Germany. The Constitutional Court in February rejected a
contentious law on support for long-term unemployed. The
fixed compensation levels that applied after one year's
unemployment, equal to all, were sentenced as arbitrarily
set. The law was part of the multi-year reform package
Agenda 2010, which aimed to reduce government spending. The
government was commissioned to find a new solution.
In the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in May,
Christian Democratic CDU and liberal FDP lost power. The
Social Democratic SPD also backed down somewhat but was able
to form a minority government with the Greens, which has
progressed strongly. Support was promised by the Left Party
Die Linke. The result was seen as a defeat even for the
bourgeois federal government; the election in Germany's most
populous state is usually seen as an important value gauge
for national politics. The bourgeoisie also lost its
majority in the Federal Council, the parliament's first
chamber, where the 16 states are represented.
On May 31, President Horst Köhler resigned unexpectedly,
four years in advance. He was upset over sharp criticism of
him following statements about German participation in
Afghanistan. Köhler had spoken of German export interests as
a motivation for military operations. One month later, CDU
candidate Christian Wulff was elected new president. Wulff
won in a third round of votes over SPD's and Green's
candidate Joachim Gauck. The president, who mainly has
ceremonial duties, is indirectly elected by a special
A techno party in Duisburg in July ended in tragedy. An
uproar and panic ensued at a long tunnel that was the
entrance to the festival area, and 21 young people perished
in the congestion. Police and organizers were criticized for
lack of security.
An intense integration debate was triggered by an
immigration-critical book in which author Thilo Sarrazin
criticized Muslims for not wanting to integrate. He also
argued about heredity and intelligence that many found
offensive. The criticism prompted Sarrazin to leave his post
on the board of central bank, Bundesbank. The Social
Democrats' party board also discussed excluding him from the
COUNTRYAAH, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement in the
debate that multicultural society has failed and that
immigrants need to integrate better. But she also stressed
that Germany needs immigrants: the country's low birth rates
are lower than death rates, while emigration during the year
was greater than immigration.
The Sarrazine business contributed to continued
difficulties for the SPD, which made a lousy choice a year
earlier. Instead, they had the green wind in their sails and
in an opinion poll in September received support from as
many as SPD: 24 percent of the voters.
The green rise was partly due to the nuclear energy
issue. When the government in September tore up a resolution
on winding up to 2020, the reactions became strong. The
opposition intended both to turn to the Constitutional Court
and try to get a referendum on the issue. Tens of thousands
of people demonstrated in Berlin against the decision. When
nuclear fuel waste was to be transported to the village of
Gorleben for final disposal, the usual protest actions
became unusually extensive. The train delivery was delayed
by several days through blockades and some sabotage. Clashes
occurred between police and protesters.
Merkel's CDU also struggled with falling opinion figures.
One reason was criticism from taxpayers for having to
sponsor "wasteful southern Europeans" in connection with the
crisis in several euro area countries. Pressed by public
opinion, Merkel took a tough stance in the EU and at a
summit in October, among other things, pushed through
demands for a new revision of the EU constitution.
However, the economy in Germany was robust. A savings
package called the largest since the war was adopted in
June, with savings of € 80 billion over four years. At the
same time, growth was the strongest in almost 20 years,
although it slowed to the end of the year. Unemployment then
stood at 7 percent, the lowest figure in 18 years.