Why have the German Chancellor’s challenges increased?

The current international situation did not help the new German Chancellor, Olaf Schulz, in implementing the ambitious reform agenda that he promoted before his party won the parliamentary majority. At a time when the Russian-Ukrainian crisis cast a shadow over the internal situation in all countries of the world, this set of problems facing the German Chancellor cannot be attributed exclusively to the negative consequences of such a crisis, whether at the level of the internal situation in Germany, or at the level of its image in its regional and international surroundings; The image of the German chancellor is exposed to real dilemmas, especially since he came after Chancellor “Angela Merkel” who has a great political legacy in Germany, in addition to the unconventional crises that the German economy is facing and its contraction during the past months, and the adverse effects of climate change that double the pressure on the German chancellor. .

internal problems

A series of internal crises contributed to deepening the challenges facing German Chancellor Olaf Schulz. The most prominent of these crises are the following:

1- Slowing internal growth rates: Despite the outbreak of the Corona crisis, Germany succeeded in achieving a growth rate of 2.9% in 2021, but this rate slowed sharply to 1.2% in 2022 due to the high prices of energy imports and weak consumer confidence, with the expectation that bottlenecks will continue The offer is until 2023. This economic decline coincided with the beginning of Schultz’s assumption of power in Germany, and if it returned to circumstantial and structural reasons beyond the mere performance of the government, it constituted the new chancellor’s biggest problems and biggest concerns at the internal level.

This slowdown in growth has been linked to an economic downturn and a decline in production on a large scale as the slowdown in manufacturing deepens, and service sector activity slips into contraction territory for the first time since December last year. Not to mention the exposure of some large companies to obvious losses. Perhaps the most prominent example of this is the German chemical giant “BASF SE”, which made losses estimated at 30 million euros; Which prompted it to announce that it may have to reduce production in light of the shortage of Russian gas.

2- Accusations of the chancellor’s involvement in tax evasion: In the past, “Schulz” came under increasing pressure due to allegations that he helped a private bank evade paying taxes worth 47 million euros during his tenure as mayor of Hamburg in 2016. This crisis has worsened internally After the German chancellor initially denied in the investigations that he had met in private with one of the bank’s owners, he was later forced to admit that the meeting had indeed taken place. Although he denied that there was any political influence on the process of imposing and collecting taxes in this incident, it seems that this “hesitation” has already left a negative impression on some of his supporters, who found themselves in a position of stark contrast between the statements that make it difficult to circumvent the opponents.

3- Escalating disputes on the issue of climate within the government : One of the goals of the government coalition that was formed is to work towards switching to renewable energy sources with 80% of the total energy produced in Germany by the end of the current decade, which is a significant increase from the current percentage of about 45 %. However, this transformation will require huge investments to tackle climate change, modernize Germany’s old bureaucracy, and restructure some economic sectors based on traditional energy sources. In light of the current domestic and international conditions, it seems that the cadres of the Social Democratic Party – led by Schultz – are reluctant to implement these pledges, in light of the escalating tendency to borrow to bridge the budget deficit, which, of course, does not come at the whim of the influential Green Party ministers present in the government. current.

4- The decline in popularity compared to the influential faces of the government: After eight months of taking office, “Schulz” finds himself facing a crisis of popularity decline in the face of prominent figures within his government; Opinion polls indicate an increase in citizens’ acceptance of both German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck and German Foreign Minister Annanina Barbock, who belong to the Green Party, compared to the German chancellor. This is an indication of a shift in approval ratings in favor of another party and not just a drop in a person’s popularity. Despite the many reasons for this shift in public mood, most of the factors controlling it can be traced back to a personal element of Schultz’s lost charisma in favor of these prominent personalities, especially with German citizens making spontaneous comparisons between him and former Chancellor Angela Merkel.

External influences

The German Chancellor’s dilemma did not stop at the borders of internal issues, but was deepened by a number of external challenges and crises, the most important of which are the following:

1- Accusations of adopting a negative attitude towards the Ukrainian crisis: The reactions of Western countries varied in terms of the level of support they showed to Ukraine in its current war with Russia. While some Western countries took a hard approach towards Russia by supporting Ukraine by all political, economic and military means (the United States, Britain, NATO in general), other countries chose to condemn the aggression and denounce it without real military support for Ukraine with equipment, especially Germany.

If it is certain that Berlin is afraid of radically antagonizing Russia due to its heavy dependence on Russian natural gas imports, the most anti-Russian currents within Germany – as well as other Western countries – did not expect Schultz’s statements questioning the “feasibility” of using military force from The basis for responding to the Russian military operation. These recent statements have raised doubts about Schultz’s commitment to the united European position on the issue, which has caused him a complex challenge from the criticism of anti-Russian German public opinion, as well as the Western countries most contributing to the ongoing war.

2- Criticisms about the decline of German influence within the European Union: After Macron’s party lost the parliamentary majority in the French legislative elections held in June 2022, it became clear that internal policy considerations and the balance of forces of the “coexistence system” would affect France’s traditional interest in political leadership at the union level. European. At a time when supporters of the European integration project in Germany waited for intensive moves by “Schulz” within the regional organization to fill the void resulting from France’s regression on the internal balance of power in it, the adoption of “Schultz” a calm and traditional approach within the Union has turned these expectations upside down. What intensified the internal criticism of the German chancellor during his first months of work.

3- Reluctance to face criticism against Israel: Germany is one of the countries where Jewish organizations are most active and radically criminalizes any gestures or expressions that may be considered “anti-Semitic”; As a kind of penance for the legacy of the former Nazi. In this climate, the German chancellor’s “hesitant” reaction during his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Berlin in mid-August 2022 on the sidelines of the G7 summit provoked the ire of internal Jewish organizations as well as the Israeli prime minister.

This reluctance was demonstrated when the Palestinian president was asked if he was willing to apologize for the Palestinian attack at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich that killed 11 Israeli athletes; Abbas referred to the suffering of the Palestinian people for more than 70 years, adding that between 1947 and today, Israel committed 50 massacres in 50 Palestinian sites, which can be considered a revival of the Holocaust. Schultz’s silent reaction provoked the ire of Jewish organizations; These organizations considered the silence of “Schulz” to establish an unacceptable precedent, and to repeat a racist policy that the German people themselves rejected a long time ago.

4- Not taking a decisive stance towards China: Chancellor “Schulz” found himself facing another challenge related to maintaining Germany’s leading image in the field of human rights defense. After German diplomacy adopted a hard-line approach to human rights violations, especially in China, during the work of the Human Rights Council in Geneva over the past years, Germany’s current disassociation from being at the forefront of the UN body with regard to the violations practiced by the “Xi Jinping” regime is considered by some as a retreat from a sober policy. . Some attribute this approach to the current international conditions and the dependence of international trade – already turbulent – on China’s containers, and Schultz’s unwillingness to open an additional front at the present time in light of the great difficulties experienced by the German economy.

Conclusion: Despite the escalation of the problems faced by German Chancellor “Olaf Schulz” as a result of unfavorable and exceptional international circumstances, there are personal factors that reinforce the trend pressing on him, and they may impede any mitigation of criticism by changing international circumstances. However, it is too early to claim that this relative decline would fundamentally affect the German chancellor’s popularity, or his party in general at the present time; As the main criterion for judging him will remain subject to the complexities of the international reality on which his government can rely in justifying some policies as necessary at the present time. In addition, Schultz’s ability to maintain the cohesion of his government internally will have the upper hand in determining whether his popularity will improve in the future.

Interregional for Strategic Analytics

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

أنا حاصل على شاهدة الليسانس في العلوم السياسية والعلاقات الدولية بالإضافة إلى شاهدة الماستر في دراسات الأمنية الدولية، إلى جانب شغفي بتطوير الويب. اكتسبت خلال دراستي فهمًا قويًا للمفاهيم السياسية الأساسية والنظريات في العلاقات الدولية والدراسات الأمنية والاستراتيجية، فضلاً عن الأدوات وطرق البحث المستخدمة في هذه المجالات.

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