools are crumbling and there’s a shortage of teachers, and that the government bails out banks while leaving pensioners in poverty. Fair play. But she’s also a Euroskeptic who doesn’t sound particularly sympathetic to migration, saying politicians don’t listen to people’s anger enough. So left, but also right.
Critics here dismiss Aufstehen as a publicity stunt by Ms. Wagenknecht, who has considerable political celebrity, that will only splinter the left further, calling it a sideshow imposed from above. After a week watching neo-Nazis in Chemnitz, and the far-right AfD polling as the second-most popular party in Germany, I’m watching if this will rob support from the radical right: Hope dies last.
We’re also hoping that when Foreign Minister Heiko Maas meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today, there’ll be progress on human rights. There are still seven German political prisoners in Turkey, though that’s a small number compared to the tens of thousands jailed since the failed coup in 2016. Germany’s foreign minister is relatively new – it’s his first trip to Turkey and he’ll talk bilateral relations, EU processes and regional and international issues with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. Mr. Maas may make noises on reform, but don’t bet on Turkey listening. Expect bigger fireworks as September 28 nears – that’s when Mr. Erdogan comes to Berlin.
Nord Stream 2 is also becoming a giant foreign policy headache as companies worry about Donald Trump’s sanctions on Russia. Uniper, a German power provider, doesn’t want to fall foul of Washington and, as a financer of the project, is caught between a rock and a hard place. Will US sanctions harm German companies invested in Russia? Berlin politicians are likewise wondering how far they can assert their independence on energy policy and beyond.
Change is afoot back home at the TecDAX, Germany’s tech stock index. It’s pretty mighty, breaking records each week and growing 800 percent since its launch in 2003. Now it’s about to gain SAP, Deutsche Telekom, Infineon and Wirecard, an electronic payment company. The aim is to stabilize the index but those four heavyweights may slow its pace of growth.
Speaking of improvements beyond all measure, IFA, the consumer electronics and home appliances fest in Berlin, ends today. Folk in the capital city are busy packing up wearable robots and TVs. Is this what the future looks like? I guess it’s good to be hungry for novelty but I struggle to get excited about AI puppies and gaming phones. My own gadgets are crazy-making enough – save me from the next new thing.
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