Europe’s largest economy is in crisis. Germany’s coalition government has for the past two weeks consisted of accusations and open hostilities between Conservatives and Social Democrats. Curiously, outside of Germany this story is getting almost no attention. Angela Merkel after breaking her hip, received attention from almost all major UK news sources. Francois Hollande’s escapades got him no the cover of the Financial Times’ weekend edition.
So why are Germany’s internal scandal relevant? As of Wednesday last week, one cabinet minister has been fired and calls for indictment and criminal prosecution against him and the Social Democratic minority leader have been voiced. Further the President of the BKA (Germany’s Federal Police) could be charged with revealing state secrets. Beyond all the potential criminal ramifications lies the damage this scandal has done to the coalition itself. Because the scandal was caused by a Social Democrat and worsened by one, yet only a conservative has been forced to leave, conservatives are out for blood. For the past two weeks the executive has been tied up with crisis management. In effect, Germany’s government is suffering from paralysis. A frozen Germany in return means that in the last six months, the country has had a functioning government for exactly one. No government, no desperately needed reforms.
As if treason and senior politicians being fired wasn’t enough, the 15 year Social Democrat who caused this mess, Sebastian Edathy, is being accused of having bought child pornography. So you’d think between this, the treason, the firing of ministers, a potential cover up and a dozen other accusations, this story would make for good news? Well, the current narrative in Britain seems to prefer headlines like ‘What we can learn from the Germans’ (Telegraph, 2013) and ‘We must be more like the Germans'(Cameron, 2012). Perhaps a story about Germany and its leadership showing weakness would undermine the tale of German excellence. Or perhaps the current indifference is only temporary and once charges are brought this story will be covered after all.