Covid, China and Nord Stream 2: Angela Merkel’s other legacy – A year ago the Germany was looked upon with admiration by the rest of the world: her handling of the pandemic was exemplary, crowning a long and successful career as chancellor Angela Merkel. The Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, often in the past dismissed as too young, too ambitious and too inexperienced, seemed to have proven wrong with his detractors thanks to the skilful management of the Covid emergency.

Before 2020 ended, Spahn had become so popular that he was second only to Merkel. To the point of allowing himself to be tempted as his successor to lead the country. Three months later, with a long series of missteps (last the suspension of the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine), Spahn also risks losing his seat as minister and Merkel of seeing her legacy tainted.

In the most recent polls, 60% of Germans reject Spahn’s work and half of the population says they are dissatisfied with the federal government’s work, the worst figure since the start of the pandemic. In the elections in Baden Wurttemberg and Rhineland Palatinate, the first of the year, Merkel’s CDU lost five percentage points. Added to this are the many open fronts on a global level, where the chancellor struggles every day to safeguard the balance: from Russia to China, passing through the United States e EU.

Flop vaccinations

In Germany so far the 10.2% had the first dose of vaccine, the second 4.6%. Percentages in the European average but lower than those of the Scandinavian countries and certainly not considered to be up to the German efficiency. This is because not only the doses do not arrive (and many accuse Berlin of relying too much on the EU) but also because the vaccination plan has not been run in. For both political and structural reasons. Just think that fax machines remain a pillar in many medical practices and government health offices. This made it particularly coordination between the nearly 400 German health offices is difficult. Minister Spahn has spent millions trying to get German health care online, but so far without success.

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Six months of restrictions

Germany is moving into its own sixth month of lockdown, more or less rigid, to face the third wave of Covid. Despite protests from the governors, Merkel had no choice but to propose one almost total closure in the days from 1st to 6th April, when the supermarket shutters will also be lowered. Amidst the uncertainty, small businesses across the country are threatened with bankruptcy and this does not help the mood of the nation.

Biden’s relations with the US

As president of the EU Council, Merkel pushed for the approval, at the end of December, of theinvestment agreement between the EU and China. For the German Chancellor, it’s about securing a better deal for EU companies doing business in China (especially German auto companies). But it drew a barrage of criticism, not just for sweeping away the human rights concerns, but also for ignoring the call from the then-future Biden administration to wait and consult, thus guaranteeing China a diplomatic victory in circumventing the transatlantic partnership.

If the confrontation between the United States and China continues, Germany could find itself in an unsustainable position: dependent on the United States for its security, dependent on China for its prosperity.

Nord Stream 2, gas pipeline of discord

The pipeline is owned by Gazprom and is co-financed by five European companies (the French Engie, l’Omv Austrian, the Shell Dutch-British and the Germans Uniper e Wintershall). Directly connects Germany to Russia via the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine and Poland.

The political paternity of the project resides in Berlin. Most other European governments oppose it; as well as some German politicians. Yet the Merkel government hoped to be able to persuade Washington to accept a pragmatic solution for a construction project that is 95% complete. In light also of the double bond that Biden has with Berlin: opposing Russia, but also improving relations with Germany, which in the Trump era had fallen to the lowest point.

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But so far the Merkel plan doesn’t seem to be working. “Nord Stream 2 is a bad idea for the EU and a bad idea for the US“, this is the message that the US Secretary of State, Tony Blinking, led to his German counterpart, Heiko Maas.

The troubled relationship with Russia and China

Business and commercial interests first. This was the mantra of the German government when it came to relations with Beijing and Moscow. With China it is the principle of “change through trade“, Which can be translated as”change through trade“. Berlin’s intention has always been to exploit its economic ties to push Beijing to make progressive reforms. With Russia, on which the German energy supply depends, the principle was “modernization partnership“, That is the”partnership for modernization“. But both have more or less failed.



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