Michael Steen

Michael Steen, Frankfurt bureau chief, covers the ECB and the eurozone's economies. He joined the Financial Times in 2007 as Amsterdam correspondent and later worked as a front page news editor in London. Before joining the FT, he spent nine years as a correspondent at Reuters, mostly in foreign postings that included a previous stint in Frankfurt, as well as Moscow, Kiev and central Asia. He read German and Russian at Cambridge.

Michael Steen

This is a map, courtesy of the Berlin returning officer’s website, of the constituency votes in Berlin. Blue is the Christian Democratic Union of Angela Merkel and purple represents the Left party, which was formed from the remnants of the communist SED that ruled East Germany as well as leftwing defectors from the centre-left SPD, shown in red. (The Greens are, um, green.) 

Michael Steen

(Getty)

The first official German election results are in and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats enjoyed a huge swing in the polls, but remain five seats short of achieving the first absolute majority since 1957.

That fires the starting gun for coalition talks, raising some interesting questions, especially after the chancellor’s existing coalition partner, the liberal Free Democratic Party, has crashed from its best-ever election result in 2009 to parliamentary annihilation, failing to reach the five per cent threshold. 

Michael Steen

(Sueddeutsche Zeitung)

This is Peer Steinbrück, the man hoping to unseat Angela Merkel as chancellor in Germany’s election on September 22. The most remarkable thing about the image, which adorns the cover of the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Friday magazine, is that the Social Democratic Party campaign leader actually let them go ahead and publish it. 

Michael Steen

Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democratic Party challenger hoping to unseat Angela Merkel, German chancellor, had everything to fight for. A live 90-minute TV debate broadcast on four of the biggest TV stations to an audience estimated at 15m just three weeks before election day. The “duel” has been the most keenly anticipated election event in the campaign to date.

So did the man who served as Ms Merkel’s finance minister in a previous coalition government from 2005-2009 land any real punches? 

Michael Steen

(Getty)

For campaign issues that Germany’s political elite had all but agreed to shy away from, the eurozone debt crisis in general and Greece in particular are proving remarkably capable of generating unscripted campaign trail surprises. 

Michael Steen

(Getty)

There is now less than a month to go before Germany’s general election. The summer holidays are mostly over. Children are either back at school, or due to return on Monday, in 12 of Germany’s 16 Bundesländer. And that means the so-called “hot phase” of the campaign is getting under way and the main parties are releasing their election TV ads.

Here is a quick round-up of some of the more notable ads hitting the airwaves ahead of the September 22 election

Graffiti outside the ECB’s future headquarters. (Getty)

Could the European Central Bank be learning a thing or two about managing the message? Ahead of Thursday’s interest rate-setting meeting, when policymakers will want to do nothing more than say “we’re holding steady”, it looks like the bank may come up with an eye-catching announcement to give everyone something to write about.

That something is the long-running and vexed question of why the bank that loves to tell you how transparent it is (well, at certain times, once you’ve cleared security and as long as you understand no quotes should be used from this conversation) keeps the minutes of its governing council meetings secret for 30 years. The practice makes it an outlier – the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and Bank of Japan all publish minutes of their monetary policy meetings within a month of the meeting that they cover.

 

Michael Steen

(Getty Images)

The mark of a truly skilled politician is to make any possible source of weakness or fallibility look exogenous. Angela Merkel can do it with her eyes closed.

Faced with hard questions about what her government knew and when about US surveillance operations that may have harvested the private data of millions of Germans, the chancellor walked into her last press conference before the parliamentary summer break and managed to sound solicitous about getting to the bottom of the issue – which, of course, had nothing to do with her.

No matter that the opposition Social Democratic party are doing their best to turn widespread public concern about mass surveillance into questions about Ms Merkel’s leadership ahead of the September 22 general election. No matter the accusations that Germany’s own spooks were actively colluding with the US National Security Agency. And no matter that, thus far, the US appears to have done next to nothing to soothe German nerves.

 

Michael Steen

Own goal?

A still from the ad (click to watch)

A woman footballer walks down some stairs into a brightly lit cellar, carrying a dirty ball. She bounces the ball, strikes, and it lands perfectly in a high-end Miele washing machine as an unseen crowd cheers. The woman (whose face and head we never see) sets the wash cycle to “leather” and sits on top of the washing machine while the ball is washed.

The voiceover says: “Clean[1] ball in Sweden. The European women’s championship on ZDF.”