Angela Merkel

By Gideon Rachman

The way the press treats political leaders marks a crucial dividing line between free and authoritarian countries. In an authoritarian state, presidents and prime ministers demand and receive reverential treatment. In democratic countries, political leaders know that they will be subject to satire — and vicious and sometimes unfair criticism.

Can Angela Merkel survive Europe’s refugee crisis?
Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats suffered a setback in regional elections last weekend. How wounded is the chancellor and have German politics changed fundamentally under the pressure of the refugee crisis? Gideon Rachman puts the question to Fred Studemann and Stefan Wagstyl.

By Gideon Rachman

The fate of Angela Merkel’s “open door” policy on refugees has assumed global significance. Nationalists from Russia to the US are pointing at the German chancellor’s policies as a symbol of the failure of an out-of-touch liberal elite. In the most recent US presidential debate, Donald Trump denounced Ms Merkel, adding: “Germany is a disaster right now.” Even within the EU, many leaders, particularly in the east, echo that sentiment.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Over the next few weeks, the international media will fixate on the New Hampshire primary – a crucial step in the race for the US presidency. It is a safe bet that the “Bulgarian primary” will not get a fraction of the same press attention. But Bulgaria’s decision about which candidate to support as the next UN Secretary-General, could have a major impact on international politics over the next five years. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
At the beginning of this year, Angela Merkel had a good claim to be the most successful politician in the world. The German chancellor had won three successive election victories. She was the dominant political figure in Europe and hugely popular at home.

Merkel under pressure
Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel is facing an array of problems ranging from the scandal at Volkswagen to the arrival of up to a million refugees in the country. Gideon Rachman discusses the extent of Germany’s difficulties and whether it amounts to a crisis with Stefan Wagstyl and Andy Sharman.

By Gideon Rachman

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is right that the current refugee crisis is forcing Europe to consider whether it can live up to its own, self-proclaimed values. Unfortunately, the answer is likely to be “No”.

By Gideon Rachman
Europe woke up on Monday to a lot of headlines about the humiliation of Greece, the triumph of an all-powerful Germany and the subversion of democracy in Europe.

After a frenetic period of travel involving 10 separate trips overseas in the past three months, I am trying to catch my breath, shake off the jet lag and make sense of what I have seen. Leaving aside the big geopolitical themes, one tentative conclusion I have reached is that world leaders and hotel lobbies do not mix.

This first struck at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid as I waited to greet Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, who was the guest-of-honour at the FT’s Spain Summit. On one side of the lobby was a bank of photographers and TV crews. I was standing on the other side with a couple of FT colleagues and the hotel management. Rajoy’s limo drew up and we could see him and his entourage heading towards the entrance. Just at that moment, a party of elderly Americans came out of the lift, clad in their trademark tracksuit bottoms and fluorescent visors, and began to totter across the lobby, demanding loudly, “Where’s the coach?” The hotel manager froze — torn between the desire to shove the Americans out of the way and his duty to be courteous. He just about pulled it off but it was a close-run thing. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Germany has a habit of winning the World Cup at symbolic moments. Victory in 1954 – captured in the film, The Miracle of Bern – allowed Germans a moment of pride and redemption after defeat and disgrace in 1945. A second victory in 1974 went to a West Germany whose “economic miracle” had, by then, allowed it to regain its status as one of the world’s most advanced nations. Victory in 1990, just months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, caught the joy and potential of a soon-to-be united Germany.

US-German relations strained over new spying allegations
Germany has summoned the US envoy following allegations that an agent working for Germany’s intelligence agency was spying for the US. Gideon Rachman is joined by James Blitz, former security correspondent, and Jeevan Vasagar, Berlin correspondent, to discuss what this means for already troubled relations between the Obama and Merkel governments, and how the two nations can resolve their differences in order to tackle the numerous shared geopolitical challenges they face.

By Gideon Rachman
Discussing Britain’s Europe policy earlier this year, a senior adviser to the prime minister shrugged: “I know we’re accused of putting all our eggs in the Merkel basket. But, frankly, we don’t have another basket.”

The fallout from the European elections
The recent European Parliament elections have transformed the continent’s political landscape. Anti-establishment parties have scored remarkable victories in countries such as France, Greece and the UK while mainstream forces have done less well. But good results for Angela Merkel’s CDU in Germany and Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party in Italy show voters have not completely turned their backs on the EU. In this week’s podcast, Ferdinando Giugliano is joined by Tony Barber, Europe editor, Hugh Carnegy, Paris bureau chief, and Guy Dinmore, Rome correspondent, to discuss the fallout from the elections

The differing responses to the Ukraine crisis
This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Washington for talks with President Barack Obama, and Ukraine will top the agenda. Washington has led the way on sanctions, imposing asset freezes and travel bans on dozens of senior Russians and scores of companies, in an attempt to show Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that his interference in Ukraine will bring rising economic costs. The EU on the other hand, seems deeply resistant to tougher economic sanctions, given the much more important ties between Europe and Russia. In this week’s podcast, Ben Hall, world news editor, is joined by Geoff Dyer, Washington correspondent, and Stefan Wagstyl, Berlin bureau chief, to discuss how the two leaders should handle the escalating situation

The differing responses to the Ukraine crisis
This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Washington for talks with President Barack Obama, and Ukraine will top the agenda. Washington has led the way on sanctions, imposing asset freezes and travel bans on dozens of senior Russians and scores of companies, in an attempt to show Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that his interference in Ukraine will bring rising economic costs. The EU on the other hand, seems deeply resistant to tougher economic sanctions, given the much more important ties between Europe and Russia. In this week’s podcast, Ben Hall, world news editor, is joined by Geoff Dyer, Washington correspondent, and Stefan Wagstyl, Berlin bureau chief, to discuss how the two leaders should handle the escalating situation

Ask a German politician or pundit to account for the strength of Germany’s economy. I’ll bet you a plate of Nürnberger sausages that he or she will praise the labour market and welfare reforms adopted about 10 years ago by the government of Gerhard Schröder, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s predecessor.

The “Hartz reforms” tightened the terms on which unemployed Germans claim welfare benefits. They laid the emphasis on putting people quickly back into jobs, at lower pay if necessary. Nowadays German unemployment is remarkably low (5.1 per cent of the workforce in December 2013, according to Eurostat, versus 27.8 per cent in Greece, 25.8 per cent in Spain and 12.7 per cent in Italy).

However, some newly published research by four German economists challenges the argument that the Hartz reforms are the main cause of the nation’s economic recovery. Their carefully written study, entitled “From Sick Man of Europe to Economic Superstar: Germany’s Resurgent Economy”, should be required reading for everyone concerned with boosting the eurozone’s economic performance. Read more

Ronald Pofalla (Adam Berry/Getty Images)

By Stefan Wagstyl in Berlin

Controversial job-seekers have been making the headlines over the holidays in Germany. The debate over EU immigration, sparked by the lifting of restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians, has been entirely predictable – and rather more civilised than, for example, in the UK.

More surprising have been reports of a possible new posting for Ronald Pofalla, chancellor Angela Merkel’s former chief of staff, who quit in December saying he wanted more time for his private life.

There was some sympathy then for the twice-divorced 54-year-old’s plans to start a family with his 32-year-old girlfriend and an understanding that he would, at some point, find work in industry – perhaps in the coal sector in his home region of North Rhine Westphalia. Read more

Critics of Germany’s actions in the eurozone debt and banking crisis often berate Angela Merkel, the Christian Democrat chancellor, for lacking a “vision” for Europe. Not me. I am with Helmut Schmidt, West Germany’s plain-spoken Social Democrat chancellor from 1974 to 1982, who once said that people who have visions should go and see a doctor.

What is the view of Mario Monti, the distinguished former European Union commissioner, who worked closely with Merkel during his 17-month spell as Italy’s prime minister from November 2011 until last April? Monti now chairs a committee on promoting a united Europe at the Berggruen Institute on Governance, a non-partisan think-tank headquartered in California. I contacted him earlier this week in Milan, and as usual his thoughts were perceptive and full of common sense (and quite long sentences). Read more

♦ The FT’s Neil Buckley interviews Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s most famous prisoner – a former oligarch who dared to cross Vladimir Putin.
♦ Trade has broken from a 30-year trend of growing at twice the speed of the global economy, pushing economists to wonder whether there has been a fundamental shift in world business.
♦ The Palestinians have called on countries to tell companies linked to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to withdraw immediately because the settlements violate international law.
♦ Mark Carney says the Bank of England is open for business and the days when the Old Lady preached the perils of “moral hazard” without due regard to financial pressures are well and truly over.
♦ The allegation by the German government that the NSA monitored Angela Merkel’s mobile phone has set off recriminations behind the scenes in the US.
♦ The NYT looks at the friction point between the Philiippines and China in the South China Sea, reporting from a ship at the dividing line.
♦ Formula 1 is considered entertainment, not a sport, by the Indian government, while chess is considered to be a sporting event.
♦ There is some disbelief over Al-Sisi mania.
♦ Tony Blair in the the Balkans to deliver some “deliverology”.
 Read more

If the Americans really have been tapping Angela Merkel’s phone, perhaps they can pass some political tips onto the White House. For Barack Obama, in common with most other western leaders, would dearly love to learn the secret of the German chancellor’s success.

Just consider some comparative approval ratings. Mr Obama currently hovers somewhere in the mid-40s. In Britain, David Cameron hit 37% after a successful party conference and has almost certainly sunk back a little after a bad week, in which he was bested over high energy costs by Labour’s Ed Miliband. Meanwhile, bringing up the rear is Francois Hollande, whose approval rating in France is down at a pathetic 23%. By contrast, the German chancellor has a personal approval rating of around 70%. Read more