Germany has become a world leader when it comes to renewable energy and climate action. According to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, over 31% of the country’ energy needs come from renewable energy which is significant given how many countries in the developed world are nowhere near that level. The consequence of this has been that air pollution emanating from Germany has declined but the nature of air pollution is that it crosses national barriers and as a result German cities are looking at new ways to reduce air pollution further. One such announcement made in the last week was that some are considering making public transport entirely free.
After the German election in September it was widely expected that Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance would form a coalition with the Greens, a centre-left environmentalist party, and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), a centrist party of classical liberals. The so-called ‘Jamaica coalition’ would likely have been a formal agreement between the CDU/CSU and one of the smaller parties with the third party brought in on a confidence and supply arrangement. As the weeks have passed the news about the negotiations has been that in some areas they have been contentious but nobody expected the news out of Berlin today. The coalition talks have failed and now it is unclear what lays ahead.
Angela Merkel has been re-elected as Germany’s Chancellor and, at the end of her new term, shall be the longest serving occupant of that office in Germany’s post-war history. However this achievement will likely be overshadowed by the arrival of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) into the Bundestag, the first far-right party to win parliamentary seats since 1960. The centre-left SPD did poorer than expected and the results begin to show a slight fragmentation of German politics away from the two main parties, the so-called volksparteien. The implications of this fragmentation will benefit minority parties but the significant advances for the AfD may mean that future discourse will be dominated by far-right voices.
On 25th September the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will vote on whether or not to secede from Iraq and become an independent nation-state. Unsurprisingly this has caused much consternation in both Baghdad and Ankara however analysts are nonetheless expecting a clear majority of Kurds to vote for independence. The problem facing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has been one of legitimacy as the Iraqi government have refused to legally permit a referendum from taking place, and therefore it would be unclear as to how the international community would react. This week the KRG and international Kurdish liberation movement received a boost from the man seeking to become Germany’s next Chancellor.
A few days ago German Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled that she may drop her opposition to a vote on marriage equality after she said at a debate that her party was discussing the issue at length. At this same debate Merkel argued that she favoured a conscience vote on the issue. Almost all the Chancellor’s political opponents support marriage equality and after her announcement sought to gain political capital from her decision. They pressured for a snap vote on the issue and, much to my surprise, she permitted one.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is often lauded in the Western press as an example of a strong national leader that proudly stands up for socially liberal values. This was most notably demonstrated by the approach many organisations took to her decision to welcome hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany, much to the opposition of other EU states. However for advocates of LGBT equality there has always been a black rain cloud above Mrs Merkel when she is described in such glowingly positive terms as she and her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have always opposed the legalisation of same-sex marriage. The news yesterday was that the CDU may change this position.
In some European countries the idea of legal same-sex marriage is largely uncontroversial. For instance the Netherlands has had equal marriage since 2001, it being the first nation in the world to act. However the more eastward one travels, the more socially conservative countries appear to be on LGBT rights. I contend that 2017 will be an important year because it could be a watershed moment in the history of the European gay liberation movement. Evidently I may have been proven correct already as there has been progress in some parts of Europe in this very area. But even more can be made this year given the changes in public opinion in some European countries.