Germany's foreign policy divides Angela Merkel's coalition | With a leftist duo now leading the junior partner in Merkel's coalition, foreign policy is increasingly dividing the already fragile government. It co

Germany's foreign policy divides Angela Merkel's coalition

Germany's foreign policy divides Angela Merkel's coalition

Germany's foreign policy divides Angela Merkel's coalition

Germany's foreign policy divides Angela Merkel's coalition

Germany's foreign policy divides Angela Merkel's coalition

Germany's foreign policy divides Angela Merkel's coalition
Germany's foreign policy divides Angela Merkel's coalition
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When it comes to foreign policy, Germany is starting to look like a lost soul, searching for its role on the world stage: Does Germany want to be a leader in the European Union? To what extent should Germany intervene in international crises and conflicts? What is the role of the Germany military? 

With the governing coalition already threatening to buckle under differing views on domestic policy, growing divisions between the conservative CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats (SPD) over foreign policy and defense threaten to make these questions even more difficult to answer.

At the SPD's annual party conference in early December, rhetoric from the Social Democrats' new leftist leadership that seemingly declared the SPD the anti-military party received enthusiastic applause. SPD co-leader Norbert Walter-Borjans warned against a "militarization of foreign policy," referring to foreign deployments of the German armed forces.

SPD party leaders Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler)

Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken are the new leaders of Germany's Social Democrats

Without directly naming her, Walter-Borjans' comments took a swipe at German defense minister and conservative CDU party leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who in November called for an increased Bundeswehr presence abroad.

Walter-Borjans' criticism was later echoed by German Foreign Minister and senior Social Democrat Heiko Maas who also warned that trying to create peace militarily doesn't work. 

Read more: Optimistic US, pessimistic Germany differ on relationship status

"We [Germany] take on responsibility. But we take responsibility, damn it, when it comes to securing lasting peace at the negotiating table," Maas said. "Because that's where peace is secured, and not on the battlefields of this world."

'Yes to equipment , no to more weapons'

Since quickly taking the SPD leadership's reins on foreign and defense policy, Walter-Borjans has also criticized AKK, as the defense minister is known, for her pledge to attempt to spend 2% of Germany's GDP on defense by 2024.

At the 2014 summit in Wales, NATO members agreed on an aim to each spend 2% of their GDP on defense within 10 years. Now at the mid-way point, much to the disdain of other NATO member states, Germany is currently spending around 1.4%. The US, in particular, had already complained about the shortfall during the Obama administration. Under Trump, the demands have only grown louder.

Watch video 00:22

AKK: 'We cannot just stand on the sidelines'

Despite AKK's pledge to reach the target, however, Germany's prospects of attaining the 2% mark are diminishing. Faced with an unpredictable economy and declining tax revenues, there's little room for maneuver.

Walter-Borjans, nonetheless, said it is the Social Democrats' task to "do everything possible to ensure the craziness of increased armament" doesn't continue in the world.

"There is seldom a more disastrous combination of economic growth and government spending," Walter-Borjans added. "Yes to equipment, no to more weapons"

Call for solidarity in a 'drifting' European Union

AKK also wants a European aircraft carrier, but while the Social Democrats remain the junior coalition partner in Germany's government, that's off the table, said Walter-Borjans.

On the issue of the future of the EU, Walter-Borjans said in an interview with DW that it's a question of international cooperation.

"We are drifting apart, and Germany has a very important role to play in joining forces with France. What the French president is proposing is not always exactly - let's say - the Social Democratic variant of European politics. But at least it's an initiative," he told DW.

Walter-Borjans' comments follow growing calls from French President Emmanuel Macron in recent months to unite behind a grand foreign policy vision for closer integration of EU member states. In Berlin, however, the calls appear to have fallen on deaf ears, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel often leaving the French president without so much as a definitive "non, merci."

Mistrust between Paris and Berlin has since continued to grow, with an increasing number of obstacles, including the controversial gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, the dispute between the EU and the US over tariffs and EU relations with Russia.

Disconnected by 5G

As Germany gears up to building its 5G network, the German government’s stance on Chinese tech giant Huawei also looks to divide the increasingly less "grand" Coalition.

While Huawei  has already been blacklisted by the United States and other democracies for its suspected ties to the Chinese government, German Economy Minister and senior CDU politician Peter Altmaier is against banning the firm from the bidding process.

Speaking on Germany's flagship political talk show Anne Will, Altmaier made an apparent comparison between US and Chinese companies, arguing that during the NSA spying scandal, Germany didn't impose a boycott.

Watch video 07:01

Huawei 'not excluded' from German 5G network

"The US also requires their companies to provide them with certain information necessary for the fight against terrorism," Altmaier added, prompting heated criticism from both the CDU, as well as the SPD.

Foreign policy politician with the SPD, Nils Schmid, rejected the apparent comparison between the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei and US companies.

Read more: China cables: Germany under pressure to respond to Beijing's Uighur internment

"This statement by Minister Altmaier completely misjudges that in China no constitutional control by independent courts is possible, unlike in the US," Schmid told German paper Welt. "Therefore, there is a qualitative difference in the accessibility of Chinese and American intelligence services to our data. And that justifies a different treatment of internet companies from the US or other Western democracies and from non-liberal, non-democratic states like China."

Disputes over climate policy

Climate policy has also been added to the SPD's foreign policy wish list, with the new leadership duo calling for a more ambitious plan from Germany.

"Climate protection isn't domestic policy," Walter-Borjans told DW. "And I don't believe now is the time that we can sit back and say, 'We can wait and have a look again in two years' time."

Like the climate, international politics doesn't have time to wait for Germany to decide on its foreign policy. In a shifting global situation, European neighbors are looking to Germany as a reliable partner; one that unites and leads. But the transfer of responsibility now leaves Germany's government divided and facing a moral dilemma over a foreign policy that has long been based on values over action.

Watch video 42:36

Germany: The Diminishing Coalition

How to get over a cold, according to the Germans

How to get over a cold, according to the Germans

It’s the time of year where many of us can expect to get the sniffles. From onions in socks to some rather unique teas, here are some of the most tried and true remedies in Germany.
In general, Germans are very concerned about their health…as well as yours. 
Prepare for friendly passers-by to remind you to wear your scarf or advise you on the perfect type of tea to help with that runny nose.
Here’s a rundown of some other home remedies you may be recommended while in Germany. 

The first German line of defense against colds is usually tea. Brews of all kinds will be prescribed to you by doctors and neighbours alike. Garlic tea, ginger tea, elderberry tea, thyme tea, lime blossom tea and onion tea are all preferred for colds and flus. The extra liquid is meant to help lubricate irritated mucous membranes, and the herbs are believed to soothe coughs or sore throats. 

Onions aren't used just for brewing unappetizing tea: you'll find they are often the holy-grail of cold treatment. Whether placed inside your socks, chopped up on a bedside table, or diced and mixed with honey or sugar to create cough syrup, it seems that if you cough in Germany, the onions will soon follow. 

Another incredibly important protection measure against colds in Germany, scarves are a must-have. At the slightest hint of a sniffle, Germans will reach for their holy (and wooly) body armour. Keeping your neck covered is an essential part of maintaining your health. If you dare to leave your house with a bare neck in the winter months, grandmothers will likely stop you in grocery store aisles to scold you. 

Photo: DPA

Hot or cold “neck wrappings," or Halsumschläge, are also common methods of treatment. A German dairy product (similar to a fresh cheese or yoghurt) called Quark should be applied at room temperature on a cloth around your neck for a cure. Meanwhile, boiled, unpeeled and slightly mashed potatoes or onion peels are the go-tos for hot wraps.

Another method for cold treatment is baths. The bathwater can be infused with eucalyptus, sage or essential oils. But beware: Germans say you should not bathe if you have a fever, because it allegedly adds strain to your already-warm body. But if you do feel feverish, feel free to wrap your calves in cold towels in what is known as a Wadenwickel to lower your temperature quickly… 

And speaking of legs, foot baths are also advised, especially in the early stages of an illness. Salts or other herbs like eucalyptus can be added to the water. This also goes for nose rinses and throat gargles. Inhaling steam, or warm humid air in general, is also considered helpful.

Extra points if you add other herbs as well. This is usually achieved by pouring hot water into a bowl and, once the temperature is bearable, leaning over it with a blanket over your head to create a steam bath for your face and neck. 

While all of these remedies aim to help you once you’re already ill, Germans also believe weather plays an integral part in coming down with something.

The German weather service even provides "Biowetter” maps for all areas of Germany. They explain what type of illnesses are to be expected depending on the weather.

Ailments that are tied to weather include everything from asthma and blood pressure fluctuations to more general grievances like concentration problems or listlessness.

But even with all of these strange cures, Germans and Americans are still united on one thing: hot chicken noodle soup with do anybody good. 

Tea vocabulary: Der Ingwer (ginger), Die Salbei (sage), Der Holunder (elderberry), Der Eukalyptus (Eucalyptus), Die Lindenblüten (lime blossoms), Der Thymian (thyme)

High costs, long queues and discrimination: What it's like to rent in Germany

High costs, long queues and discrimination: What it's like to rent in Germany

Finding a place to live in Germany is “extremely difficult”, often "discriminatory" and one city in particular stood out. Here’s what internationals had to say.

Following mass nationwide demonstrations this year where protesters have called for an end to 'rent insanity', it's clear that housing is a big issue in Germany.

But when we reached out to our readers to ask their views on the housing market in Germany, particularly when it comes to renting, we were blown away by the responses. Internationals here have lots of concerns about the renting process, from rocketing prices to discriminatory landlords.

It comes after a German court ruled that a landlord had discriminated against foreigners after he placed an advertisement that said he would only lease his apartment “to Germans”.

Here are some of our readers' experiences.

A recent report showed that on average Germany-wide, anyone who moved homes in autumn 2018 had to spend €7.06 per square metre per month for their new apartment – 3.9 percent more than in the previous year. These costs are for the Kaltmiete (cold rent) – before adding on bills and other costs.

In Munich, anyone who moved homes in the last few months of 2018 on average had to spend €16.54 per square meter, making it the most expensive place to rent in Germany. For our readers, Munich also stands out for that reason.

“Munich has a housing crisis, unfortunately, that doesn’t look like it will get better any time soon,” Carl, 43, from Sweden said.

“The rents are incredibly high even for a simple one or two bed apartment, but the worst thing is that the market is so competitive that it's almost impossible to even get a viewing.”

Others agreed, saying it's difficult to get a place in the southern state of Bavaria.

Omar, 27, from Egypt, said he found it “cheap and easy” to rent a place in Dresden, Saxony, but in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, “it was so expensive”.

But he said Munich is the worst. “It is near impossible to find reasonable rent prices," he said.

Other readers had a similar thing to say, adding that the city is “very costly”.

“For a family you won’t find anything less than €2,000 (per month),” one respondent to our survey said.

Flats in Munich where it's difficult to find a place, according to our readers. Photo: DPA

Another reader who lives in Munich, said the outlook for renting in Germany is “terrible” and "extremely expensive.

“There are hundreds of people in a queue before you, for a single apartment, even when you’ve applied immediately.”

Grant, 34, from Australia lived in Hamburg for five years and has just moved to Munich.

He said it’s a mixed picture in Germany, but that renting is much better value than his home city of Melbourne.

“The housing market in major cities in Germany is actually better and cheaper than my home (Australia) so I'm very happy about what you get for your money here,” he said.  But he added: “Munich seems to be over-priced; however Berlin is unbelievably cheap."

Another reader from the US said prices in Munich “are really crazy”.

Tamer, 35, from Egypt and now lives in Munich, said: “The rental prices are very high in Munich, it takes a significant part of your income and at the same time it's extremely hard to get one (an apartment).”

Another reader, Ajith, 32, who’s from India who also lives in Munich said the city is “unreasonably expensive”.

“I have been searching for a house in the south of Munich for the past 4 months,” said Ajith. “It’s even hard to get a viewing. When we get a viewing opportunity there will be 25 people standing in a queue.”

Silviu, 38, from Romania, described the costs of renting in Munich as “exorbitant”.

Our readers found some other parts of Germany were also quite pricey. Cities such as Hamburg in the north, were deemed expensive for housing.

Tony, 31, from Ireland said renting costs in Hamburg were reasonable when he arrived two years ago. “€590 cold rent for two rooms was a good deal considering Dublin rents are triple that,” he said. But costs have increased dramatically now.

“Anything larger than 1-2 rooms is €1,100 cold,” Tony added.

Another reader from India, said it was “generally expensive” where he lives in Tettnang, Baden-Württemberg.

He remarked on the long drawn out process of trying to secure somewhere to live in Germany: “I stayed in Friedrichshafen before. It takes around 6 months to find a place.”

Annil, 39, from India who lives in Friedrichshafen, said it all depends on the demand and supply where you are.

“I think the prices are reasonable according to the flat sizes,” said Annil.

Vignesh, 28, from India said there was a “huge shortage of accommodation” in the area around Eningen in Baden-Würtemberg.

Demonstrators against rising rent prices in Dresden on Saturday. Photo: DPA

“Prices in the region are too high,” Vignesh said.

Shaik, 30, who lives in Stuttgart found a similar situation. “It's very difficult to get a home. Forget about preferences to say the least. Costs are high and not negotiable due to high demand.”

In Berlin, although some people said rents were increasing dramatically, the issue of availability appeared more pressing.

Carolyn from South Africa said it had become “notoriously difficult” to find a place in Berlin.

David from Chicago said rents are “sky-rocketing”. He said his 40 square metre apartment in the Kreuzberg area is “over €1,000 per month”.

“I’ve moved 18 times in the past six years,” he said, indicating that it can be hard to find a place to settle in Berlin.

Lots of readers pointed out that the process to secure a flat was difficult, too.

Meanwhile, Hilary, 33 from the US, said costs were reasonable in Berlin compared to New York.

“The number of applicants make the rental process particularly competitive,” she said. “We went to one viewing that definitely had over 20 people at it.”

According to Mehdi, 30, from Iran, rents are increasing at a “rapid pace” in Berlin.

He said the process can be frustrating for foreigners, because private landlords might ignore the email “when they see a non-western name or an email written in English”.

Another survey respondent said costs to rent in Berlin have certainly gone up “but it still seems reasonable compared to other European areas”.

Robert, 50, from the US said:  “Being a foreigner and freelancer, it is very difficult to get a landlord's attention when they have so many offers to choose from.”

Rachel, 25, from New York said costs were “reasonable in Berlin but the process was “terrible”.

“The process not only allows but encourages landlords to act on their worst instincts and develop stereotypes based on attributes like gender and country of origin,” she said.

“The result hurts everyone: those who are not selected for arbitrary reasons are often forced to pay more for short-term options like Airbnb that drives up costs for everyone.”

An ad from a student looking for a flat in Freiburg. Photo: DPA

Adarsh, who’s from India and lives in Munich said the process of finding somewhere to live is "daunting and frustrating for young male immigrants especially from Asian countries”.

“I seldom get calls to visit a house and in one instance was insulted by jokes about me blowing up the kitchen by cooking chicken curries," he said. "When I said that i was vegetarian it got worse for me as it confirmed in the eyes of the landlord that I would be ‘cooking’ a lot.”

Adarsh said it frequently felt like landlords or people living in shared flats showed disinterest in him and would say within a few minutes of him entering that they were ‘looking for someone else who would be better fitting’.

Eno, 56, who lives in Heikendorf in Schleswig-Holstein said he found the flat-finding process to be “very discriminatory”.

Another reader who lives in Saarbrucken in Saarland said finding an apartment there has been difficult.

“There is an easily observable passive discrimination towards non-German residents, which coupled with the limited housing market makes the whole situation quite messy.”

The reader, who asked to remain anonymous, added: “One instance of racism I faced was when a colleague of mine offered her apartment to me, and I sent my documents to the landlady, but I was refused, without any reason given.

“So, on the whole, the German housing market is very unfriendly towards foreigners, or at least people from outside the EU.”

Tamer recounted some bad experiences.

“Being a Muslim family where the wife wears headscarf (i.e. Hijab), we got rejected just because of this headscarf,” Tamer told The Local. “ It was not communicated formally for sure but was just mentioned verbally through our relocation consultant.”

Sowmya, from India, lives in Hanover and said although rents are increasing, people are becoming a bit more open to renting flats out “to people from other countries”.

But language difficulties can be a problem.

“We always got negative replies for appointments and even sometimes when we got positive replies, after the appointment we stood no chance in the competition with other (German) clients,” said Sowmya.

Pranshul, 21, an Indian resident from Dubai, who is studying in Jülich, North Rhine-Westphalia, said there are some points of the process that can be confusing for foreigners coming to Germany.

Those include the lack of furnished apartments when renting in Germany, including the fact there is sometimes no kitchen or flooring in properties, and tenants are expected to pay to build these "additions" themselves.

Other negative points included vague contracts that are difficult to understand and “the assumption by landlords” that everyone understands the process of renting an apartment in Germany, even though they may have just recently arrived in the country.

Grant added that he was surprised when he was about to move into a flat and found it completely stripped bare by the tenant “including the kitchen sink”.

'Somewhere to live for all' protest sign at the recent 'rent madness' nationwide demonstration. Photo: DPA

“I was particularly shocked when I first saw electrical wires hanging out of the ceiling,” he said. “And having to pay extra for a kitchen (or to buy someone else's) is just bizarre.”

Augsburg landlord fined for only renting to Germans

Augsburg landlord fined for only renting to Germans

A German landlord was fined on Tuesday for advertising that he would only rent to German citizens.

The 81-year-old was fined €1,000 ($1,100) for the discriminatory advertisement after a prospective tenant from Burkina Faso was rejected and then complained to authorities.

A district court in the southern city of Augsburg banned the landlord from placing further advertisements that are limited to just Germans under threat of more substantial fines. 

"This overt discrimination against foreigners is simply not acceptable," judge Andreas Roth said.

Read more: Berlin's new rent freeze: How it compares globally

The complainant, who was moving from Munich, told the court that the landlord swiftly ended an introductory phone call after he realized the applicant was foreign.

The landlord told the court that he had difficulty in the past with a Turkish drug dealer who he claimed had rented his apartment.

"Crimes and offences are committed by people, not a country's nationals," the judge replied.

About 70% of foreigners in Germany report feeling discriminated against in the German housing market. Even financially well-off applicants without a German passport reported feeling disadvantaged.

Religion also played a major role, with Muslim and Jewish applicants having a much harder time than Christians.

However, cases of discrimination in the housing market are typically difficult to police. Past cases involved not granting interviews to people with foreign-sounding surnames, increasing rent only for foreign tenants in an apartment building or refusing to rent to gay people. 

aw/msh (dpa, AFP)


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