Tag Archive: EU


A simple little phrase is ultimately bringing down one of the longest standing and most influential global leaders in the first two decades of the 21st Century.

The final demise of German Chancellor Angela Merkel after 13 years in office, most likely next year, comes three years after she grabbed and clutched the new highest voltage Third Rail of Politics: Asylum Immigration.

In 2015, Merkel unilaterally decided to allow approximately 1.2 million asylum seekers (about the size of metropolitan Portland, Oregon) from the Middle East into a country of 82 million.

From a public relations standpoint, there was very little explanation and preparation by Merkel and her government to garner public support for such a drastic upsurge of immigrants into the 4th largest economy in the world.

„Wir schaffen das,” proclaimed Angela Merkel. Simply translated: “We can do it.”

Die Kanzerlin, who is affectionately known as “Mutti’ or Mother, was widely seen for so many years as being a steady source of deliberate and reasoned decisions. Merkel deserves praise for her vital role in the completion of Germany’s public relations miracle (Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder), rising from the globe’s #1 pariah at Zero Hour 1945 to the most admired country in the world.

She has been acknowledged as the most powerful woman on earth, and yet the Ph.D in quantum chemistry was a steady hand for Germany’s now enduring and successful democracy.

At one time, Merkel was universally viewed as one of modern Germany’s greatest chancellors, comparable to her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) predecessors Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl.

Is the bloom off the rose?

Almost DailyBrett acknowledges that once she makes a major decision that Merkel is an influential leader.

When the ground shook Japan’s (e.g., 8.9 earthquake) Fukushima nuclear reactor in 2011, Merkel immediately announced that Germany would prudently exit nuclear power by 2022.

When the southern nations of the European Union were attempting to break the 2 percent budget deficit limitation rule (e.g., particularly Greece), Merkel imposed fiscal austerity, and by extension Germany’s will.

When a particular bully arrived on the scene and tried to push her around and intimidate with a large canine (e.g., Russia’s Vladimir Putin), she demonstrated her resolve.

No leader in the European leader has done more to get into the face of the former KGB chief, and yet her leadership always represented Germany as a reluctant hegemon.

Most of all because of Germany’s solid incorporation into the European Union and the passage of time, Germans now joyously wave their flag and are proud of their normal nation.

“Half-Dead Wreck”?

“I don’t want to be a half-dead wreck when I leave politics.” – Angela Merkel

In nations without term limits (e.g., Germany), leaders can overstay their welcome. More than a few in history failed to recognize the flashing lights about when it’s time to step down … usually at the 12-year-mark … from the bully pulpit (i.e., FDR, Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl).

After inviting 1.2 million asylum seekers into Germany without any preamble, and worse women celebrating New Year’s Eve in Cologne being sexually assaulted and raped by asylum seekers, the tide was turning against Angela Merkel.

The optics — worse yet the reality — of the New Year’s Eve attacks became a metaphor for a decision that was too much, too fast with little societal preparation. Merkel’s chancellorship was coming to an end.

Even though her party was returned to power in 2017, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and her coalition partner, Social Democrats (SPD), repeatedly lost strength to the Greens on the left and the anti-immigrant/anti-EU Alternative for Germany on the right. This electoral trend intensified with breathtaking losses (i.e., Bavaria and Hesse) for the CDU and SPD during the course of this year.

Almost DailyBrett knows her legacy is somewhat tarnished. The question remains: Will history be good to her?

The Caravan Is Coming

Even though comparisons between two nations with two distinct cultures, located nine time zones apart, are difficult at best … one contentious issue ties both of them together: immigration.

In both countries, there are those who espouse completely open borders … come one, come all.

These souls advocate for the right of non-citizens to hold driver’s licenses, serve on public boards and commissions … and even vote.

Wasn’t the privilege of voting reserved for actual citizens?

And just as asylum seekers from Syria and other bad places became the catalyst for the political downfall of Angela Merkel, could an approaching caravan(s) of asylum seekers from Central America become the source of political peril here in America?

Before one touches the new third rail of politics … political asylum … America’s political class would be well advised to weigh what happened to Angela Merkel’s tenure as Germany’s chancellor, and most likely her legacy as well.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/opinion/in-merkel-europe-loses-a-leader.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/world/europe/angela-merkel-germany.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46020745

https://www.politico.eu/article/angela-merkel-drops-the-we-can-do-it-slogan-catchphrase-migration-refugees/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/putins-pooch-und-merkels-dog-o-phobia/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/09/24/the-right-leader-for-the-fatherlandeurope-just-happens-to-be-a-woman/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/morning-in-germany/

 

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” – Winston Churchill

Relationships matter, now more than ever.

Tact also counts more than ever, even for those not known for gentile diplomacy.

It’s way too easy to obsess about our digital world with instantaneous global communication in mere nanoseconds, which was unthinkable three decades ago.

These “destructive” technologies have forever changed the world (note Facebook and Google privacy concerns).

Even more destructive is the ability to plunge the world into an unthinkable thermonuclear exchange.

And let’s not forget trying to deflect attention from the ubiquitous, addictive smart phone.

Despite all these seismic shifts in the form of digital ones-and-zeroes, personal relationships are more than ever taking center-stage, particularly in the global political arena.

Think of it as “The Art of the Deal” on steroids.

Not So Warm and Fuzzy

What are the most important public relations of all?

The answers are personal public relations and reputation management.

Do Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have the best personal PR, let alone Kim Jong Un?

This question seems almost silly, but the ability and willingness of these gents (and at least one Frau) to establish and maintain fragile bromances and romances in our scary digital world are absolutely vital for our survival.

Consider that Trump and Kim (dubbed by The Donald as “Rocket Man”) were bragging about the capability of their nuclear buttons a few months ago, yet they still may or may not meet in Singapore on June 12.

Despite the low expectations for lasting, meaningful success, the prospect of a Trump-Kim summit is far better than a potential nuclear war.

Arm-in-Arm gehen Francois Mitterrand (l) und Helmut Kohl (r)

When it comes to war and peace, bromances and romances matter. The longest sustained peace in Europe has been maintained by the establishment of The European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957, followed by the European Community (EU) in 1993.

If you are scoring at home there has been peace for the most part on the European continent for 73 years and counting. The relationship between the two most influential EU members – Germany and France – has survived and prospered by means of the relationships between Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle, and then Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand, and now Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

As the lone woman in this equation (all due respect is afforded to the UK’s Theresa May), Merkel is rightfully regarded as the most powerful woman on earth – a title she did not seek and obviously does not cherish.

Nonetheless, Merkel has proven she is more than a match for some of the most self-absorbed men on this planet including: Trump, Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and to a lesser extent, Marcon.

Merkel’s relationship to Messrs. Trump and Putin are not warm and fuzzy, but she has been an effective foil. She rolled her eyes at Trump and reportedly insists on speaking German to Putin, while Putin speaks Russian to her – even though they are fluent in their respective languages.

Macron has obviously concluded that Trump is the leader of the world’s largest economy and power. Some have scoffed at the bromance between the two, and questioned what Macron has received in return (e.g., US pulled out the Paris accord and the Iran nuclear deal). Keep in mind that Macron has Trump’s ear, and may be Europe’s closest confidant to POTUS.

Trump’s bromance with China’s president Xi, including a visit to Mar-a-Lago in Florida, is a complicated relationship including strategizing about Kim Jong Un’s nagging North Korea and the question of tariffs and intellectual property (IP) protection. A solid, even though conflicted, relationship between the world’s two largest economic and military powers increases – not decreases – the prospect for world peace and maybe even, harmony.

President Donald Trump talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, with their wives, first lady Melania Trump and Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan as they pose for photographers before dinner at Mar-a-Lago, Thursday, April 6, 2017, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Time will tell whether Almost DailyBrett is correct on this point; hopefully that is the case.

You Can Take Putin Out of the KGB …

But you can’t take the KGB out of Putin.

Russia’s leader will play games, including inviting his black lab Koni to a 2007 summit with canine-phobic Merkel (see earlier Almost DailyBrett blog on this Machiavellian topic). How will Putin exploit perceived Trump weaknesses? How will Trump counter?

And yet these two leaders appear to enjoy each other’s company, at least in front of the cameras.

Will Trump develop the same kind of rapport with Kim Jong Un?

Kim has already kibitzed with Xi and most recently on both sides of the most heavily fortified and dangerous border with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in.  The overriding subject of their historic encounters: the prospect for a summit between Kim and The Donald, regardless of the potential for success.

In our increasingly dangerous world – in which the digital ones and zeroes work for us and hopefully not against us – Almost DailyBrett takes the humble view that talking is far better than fighting.

Bromances and Romances matter.

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/33365-tact-is-the-ability-to-tell-someone-to-go-to

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/common-market-founded

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/putins-pooch-und-merkels-dog-o-phobia/

Angela Merkel is not a feminist.

There is no need for her to talk about breaking through any glass ceilings. In her own characteristic quiet and unassuming way, Merkel smashed it 12 years ago, and just did it again for the third time.

For maybe the first time since the end of occupation in 1949 Germany is a quiet, normal and happy nation, an obvious contrast to the Brexit Brits or the Trump-era Americans.

Today she is the thrice re-elected Chancellor of the patriarchal Fatherland, who just happens to be a woman … a great woman.

The soft-spoken Merkel is the most powerful voice in Europe. Some refer to her as the leader of the free world, a designation she does not want and a role that is simply too big for Germany and its 82 million people. The Economist accurately portrays Merkel’s Germany as the “reluctant hegemon.”

Merkel is on track to becoming one of the longest serving and most likely one of the greatest Kanzlers in the history of the Federal Republic of Deutschland (Bundesrepublik). Her only historical rivals are the memories of Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl.

Best of all, there is no need for Merkel to speak in the first-person singular: Ich, Mein, Mich. She prefers to talk about das Land, Deutschland.

Her campaign motto: “A Germany where we live well and gladly.” To Almost DailyBrett, this wordy mantra conjures pleasant memories of “Morning in America.”

Missing The Real Story … Again

Alas, despite Merkel’s historic accomplishments the media seems preoccupied with the initial third-place entrance of the anti-EU, anti-refugee Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) into the legislative Bundestag with about 13 percent of the vote.

With all due respect to the all-knowing and hyperventilating Fourth Estate, that’s not the story. Think of it this way: 87 percent of German voters opted for other parties, while re-electing Angela Merkel.

Maybe Merkel has unintentionally taught the world an answer to unfortunate/systemic misogyny and sexism:

Undoubtedly influenced by her Ph.D in quantum chemistry, Merkel scientifically examines the issue at hand, seeks input from a variety of sources, prepares soundly, and announces a reasoned decision. There is no place for high oratory about glass ceilings in a nation that no longer wants oratory and political symbolism/pageantry. Instead her secret is to get the job done and to do it well.

Indeed, good government is good politics.

Dealing with Germany’s past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung), the nation now more than ever seeks order (Ordnung).

Merkel does not rattle the collective cages of the Fatherland’s patriarchy. She has been pejoratively labeled “Mutti,” a German diminutive of “mother.” Merkel wears this soft-sounding invective as a badge, once proclaiming that Germany is in good hands (and care) with her leadership.

Despite being labeled as the leader of the Western world, the center-right chancellor wants to work within the framework of the European Union and NATO. Since the founding of the EU, Europe has enjoyed the longest period of sustained peace in the continent’s history.

In her victory speech — that didn’t sound like a victory speech – Merkel said that she will examine why some Germans voted for the AfD, and explore how her CDU/CSU party can appeal to these poor souls.

The immediate task is the formation of a coalition government, most likely a Jamaica coalition that mirrors the colors of the island nation’s flag: CDU/CSU (black); Free Democrats (yellow) and Die Grünen (naturally … green).

After the coalition building process is done, Merkel will go back to systemically addressing issues at home and throughout Europe in her time-tested consensus building approach. There will be no time to talk and muse about her place in history.

And when it comes time for an assessment about “What Happened” during her tenure, Merkel will gladly leave that task to others.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41376577

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/24/world/europe/germany-election-merkel.html?mcubz=1

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/bundestagswahl-im-sz-liveblog-bundestag-waechst-wohl-um-mindestens-sitze-1.3671253

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/16/sunday-review/angela-merkel-feminist-germany.html

https://www.economist.com/blogs/kaffeeklatsch/2017/09/next-bundestag

https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21728641-assessing-leader-inscrutable-sphinxes-divas-and-queens-how-angela-merkel-changing

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/morning-in-germany/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel

Or should we say the Pols are wrong?

The experts backed by polling originally told us: Britain will leave the European Union (EU).

Hold on. Wait … the polls and pols then said there would be no Brexit.

Global markets surged and the pound sterling gained strength against the greenback.

Ahh … the polls and pols were wrong once again. Can’t they get anything right?mobilelandline

Britain is indeed leaving the club. PM David Cameron resigned. The markets tanked along with the pound sterling and the Euro. It’s a mess.

What happened (again) to the “experts”?

Remember the elite pundits told us Donald Trump will flame out when the “Silly Season” turns to the “Serious Season.”

And then … The Donald will never win the Republican nomination. Certainly not.

Certainly, yes.

Why do we pay attention to the polls and listen to the pols?

“Two Nations Separated by Common Language” – Winston Churchill

Before we go much further, Almost DailyBrett will immediately acknowledge the political landscape of one nation does not necessarily equate to the state of affairs of another.

Some including the Daily 202 of the Washington Post are now hyperventilating that Brexit could very well mean that Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.BREXIT ahead: UK leaves the EU

Let that thought permeate for a nanosecond or two.

Consider the contradictory news flashes from this morning:

Washington Post: New Post-ABC News poll finds support for Trump has plunged, giving Clinton a double-digit lead.

Wall Street Journal: Trump weathers stormy month on campaign trail, loses only two points versus Clinton — WSJ/NBC Poll.

What’s it going to be, political experts?

What may be certain in this most uncertain political environment is the electorates on both sides of the pond are anxious, full of angst and may be downright angry … and that makes them increasingly volatile and unpredictable.

The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.5 percent for the past seven years, at least one full point under what it should be, is not and should not be accepted as the new normal.

Instead of celebrating globalization, free worldwide trade and technology breakthroughs (e.g., social, mobile and cloud) and having these all serve as symbols of progress, they are increasingly viewed as threats.

How long will it take for the machines to be cheaper than people (e.g., automated check-out, ATMs, robots, driverless cars …)? Each of these gadgets also has the added advantages of never whining, complaining, calling-in sick or demanding a pay raise.

The net effect: Far too many believe they are being left behind, and no one seems to care about them or that is their sense.

The U.S. unemployment rate is 4.7 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And yet only 38,000 new jobs were created in May and labor participation stands at just 62 percent. And how many of these “employed” are underemployed, working less than 30 hours per week for zero benefits?

Something is amiss and it is not just in the new world, but obviously in the old world as well.

Land Line Surveys vs. Internet Polls

“Never in recorded history have so many been so misguided by so few.” – With apologies to the memory of Winston Churchill, if he was still around to sound out his opinion about pollsters and their surveys.berniemichigan

Hillary was supposed to blow out Bernie in the May 8 Michigan primary by 20 points; she lost by nearly two points.

The folks in the UK were increasingly expected to vote to stay in the European Union. Instead, they are leaving.

The polls are particularly wrong this year. What seems to be the problem?

Let’s face it, quantitative analysis has always suffered from the being a snap-shot-in-time syndrome. Polls are scientifically accurate with a 3.5 percent margin of error, 95 percent of the time provided the random sample is large enough … let’s say 1,000 respondents.

The increasingly difficult proposition lies with how one gathers a random scientifically valid critical mass of respondents to participate in a nationwide poll. The traditional way is for polling firms is to call registered voters on their land lines.

There were days when everyone had land lines. Those days have obviously passed, leaving the only folks with land lines to be older, less receptive to mobile technology, but at the same time they have a greater propensity to vote. Translated: These folks need to be surveyed, but they are not representative of a changing electorate.

The alternative is to call mobile numbers of the CPOs (cell-phone onlys) or a combo of mobile dialing and/or internet surveys. The advantage: This is clearly the wave of the future. The disadvantage: the mobile and PC crowd are younger and more educated, but with a lower propensity to vote.

The net effect of this discussion is a changing, volatile electorate that is increasingly difficult to measure with any sense of accuracy.

Can’t anyone get anything right?

Seems like a germane question at this point of time.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2016/06/24/daily-202-stop-underestimating-trump-brexit-vote-shows-why-he-can-win/576c89e9981b92a22d2dd3dc/?wpisrc=nl_daily202&wpmm=1

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/1978-all-over-again/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/why-do-we-listen-to-the-so-called-experts/

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/03/09/why-were-the-polls-in-michigan-so-far-off/

http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-weathers-stormy-month-loses-only-2-points-versus-hillary-clinton-1466946000

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-new-poll-support-for-trump-plunges-giving-clinton-a-double-digit-lead/2016/06/25/0565bef6-3a31-11e6-a254-2b336e293a3c_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-high_poll-0904am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

 

 

Has there ever been a country in the planet’s existence that has ever been so thoroughly and negatively stereotyped based upon only 12 years of its history?

Consider the national brand of Germany and its 82 million residents. What does the mere mention of the country’s name trigger in the minds of most people? The Nazis, Hitler, Goose-stepping, Blitzkrieg, Luftwaffe, Panzers, Gestapo, Sieg Hail, Holocaust, Lugers, Monocles, the Bunker etc.

This deeply ingrained stereotype (e.g. Wilhelm Klink and Sergeant “I know nothing” Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes) comes immediately to mind and will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. However, there may be four answers to at least soften the country’s perception problem: time, normalcy, products and most of all, famous women who have or who are softening the nation’s image.

As Pulitzer Prize writer and journalist William L. Shirer wrote in his best seller The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich he personally detested totalitarian dictatorships and came to loathe Nazi Germany as he lived through it and “watched its ugly assault upon the human spirit.” That was from 1933-1945 or 66-78 years ago.

merkel1

Since then, Germany was conquered, occupied, divided and then reunified. Das Land in der Mitte (The nation in the middle of Europe) has become the central economic engine of the European Union (EU). Many are openly wondering whether Germany will bail out Greece, and if they do, will they then be asked to do the same for Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or add any other ailing EU country here.

As vexing as these questions are, they also signal that Germany may be increasingly regarded as a normal country. This is not to suggest the concentration camps, the ovens, the mass graves and the Holocaust should ever be forgotten; all should be permanently remembered to prevent this horrifically sad chapter of human history from ever repeating itself.

Why do I care about this subject? Personally, I have been studying the German language since 1989, the year the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and with it, the end of European branch of Communism. An authentic piece of the wall sits within inches of my mouse pad as I write this commentary. Just this week I received word that I will receive the Zertifikät Deutsch from the Goethe Institut, signaling at least a basic conversational proficiency in the German language. The question is should I openly celebrate?

On more occasions than I could possibly count, colleagues and associates express surprise when they hear that I am studying German. It doesn’t take long for the 12 years of the Third Reich to come into the conversation (not that I raise it). I even experienced one of my colleagues suggesting that I banish Shirer’s award-winning best seller from my home book shelf because it includes a Swastika on the side cover…Gee, I didn’t put that emblem there…

Maybe, I should just be at peace with my interest in learning a second language and let people think what they want to think? Germany does not have the same luxury. So how is Germany rebuilding its reputation and enhancing its brand, even though the damage from the Nazi years will never be totally mitigated?

● Time. The World War II generation is dying out. With each passing day, there are fewer people who have first-hand experience with the War in Europe and its aftermath. The Prussian guns have been silenced and an enduring democracy has emerged from the ashes of war.

● Normalcy. As discussed already, all eyes are on Germany as the solution for the European economic crisis. Germany has been sending its military out of the country…not as invaders and occupiers…but as peacekeepers (e.g. Bosnia) or to assist in the War on Terrorism (e.g. Afghanistan).

● Products, brand names and reputations. BMW, Daimler-Benz, Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, Bayer, Siemens, SAP, Deutsche Telekom, Deutsche Bank, Becks, Bitburger, Spaten and more are all regarded as world-class competitors in their respective automotive, pharmaceutical, technology, banking and brewing segments. German craftsmanship and quality engineering are legendary.

● The influence of prominent women. One of the quickest ways to soften an image and maybe to start the job of repairing a brand are women who do not threaten and command respect. Three German Frauen come immediately to mind in ascending order: Steffi Graf, Katharina Witt and most of all, Angela Merkel.

graf

Graf, 42, (born, Mannheim, Baden Württemberg) won 22 Grand Slam tennis titles (second most ever) including the only calendar year Grand Slam (Australian, French, Wimbledon and US). Fräulein Forehand played a classy brand of tennis and earned the respect throughout the tennis world. She is married to former male tennis star Andre Agassi and they are raising two children.

Witt, 45 (born, Staaken in former East Germany) won two Olympic Gold medals in figure skating in Sarajevo (1984) and Calgary (1988). She won the figure skating World Championships four times. She raised a few eyebrows with her nude portfolio in Playboy in 1998 becoming only the second personality to ever sell-out an entire editorial run of the magazine; the other is none other than Marilyn Monroe. She is regarded as one of the best figure skaters of all time.

wittgold

Merkel, 56, (born, Hamburg but grew up in East Germany) is the nation’s Chancellor and first female head of state in the various iterations of Germany that goes back to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire in 962. Merkel is the head of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (party) and is the second woman to ever chair the G-8. She has positioned herself as a pragmatist and centrist in domestic and foreign affairs. She was welcomed to the White House with an official state dinner earlier this month.

Just like the rubble that piled up in Berlin took years to clear out after the shooting stopped in 1945, the rebuilding process for Germany’s brand is well underway. Will the Nazi past and with it Vergangenheitsverdrossenheit (angst about history) ever go completely away? The answer is nein. However, time, normalcy, engineering prowess and the influence of some key women (and men too) are maybe the keys to reassessing Germany’s reputation and steadily building its national brand equity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steffi_Graf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katarina_Witt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/06/07/watch-live-welcoming-chancellor-merkel-germany-white-house-official-visit

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogan’s_Heroes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany

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