Showing posts with label Germany. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Germany. Show all posts

October 17, 2016

Germany Receives Gay Immigrants with Safe Shelters

A tall, muscular man walked across the lobby wearing large earrings, generously applied make-up and a light blue dress.

“Hello, it’s nice to meet you,” said Abdel, a transvestite from Iraq.

Welcome to Germany’s first shelter for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transvestite and intersex migrants.

It is hidden away on a quiet, leafy road in Berlin, where dozens of migrants are kept under round-the-clock security to protect them from fellow migrants hostile to homosexuality.

“I wouldn’t want to be in a shelter with straight refugees,” said Bashar Taha, an ethnic Kurd from northern Iraq. “It’s too dangerous. Many people from the Middle East are very homophobic — people get beaten and even killed.”

Stephan Jakel, a therapist and the centre’s manager, said: “Many of our residents are traumatised.”

Their plight highlights the difficulties Germany faces in integrating the 890,000 registered migrants it took in last year, some from places where homosexuality can be punished by death.

Most gay migrants coming to Germany hide their sexuality for fear of being attacked by compatriots, says Jakel. Others face such danger the state of Berlin has qualified them as people with “special reception needs”, along with children, disabled people and pregnant women.

Shocked by the violence, including stabbings, suffered by gay people at the hands of their compatriots in refugee camps, German authorities initially offered separate accommodation in hotels and private apartments but this proved too expensive. Now specifically designed shelters have caught on.

Once at the shelter, new residents get free medical care including, if requested, specialised treatment such as hormone therapy for transsexuals. The shelter, run by Schwulenberatung, Europe’s biggest gay help group, is luxurious compared with facilities in other parts of the country. Ultraliberal Berlin has invested heavily: annual running costs approach £900,000, not including therapy and legal aid.

Security guards, including a veteran of the Berlin nightclub scene, have been chosen with care; only those showing sensitivity to gay issues are accepted. With double bedrooms and spacious common areas fitted with designer furniture, the atmosphere is relaxed, reminiscent of a university hall of residence.

Migrants are offered language lessons. Among the phrases recently scrawled on the blackboard in German one day recently were: “I am gay” and “I want to have sex”. “The first thing they want to do is to start a normal life,” said Jakel with a smile.

Getting a job is not the “first priority” for them, he added. Even so, some of the shelter’s residents have acquired work as DJs and bouncers in gay clubs.

Taha, 25, was a successful make-up artist and pop star in his homeland. He decided to flee after being exposed as a homosexual and receiving threats on social media. “I Googled the situation for gay people in Berlin — and that’s why I came here,” he said.

Since fleeing to Germany, he is no longer in touch with his family. They had always objected to his work and lifestyle as “haram”, forbidden in Arabic.

“My parents don’t accept me as I am,” he said. “But I’m not going to change.”

Refugees at the shelter can join the karate club to learn self-defence. It may serve them well. Even among this community of the persecuted, fights over politics and religion have erupted — residents include Christians, Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims and atheists from countries such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Some have had to be forcibly evicted for aggression or drug use.

“We’ve set an iron rule: no talk of religion or politics,” said Jakel. “This might be a more open-minded group but in reality we also face the same challenges as any other refugee centre, or rather society as a whole.”

August 20, 2016

Gay German Men Seeking Reparations from NAZI Law

Ernst Röhm—the gay German paramilitary commander executed in the Night of Long Knives—alongside Nazi leaders Heinrich Himmeler and Kurt Daluege in 1933. Photo via Wikimedia, courtesy Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archives)

It is no secret that gay men faced violent oppression in Nazi Germany, but few people realize that the German persecution of gay men continued far after the Nazis' defeat in 1945, or that more gay men were convicted under Paragraph (§) 175, Germany's former anti-sodomy statute, in the first two and a half decades of the Cold War than ever were under Nazi rule.

Though Germany repealed the law in 1994, it has never atoned for this "monstrous disgrace," as Germany'sGreen Party representatives Katja Keul and Volker Beck called §175 two weeks ago in a demand for reparations on behalf of the over fifty thousand men convicted under the provision. And it wasn't until this May—more than 20 years since the law was repealed—that Justice Minister Heiko Maas introduced the idea of expunging those convictions, which ruined the lives of many gay German men, and stifled the development of what could have been a thriving national queer culture.

Understanding West Germany's extraordinary persecution of gay men first requires revisiting exactly how homosexuals were treated under Nazi rule. When the party came to power in 1933, gay men were among the first victims targeted—Nazi brown-shirts closed gay bars, stormed Berlin's famed Institute for Sexology, and burned gay texts, effectively stamping out Weimar Germany's renowned gay community. Gay elements within the Party, including Ernst Röhm, the commander of its Sturmabteilung (SA) paramilitary force, were purged in the 1934 Night of Long Knives, opening the way for more homophobic policies championed by, among others, Schutzstaffel (SS) chief Heinrich Himmler.

On June 28, 1935, Hitler's government introduced a new, bleaker version of §175, which had previously prohibited only penetrative intercourse—something difficult to prove in court. Under the new Nazi statute, any act construed to be homosexual was criminalized—a wrong glance could land a man in prison. This looser definition caused convictions to skyrocket from a few hundred per year to over eight thousand. A horror-house of punishments awaited those found guilty, from heavy prison sentences to concentration camps and castration.

Between 1935 and 1943, around 46,000 men were convicted under the provision. Of those, between 5,000 and 15,000 were sent to concentration camps, where their clothing bore pink triangles, now a ubiquitous symbol of gay liberation. Fewer than half survived.

When the Allied Powers occupied Germany in 1945, they repealed particularly egregious Nazi laws, such as the infamous Nuremberg Laws that banned intercourse and marriage between Jews and those defined as Aryans. But the occupiers remained silent on the question of which version of §175 would stand—the harsher law passed in 1935, or the milder provision it had replaced. While East German courts quickly decided the 1935 version was an illegitimate Nazi law, West Germany continued to enforce it.

In 1950, a new wave of persecutions began in West Germany. In a mass action, the state's attorney in Frankfurt rounded up hundreds of men on the testimony of young male prostitutes, and charged at least 140 under the 1935 version of §175.

Most faced jail sentences; at least seven committed suicide. One nineteen-year-old man jumped from Frankfurt's Goethe Tower, while anotherpoisoned himself in a movie theater. The president of the American Civil Liberties Union, Roger Baldwin, visiting Frankfurt at the time, protested it was "incomprehensible that such treatment of innocent, adult persons was still possible in the 20th century," as reported in Der Spiegel.

At least seventeen hundred men were sentenced in 1950. Convictions peaked in 1959, when West German courts found almost four thousand men guilty under §175. Between 1950 and 1969, when §175 was finally reformed, West Germany would convict more men of sodomy than the Nazis had.

Throughout this period, an increasing number of legal and medical scholars insisted that §175 was inconsistent with democratic rule, but it took until 1956 for Germany's Federal Constitutional Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of §175, when it accepted appeals from two men convicted in Hamburg. The men's argument—that the law was a Nazi fossil that violated Germany's constitutional guarantees of "free development of personality" and equality between the sexes (§175 famously did not criminalize female homosexuality)—failed spectacularly.

The court declared that "congenital homosexuality is so rare, that it can be ignored for practical purposes"—an outrageous assertion from a democratic court that came a half-century before Iranian President Ahmadinejad's infamous claim that "we don't have homosexuals." The case settled the question of §175's legitimacy, ensuring that WestGermany would continue to pursue the most draconian persecution of gay men of any postwar democratic state.

As the 1960s progressed, sexual mores loosened across Europe, and conservative WestGermany was no exception. In 1966, the ruling Christian Democratic Union entered a so-called grand coalition with the Social Democratic Party, bringing socialists into the government for the first time since 1930. In particular, the left-leaning justice minister, Gustav Heinemann, began to push for reform of the criminal code. In 1969, the government finally decriminalized homosexuality between consenting adults.

The memory of over thirty years of violent oppression has helped gay Germans—in Berlin, Hamburg, and Cologne in particular—develop one of the most vital gay scenes in the world today.

Homophobia remained ingrained in the German criminal code nonetheless. As part of the reform, the government had created a bizarre loophole, closed five years later, which criminalized any sexual acts between a man over eighteen with another under twenty-one; in other words, if two 19-year-old men slept together, they could still be prosecuted under §175. When that loophole was closed in 1973, the age of consent for gay sex still remained higher than that for heterosexual acts. Until the law was fully repealed in 1994, approximately 180 men would be convicted under §175 every year.

The damage inflicted upon Germany's gay community, though difficult to quantify, was great. It undoubtedly stunted Germany's gay rights movement, which only got off the ground in the early 1970s, after repressive censorship and aggressive policing shuttered earlier postwar attempts at organization and visibility.

Postwar Germany never developed the same vibrant, queer literary culture that came to characterize postwar Anglo-American letters. For every Tony Kushner or Alan Hollinghurst in the Atlantic world, there is a deafening silence in Germany. And, of course, Germany remains one of the few major Western countries where gay men and lesbians do not enjoy the right of marriage.

At the same time, the memory of over 30 years of violent oppression has helped gay Germans—in Berlin, Hamburg, and Cologne in particular—develop one of the most vital gay scenes in the world today. The sheer exuberance of the gay rights movements that burst forth after the 1969 reform helped create the uniquely permissive and experimental gay culture that persists today—which The New Yorker in 2014 called Berlin's "most essential and distinguishing element."

The memory of those early postwar decades still weighs heavily on Germany and its queer communities. It is a persistent reminder that even modern democracies can exercise the most brutal repressions, and that free elections are no guarantee of minority rights.

 Samuel Clowes Huneke

Samuel Clowes Huneke is a doctoral candidate in Stanford University's department of history whose dissertation focuses on homosexuality in postwar Germany. Follow him on Twitter

May 15, 2016

Germany Wants to return Gay Refugees to Gay Un friendly Countries

Germany may soon pass a law that would consider three North African countries, known for their anti-LGBTI laws, as safe, meaning asylum seekers will have applications rejected unless they are able to produce evidence proving their persecution.
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Germany’s lower house of parliament has approved the draft law stating that the North African countries, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco are considered to be safe, a concept defined by a Federal Constitutional Court ruling that reads, “For a state to be declared a safe country of origin, there has to be nationwide safety from political persecution for all citizens and demographic groups”, reports to Gay Star News.

Homosexuality is illegal in all three countries and the bill has been criticised by human rights groups, the opposition party the Greens and hard-left party Die Linke.

Baerbel Kofler, the government commissioner for human rights, voted against the bill and told Reuters that there were “proven and documented human rights violations” in all three of the countries.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière defended the bill saying that “being able to say ‘no’ is also a part of helping” and that migrants from these countries were coming not because they faced persecution but “because benefits are better [in Germany] than they might be in their home country.”

The bill still needs to pass in the parliament’s upper house.

By Daily News 

Also in Germany:

Germany is preparing to overturn the convictions of gay men who were convicted of having homosexual sex before 1994 when same-sex intimacy was decriminalised.

The German justice minister says the historical convictions are "wrong... they are deeply hurtful to human dignity.”

“Homosexual men who were convicted should no longer have to live with the stain of a criminal record," he added.
Homosexuality was partially decriminalised in East Germany in 1968 and in West Germany in 1969, but there were a further 3,500 convictions before the law was finally repealed in 1994.

A campaign to have historical convictions in New Zealand wiped from the records has yet to bear fruit, with Minister of Justice Amy Adams saying as recently as January this year that “its impossible to tell whether they involved consensual acts or not after the event, because of the way the law was written.”

May 11, 2016

Germany Afraid to Lead on LGBT Rights

Germany was ranked below 15 other countries in Europe for LGBTI rights, placing it on par with countries like Greece and Hungary in a new Rainbow Europe report.
Advocacy group ILGA-Europe ranked 49 countries in the annual report, based on their laws pertaining to same-sex marriage, adoption, rights for transgender people, protections against discrimination and more.
Germany, for example, allows same-sex partnerships but does not recognize same-sex marriage and gay couples have limited rights when it comes to things like adoption or in vitro fertilization.
ILGA-Europe advocacy director, Katrin Hugendubel, explained to The Local that Germany has stagnated on progress in gay rights as others have continued to pass new legislation.
“Germany is moving down because standards are going up and there is also a big complacency problem in Germany,” Hugendubel said.
“The general feeling is that things are quite nice to live as an LGBTI person in Germany and there are no real problems - but we’re stuck,” explained Hugendubel, who is from Stuttgart.
LGBTI refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex individuals.
 She pointed out that in Germany, same-sex couples are not able to jointly adopt a child together, but are able to take in a foster child.
“Often the opposition argues that not having equal adoption rights is about the best interest of the child, and there are enough studies to counter that argument, but even if that is the reason, how can fostering a child be allowed but not adoption?” she said.
Hate crime and hate speech laws also do not include specific language on sexual orientation or gender identity.
‘Fear of taking leadership’
Map: Rainbow Europe report.
The report highlighted Ireland as one of the countries to take big steps in LGBT rights after a voter referendum and then legislation legalizing same-sex marriage last year.
The fact that a very Catholic and traditional country like Ireland - which had previously been ranked far below Germany in the Rainbow Europe report - could make such a change put pressure on German politicians at the time.
But Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government still insisted that same-sex marriage was “not a goal of this government”.
“There are opposition forces in Germany who present themselves as concerned parents and they have been part of this marriage equality debate,” explained Hugendubel.
Increased support for right-leaning groups like the anti-Islam Pegida movement and party Alternative for Germany (AfD) have also made Germany more hesitant to deviate too much from what conservative voters might believe, she said.
“With Pegida and AfD, there is a fear within [Merkel’s] CDU party to move too far away from the people,” Hugendubel said.
“But actually this cannot to be substantiated. Even within the CDU there are people supporting marriage equality.
“I sometimes feel there is a fear of taking leadership.”
Public ahead of leaders
In contrast to the German government, however, the general public seems to be more accepting of the LGBT community.
A survey cited in the report showed that 65 percent of Germans were in favor of equal marriage rights, 57 percent believe same-sex couples should have equal adoption rights and even of German Catholics, 70 percent want the Church to recognize same-sex marriages.
State governments have also made bigger strides than the federal government, with nearly all 16 states adopting plans to combat homophobia and transphobia in areas like education, sports, and health care - except for Bavaria, Hamburg, Brandenburg and Saarland.
Overall in the Rainbow Europe report, Malta came out on top, mostly due to its groundbreaking laws over the past year to protect intersex people - those born with sex characteristics that do not fit into typical notions of female and male bodies.
Belgium took second place, followed by the United Kingdom, Denmark and a tie of Spain and Portugal for fifth place.
The countries that performed the worst in the report were Monaco, Turkey, Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan at the very bottom.
But Hugendubel emphasized that though Eastern European countries and those outside the EU tend to be rated the worst for gay rights, Western countries still had much progress to make.
“You can’t move ahead on one thing and think the job is done,” said Hugendubel. “In the EU there’s a feeling that lack of equality is only happening outside of Europe, so this is a reminder that we’re not all on the right side of history quite yet.”

July 31, 2015

‘Straight' is the New Lesbian in Germany


Spiting digitalization, Germany's magazine industry remains one of the largest in the world. There are magazines for teddy bear lovers ("Teddy & Co"), for men passionate about food ("Beef!"), and for city dwellers dreaming of a countryside lifestyle. Altogether, there are nearly 1,600 popular magazines available in German kiosks.
And now a new lifestyle magazine has recently come out: "Straight" caters to lesbians, but carefully avoids using the L-word. In Germany, just like its counterpart for men, "schwul" (gay), it is still used as a pejorative term.
Still, it might take a while for people to get it: "Straight," a designation which normally refers to heterosexuals, might confuse a few people. It probably wouldn't be the first word to come to mind when thinking of homosexual women.
Yet beyond the antithesis created by the title, the editors also picked it to show that they aim to be straightforward and frank: "That's exactly what we are," says editor-in-chief Felicia Mutterer, "'Straight' embodies self-confidence and obviously wants to provoke."
Cut the lesbian clichés
The creators of the magazine want to avoid the usual clichés of the short-haired man-hating lesbian wearing lumberjack shirts and driving with a rainbow sticker on her car.
"It's difficult to convey the idea that you can be a lesbian without conforming to the stereotypes," says Mutterer. Fashion pieces ("Cool Summer Looks"), cosmetic tips ("Miracle Cures for Your Skin") can be found in this publication just like in any other women's lifestyle magazine.
Felicia Mutterer, Straight chief editor, Copyright: Straight
Felicia Mutterer, chief editor of "Straight" magazine
This is new. The other lesbian magazine published in Germany, the "L-Mag," deliberately avoids such content. Its co-publisher, Gudrun Fertig, feels it propagates an established image of women, which only suits part of their readership.
Felicia Mutterer, on the other hand, says it's ok if other publications chose not to write about make-up, but "Straight" will. "Straight" follows the lines of a typical women's magazine, but throws in issues specific to a lesbian audience. Alongside articles covering issues such as same-sex marriage, coming out at work and bondage games, you'll find interviews with a lesbian filmmaker and a sperm donor, as well as relationship advice, book and music reviews, recipes and travel stories. 
Angela Merkel, a lesbian?
The magazine's marketing campaign didn't go unnoticed. They created a video showing a Merkel lookalike - who's suddenly embraced from behind by another woman.
Is Chancellor Angela Merkel a lesbian? No. She is married to a man and has said that she is opposed to recognizing same-sex marriages, even though some other members of her party conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union, would be ready to accept it. Civil unions among homosexuals are legal in Germany, but unlike married couples, these unions are restricted and don't allow, for instance, adoption.
Magazines aims to make lesbian lifestyle self-evident 
The magazine has a circulation of 15,000 copies. Its target market not only includes the estimated two million gay women in Germany, but also all women who love women or who want to find out more about lesbian issues.
The editor-in-chief told DW she was very satisfied with the magazine's sales just a week after its release. She says they didn't have any international model for "Straight," but aimed to create something original.
"We did everything on our own and didn't align with anything that already exists," says Mutterer. Although the publication strives to entertain, it is also political: "We want to create different role models to get things moving in society," she explains.
CSD Cologne 2015, Copyright: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
In Russia, allegedly for youth protection, it is illegal to discuss homosexuality 
As long as rights remain unequal and homosexuality is still punishable with the death penalty in nine countries, there's still a lot to do. Still "Straight" wants to redefine the way this battle is tackled: "We don't want to be using the old 'fight for rights' approach, but rather show this lifestyle as a given," Mutterer says.
The "L-Mag" also shares the goal of making lesbian lifestyle self-evident. Although the new magazine is a direct competitor for ads, co-publisher Gudrun Fertig still sees "Straight" as a gain: "Anything that adds to lesbian visibility is a good thing."
Happy without extra labels
In countries where gay women can live openly, there seems to be a fundamental problem: They feel falsely represented in popular media. This has a simple cause. Lesbians only have one little thing in common: They love women. They are very different in all other respects.
Gay women can just as well be the closeted-type who prefer to stay discrete on their relations as activists involved in all same-sex marriage protests. They can put on a butch or femme appearance - or, as most happily do, just prefer to stay invisible, says Felicia Mutterer. Women tend not to be as demonstrative as men in this area, she adds.
Yet there aren't that many more magazines in Germany for gay men, if you don't take into consideration the free leaflets and erotic booklets which can be found in pubs and clubs. And it appears to be the same internationally. 
Online magazines instead of print media
If state legislations were more liberal towards homosexuals, there would also be more magazines, believes Gudrun Fertig. But even in the US or in the UK there is only one magazine clearly directed at lesbian readers.
There are more online, says Klaus Jetz, director of the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation, which fights for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people worldwide. In countries like Russia as well as in many African countries, there is not even one print publication for gays. In comparison, two magazines for lesbians is a great exception.

July 27, 2015

Merkel Gets Lesbian Parody Published for Being Against Something the Public is for, Same Sex Marriage

Last Wednesday, the new German magazine Straight made a bold first impression on Twitter by releasing a steamy video depicting a woman, with sexy bedhead, lovingly caressing a look-alike of German chancellor Angela Merkel.
The video immediately achieved notoriety in Germany, partly because of the mildly controversial image of the straight Merkel being in a lesbian relationship, but mostly for the fact that it mocked Merkel’s stance on gay marriage. Despite the country’s overwhelming support of same-sex marriage—the radio playing in the background of the video says 62 percent favor it; other polls place that number higher—Merkel recently said that she did not believe in it. “For me, personally, marriage is a man and a woman living together,” she said in a recent interview, but quickly emphasized that she was against discrimination based on sexual orientation. “That is my concept, but I support civil partnerships."
Her behind-the-times comments also came right after she awkwardly made a teenage immigrant cry on TV by saying that Germany might deport her parents, making this a fantastic Merkel Month.

July 15, 2015

Angela Merkel Comes Out: “marriage only for man and woman”

Angela Merkel has insisted that marriage should only be between a man and woman.
The German Chancellor backed equal benefits for same-sex couples - such as tax breaks - and said that while discrimination should be “eliminated" she drew a "difference" between civil partnerships and marriage.

“I’m someone who is very supportive of us eliminating all discrimination. We have come a long way; when I remember, 25 years ago, many people didn’t dare to say that they are gay or lesbian,” she said, according to the Huffington Post.
“For me, personally, marriage is a man and a woman living together. That is my concept, but I support civil partnerships."
Ms Merkel went on to say stress that marriage should be strictly defined as between a man and a woman, adding: "I am for registered civil partnerships. I am for our not having any discrimination in tax legislation. And wherever we still find discrimination, we will continue to dismantle it,” according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Explaining further, the German leader said: "I don’t want discrimination and [I want] equality, but I make a difference at some point."
In May, Ms Merkel ruled out introducing same-sex marriage in Germany following the referendum in Ireland.

A spokesperson for the Chancellor told Reuters news agency at the time: “Today was an important milestone in dismantling discrimination and the chancellor is pleased about that… but same-sex marriages are not a goal of this government.”
A spokesman for UK LGBT charity Stonewall said: "Can someone really support ‘eliminating all discrimination’ if they believe that same-sex unions shouldn’t be labelled as ‘marriages’?
“It must be a quiet week for Angela if her current concern is synonyms."
Merkel, a former research scientist, is the daughter of a Lutheran minister and has described herself as a member of the evangelical church.
Her party, the Christian Democratic Union, is the German equivalent of the British Conservative Party.

David Trayner

July 8, 2015

History Repeats: Many in Germany want Russia Left Alone to its wimps

 ‘Bear love’ tough but satisfying$$$

The Minsk II ceasefire must be respected by both Russia and Ukraine if sanctions against Moscow are to be lifted, said a German lawmaker on Monday, according to Tass, a pro-Russian news site. While Germany has been a leader in imposing sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea and involvement in the eastern Ukraine conflict, Berlin has been concerned about the knock-on effect of sanctions on its $105 billion bilateral trade with Russia, which has steadily decreased as sanctions and the falling price of oil take a toll on the Russian economy.
"We in Germany would like the political foundation for the sanctions to go as soon as possible and the sanctions themselves become a thing of the past. But it is clear that for the sanctions to be lifted, the Minsk Accords need to be implemented," said Bernhard Kaster, chairman of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany faction in the Bundestag -- a legislative body in Germany -- and head of the Russia-Germany parliamentary group, told journalists in Novosibirsk, Russia.
Kaster's comments, while not representative of the German government, do echo much of what German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has said in recent months. Merkel has been forced to deal with a complex situation in Berlin where many members of her own party are wary about pushing Russia too hard, while businesses have lobbied that Russian sanctions will hurt German exports in the long term. 
"The goal was never to push Russia politically and economically into chaos," said Germany's deputy  chancellor Sigmar Gabriel in an interview with German newspaper Bild Am Sonntag in January. "Whoever wants that will provoke a much more dangerous situation for all of us in Europe," he said, adding that the aim of the sanctions so far was to bring Russia back into negotiations."
"We want to help solve the conflict in Ukraine, not to force Russia to its knees," he added. 
Kaster said sanctions were still the best way to solve international disputes and to counter violence, as seen in the contested region of Donbas in eastern Ukraine. He, along with a trade delegation from the German parliament, visited the Chkalov Aircraft Factory in Novosibirsk -- which uses German-based manufacturers in the production of its Sukhoi super jet -- and met Russian counterparts to discuss trade between the two countries. 
"We are going through troubled political times, exactly the times when talks should be maintained. This manufacturer works in close contact with German producers," Kaster said.
According to Sergey Smirnov, director of the Chkalov Aircraft Factory, 80 percent of the machines and other equipment used in the production process are made in Germany.
Joseph Stalin and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop at signing of Soviet-German non
                                               Bismarck and Germany Pro Russian Lobby
[European Council on Foreign Relations]   The German debate about how to treat Russia has been lively. Over the past year, the political mainstream has moved towards a much more critical position towards Russia. But Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its reckless threats towards Europe have seemed to inspire some dubious forces on the extreme left and right wings of the political spectrum. One argument frequently made by pro-Russian politicians and opinion leaders – such as, for example, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) Party’s Alexander Gauland and former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder – is that Germany should pursue a foreign policy like that of Germany’s famous nineteenth-century chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. For the sake of Germany’s own security, it should mend close ties with Russia. Whenever Germany has abandoned Bismarck’s paradigms, they argue, it has put itself on the road to defeat – most notably, after 1914 and 1941. Therefore, Germany should always be respectful of Russian interests and should seek not to alienate Moscow. 
It is highly debatable whether Bismarck – if he were alive today – would subscribe to the Russia policy promoted by his contemporary champions.
Certainly, Bismarck, the former Prussian prime minister and subsequently German chancellor, had a very clear strategic mind, paired with deep knowledge of military affairs and a vital instinct for the politically feasible. But it is highly debatable whether Bismarck – if he were alive today – would subscribe to the Russia policy promoted by his contemporary champions. After the Treaty of Versailles ended the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, Bismarck knew that he would have to reckon with ongoing French hostility that would be almost impossible to subdue. He had to prevent France from fostering effective anti-German alliances. With Austria-Hungary increasingly absorbed by domestic struggles, Russia was the most formidable of France’s potential allies. Not only was it large enough to make its quick military elimination in case of war impossible, it was also competing with the other French rival – the United Kingdom – for influence in China and South Asia. Hence, a Franco-Russian alliance was not only the most formidable but also the most likely anti-German coalition. The Reinsurance Policy (Rückversicherungspolitik) was key in preventing Russia joining forces with France: this policy guaranteed mutual neutrality if one party were to be attacked by another power without provocation, while also securing Germany’s de facto support for Russia’s geopolitical claims in the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, ensuring Russian access to the Mediterranean. At the same time, Bismarck refrained from claiming colonies for Germany in order to prevent a rapprochement between the UK and France, as well as to maintain alliances with Austria and Italy to prevent them from joining France.
 Some elements on the extreme left and right perceive the United States and Western liberalism as a “Western enemy”.
If the Bismarckian Rückversicherungspolitik were to be resurrected today, who would be the Western enemy that the policy would contain? Does Gauland want to conquer Alsace again? Certainly not. Some elements on the extreme left and right perceive the United States and Western liberalism as a “Western enemy”. For example, the left-wing party Die Linke is the successor of the East German ruling party, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), and it goes along with Russian revanchism and anti-Americanism because of the fact that the US prevented Soviet hegemony over Europe, which would probably have put the SED in a privileged position. Similarly, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) – in its current form a pro-Germanic right-wing party – is against the US because the US prevented German hegemony over Europe in the Second World War. The FPÖ still hopes that a greater Germany could earn the place of a privileged Statthalter in a new Russian-led order of Europe. But are Germany’s conservative Bismarck scholars fighting for the restoration of communism or fascism? It is to be hoped that they are not.
 An idealised version of the early 1990s is seen as a model for ill-considered ideas of a “peace order” that would stretch from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
Rather, the contemporary conservatives who like to quote Bismarck are more like the nineteenth-century pan-German romanticists. Then as now, their thinking was characterised by an idealised view of the past, a shallow and un-reflective historical appreciation, no talent for strategy whatsoever, but a strong emotional passion for their cause. In the nineteenth century, an idealised version of the Holy Roman Empire was used as a role model for new attempts at German unification, unsuited for practical implementation and beyond the reach of any of the German states then in existence. Likewise, today, an idealised version of the early 1990s is seen as a model for ill-considered ideas of a “peace order” that would stretch from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
 Bismarck made use of this political camp for his own purposes, but intellectually, he never held them in high regard. He pushed for German unification only to preserve Prussia’s pre-eminence in Northern Germany. Falling far short of the idealistic dreams of the Pan-Germanists, he declined to include Austria in the new Germany – because it was culturally too different and because the strategic ramifications of such a move were beyond the reach of German power. He engaged Russia because he knew that French revanchism was implacable, not because he was a Zarenversteher (Tsar understander).

The atomisation of Ukraine would destabilise the European continent just as much as an atomisation of the Hapsburg Empire would have destabilised Europe in 1866.
If Bismarck were alive today, he would recognise that Russia’s revanchism and revisionism is unappeasable – both because of domestic politics in Russia as well as because of Russia’s imperial hunger. He would try to forge an alliance system to isolate Russia, to prevent it from forging an international coalition to squeeze Europe. Hence, a contemporary Bismarck would more likely engage Turkey rather than Russia. The atomisation of Ukraine would destabilise the European continent just as much as an atomisation of the Hapsburg Empire would have destabilised Europe in 1866. Therefore, Bismarck would try to put a stop to it. Moreover, Bismarck would understand that Germany’s power – now more than ever – is bound to the European continent and that Germany’s ability to shape world politics beyond the continent is limited. Just as Bismarck was not enthusiastic about German unification – it was a pragmatic move made to preserve Prussian influence – he would not be enthusiastic about the EU today. Instead, he would perceive a unified Europe as a pragmatic solution to safeguard German influence on the continent. For that reason, he would maintain the union or even move towards further integration – provided that the intergovernmental nature of the project was preserved. In other words, a neo-Bismarckian German foreign policy would look quite like Angela Merkel’s.

July 7, 2015

On Post VEDay Germany Again Polarizes Europe

Ms. Merkel won unanimity among EU members to sanction Russia over the Ukraine issue, going up against President Vladimir Putin, with whom she is seen here meeting on May 10 of this year. PHOTO: SERGEI KARPUKHIN/REUTERS
  Under the glass Reichstag dome in Germany’s parliament last week, left-wing opposition leader Gregor Gysi lit into Chancellor Angela Merkel for saddling Greece with a staggering unemployment rate, devastating wage cuts, and “soup kitchens upon soup kitchens.”
The chancellor, sitting a few steps away with a blank expression on her face, scrolled through her smartphone.
Ms. Merkel’s power after a decade in office has become seemingly untouchable, both within Germany and across Europe. But with the “no” vote in Sunday’s Greek referendum on bailout terms posing the biggest challenge yet to decades of European integration, risks to the European project resulting from Germany’s rise as the Continent’s most powerful country are becoming clear.
On Friday, Spanish antiausterity leader Pablo Iglesias urged his countrymen: “We don’t want to be a German colony.” On Sunday, after Greece’s result became clear, Italian populist Beppe Grillo said, “Now Merkel and bankers will have food for thought.” On Monday, Ms. Merkel flew to Paris for crisis talks amid signs the French government was resisting Berlin’s hard line on Greece.
“What is happening now is a defeat for Germany, especially, far more than for any other country,” said Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute for Economic Research, a leading Berlin think tank. “Germany has, at the end of the day, helped determine most of the European decisions of the last five years.”
Greeks opposed to terms demanded for further bailout aid put up a poster of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble before Sunday's referendum, in which a majority voted to reject the terms.ENLARGE
Greeks opposed to terms demanded for further bailout aid put up a poster of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble before Sunday's referendum, in which a majority voted to reject the terms. PHOTO: ARISTIDIS VAFEIADAKIS/ZUMA PRESS
Senior German officials, in private moments, marvel at the fact that their country, despite its weak military and inward-looking public, now has a greater impact on most European policy debates than Britain or France, and appears to wield more global influence that at any other time since World War II.
Berlin think-tank elites, diplomats and mainstream politicians generally see the rise of German power as a good thing. They describe the stability, patience and rules-based discipline of today’s German governance as what Europe needs in these turbulent times. Germany—with its export-dependent economy and history-stained national identity—has the most to lose from an unraveling of European integration and is focused on keeping the union strong, they say.
Ms. Merkel’s popularity at home has remained strong through the Greek crisis, holding about steady at 67% in a poll at the end of June. She now must weigh whether to offer additional carrots to Greece to keep the country in the euro and preserve the irreversibility of membership in the common currency—at the risk of political backlash at home and the ire of German fiscal hawks. Only 10% of Germans supported further concessions for Greece in another poll last week.
U.S. officials generally see German leadership as crucial geopolitically, praising Ms. Merkel’s push last year to get all 28 European Union countries to adopt sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. But across Europe, Germany’s power is also straining unity in the EU, an alliance forged as a partnership of equals that now is struggling to accommodate the swelling dominance of one member.
With every crisis in which Ms. Merkel acts as the Continent’s go-to problem solver, the message to many other Europeans is that for all the lip service about the common “European project,” it is the Germans and faceless bureaucrats in Brussels who run the show. 
The pushback against German power in Europe is likely to grow if the eurozone crisis worsens or if Berlin’s policies grow more assertive.
In Greece last week, it was the stern face of 72-year-old German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble that appeared on some of the posters urging voters to reject Europe’s bailout offer. “He’s been sucking your blood for five years—now tell him NO,” the posters said.
“They want to humiliate Greece to send a warning to Spain, Portugal and Italy,” Hilario Montero, a pensioner at a pro-Greece demonstration in Madrid recently, said of Berlin and Brussels. “The message is you are not allowed to cross the lines they set.”
Split verdict
Similar to America’s global role, German power polarizes Europe. Ms. Merkel is popular in the European mainstream, even as populist politicians say she is building a “Fourth Reich” dominated by German capitalism.
In Spain, for example, a June poll found Ms. Merkel to be the most disapproved-of foreign politician after Russian President Vladimir Putin, with 54% disapproval. But she also drew one of the higher approval ratings, 39%, besting the leaders of Italy, the European Commission and the United Nations. 
The dynamics are similar in France. While more than half of French in a poll last week disapproved of Ms. Merkel’s handling of the Greek crisis, two-thirds of adherents of the main center-right party approved. Now Greece presents the most direct test for Ms. Merkel’s Europe. Her government played the biggest role in shaping the austerity-and-reforms conditions for eurozone bailouts and was the most influential voice resisting debt relief for Greece.
After Greece asked for a bailout in 2010, the heads of the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund traveled to Berlin to exhort German lawmakers to approve one. A year later, Ms. Merkel pushed for rules establishing greater fiscal rigor across the eurozone. In Spain, the press dubbed her la inspectora.
Last September, then-Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras flew to Berlin and appealed to Ms. Merkel. Unpopular economic measures Greece was required under bailout terms to enact—including changes to pensions and taxation as well as the rules involving labor, banks and the public payroll—were feeding the rise of a radical left-wing movement, Syriza, he said.
Ms. Merkel held firm and pushed back against offering debt relief. German officials advised the Greeks to tackle tough reforms right away.
Mr. Samaras, amid rising Greek anger over economically stifling austerity measures, lost the election to Syriza leader Alexis Tsiprasin January. As the crisis intensified under the new government’s tougher negotiating style, German influence grew even more unmistakable.
In February, just hours after Athens sent eurozone finance ministers a letter asking for an extension of its aid program—and before the ministers had the chance to consult one another on it—the German Finance Ministry emailed reporters a brief statement. “The letter from Athens is not a substantive proposal,” it said, quickly stifling discussion of the letter.
Early last week, while some European officials including French President François Hollande publicly held out hope of a deal before Sunday’s referendum, Ms. Merkel quickly signaled there would be no talks before the vote. Her view prevailed. 
Then a string of developments—including widespread opposition to the Iraq war, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s 2003 market-friendly economic reforms and the taboo-breaking summer of flag-waving when Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup—started to instill a more confident sense of national identity in a country still living in the shadow of the Nazi era. Economic problems in France weakened the country on the European stage, while British politics grew increasingly inward-looking.
In November 2011, Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats gathered on the grounds of the centuries-old Leipzig Trade Fair in eastern Germany for an annual party convention and remarked on Germany’s new influence. It had been just over a year since Greece asked for its first bailout. Some Europeans, including the French, initially resisted pushing for heavy doses of austerity in exchange for aid. But Ms. Merkel—the former physicist who grew up under communism and now oversaw Europe’s largest economy—had won the argument.
“All of a sudden, Europe speaks German,” Volker Kauder, the leader of Ms. Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, said in a speech at the convention. “Not in the language but in the acceptance of the instruments for which Angela Merkel fought so long and so successfully.”
Ms. Merkel’s approval rating at home shot up, from around 40% in 2010 to 70% in 2013, a range where it has remained. A yearslong refrain from German politicians helped keep German voters behind Ms. Merkel even as it estranged Europeans elsewhere: Countries seeking help must also do their Hausaufgaben—their homework.
Facing Putin
In March 2014, Ms. Merkel put her domestic political capital on the line and established Germany as a key European geopolitical power: She took on Mr. Putin. With him on the verge of annexing Crimea, the typically soft-spoken chancellor warned that Russia faced “massive damage,” economically and politically, if it continued intervening in Ukraine. And, as it had at the peak of the eurozone crisis, the German-inspired consensus hid further strains on European unity.
On the EU’s eastern periphery, Germany’s leadership on Ukraine stirred discomfort. Even as Berlin pushed for sanctions, it urged hawkish Western diplomats to avoid provoking Russia by such steps as stationing more NATO troops closer to Russia.
Poland and the Baltic states said troops were needed for their security. The dispute over how to deal with Russia prompted a senior Polish official to exclaim, in one meeting last summer, that Germany was again toying with Poland’s existence—alluding in part to the 1939 Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact that effectively divided Poland between Russia and Germany.
Other countries, from Italy to Hungary, have chafed at having to put their close ties to Russia on ice amid Ms. Merkel’s push for sanctions.
But to Germany’s south, it is the eurozone crisis that has been the biggest factor in fostering discomfort with Germany’s dominant role on the Continent. In Italy and Spain, opponents of Ms. Merkel have referred to her as the leader of a “Fourth Reich.”
In France, Berlin’s shaping of the crisis response has spawned bitter criticism of Germany, now a popular theme for far-left and far-right alike in a country whose influence used to exceed its neighbors’. In a French poll last December, 74% said Germany had too much sway in European Union politics.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, founder of the left-wing Parti de Gauche, in May published “Le Hareng de Bismarck—Le Poison Allemand” (“Bismarck’s Herring—the German Poison”), a 208-page denunciation of German supremacy in Europe. Last year, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine Ms. Merkel “wants to impose something on others that will lead to the explosion of the European Union.”
With the crisis in Greece worsening, cracks have started to show in the mainstream. Mr. Hollande, a Socialist, faces a domestic rebellion from members of his parliamentary majority who say he has signed up to German-inspired austerity and abandoned his 2012 election pledge to push pro-growth policies in Europe. Last week, he called on Greece’s creditors to try to reach a solution more quickly.
Within Germany, many politicians and leading commentators say a more assertive German role in Europe is the responsible thing to do. “Politically and economically stable countries cannot hide,” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said earlier this year. “Germany is a little too big and important to comment on international affairs from the sidelines.”
In March, a prominent Berlin political scientist, Herfried Münkler,published a book, “The Power in the Middle,” that captured the German elite’s foreign-policy Zeitgeist. Germany, he wrote, had the duty to lead Europe because neither Brussels nor another EU country was strong enough to do so.
But in an interview last week, Mr. Münkler said Germany leading Europe alone was “no long-term solution.” For one thing, polls continue to show Germans don’t want more international responsibility. For another, he said, the potential rise of a successful populist party in Germany—as has happened in just about all of Germany’s neighbors, from Poland to the Netherlands to France—would sharpen nationalist rhetoric in Germany and increase Europeans’ aversion to German leadership.
“Germany is in this hegemonic role in Europe because we have no relevant right-wing populist parties,” Mr. Münkler said.
That is why Europe’s current showdown with Greece is critical for the future of Germany’s place in Europe, analysts say.
If Ms. Merkel approves a new lifeline for Athens after weeks of vitriolic debate, she is likely to face a furor from Germany’s right and stoke the country’s incipient euroskeptic movement.
If Greece careens out of the euro, Ms. Merkel will face blame for an episode that has further polarized Europe at a time when controversies over the U.K.’s EU membership and how to treat migrants and refugees are adding to the tensions wrought by the Ukraine crisis.
Claudia Major, a security specialist at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said: “If Greece were to leave the eurozone, this may someday be seen as the beginning of the end of the project of European integration—when the Germans were not in the position, as the leading power in shaping Europe, to be able to resolve things with the Greeks.”

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