Tag Archives: Germany

Why Berlin Christmas market attack puts new pressure on Angela Merkel

The Conversation

Patricia Hogwood, University of Westminster

A juggernaut ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin city centre on the evening of December 19, killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 48. Minister of the interior Thomas de Maizière said that it was a deliberate attack.

The Berlin police have urged caution until more about the incident is known, but this has done little to dampen speculation about the perpetrator, nor to prevent an unseemly scramble in some quarters to gain political capital from this tragedy.

This high-profile attack in the festive period looks certain to polarise an already strained political debate between German liberals of the left and centre, and populists on the right, piling pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership at a sensitive time in the electoral calendar. On the other hand, it may help to strengthen bonds between governments and nations at the European level as they work together to enhance security co-operation.

Chancellor holds her line

At home, internal security looks set to be a campaign issue in federal elections in September 2017. At the same time, 58% of Germans currently believe refugee policy is the biggest challenge the country faces. In light of this, Merkel is well aware that she needs to challenge an association, promoted by the populist right, between internal security and refugees: an association that insidiously asserts the inherent criminality of foreigners.

Policemen guard the truck which crashed into a Christmas market in Berlin. Britta Pederson/EPA

This narrative shows signs of taking root in public debate. The recent murder of a young student in Freiburg, apparently by an Afghan asylum-seeker, prompted such widespread outrage that the authorities had to speak out against the scapegoating of migrants.

In the last year, Merkel has proved adept at acknowledging the fears of the public over security while at the same time underlining her humanitarian approach to refugee policy. In her first response to the Berlin attack, the chancellor stated that if the perpetrator turned out to be a refugee, it would be dreadful for the many Germans who are involved in helping refugees on a daily basis “and for the many people who really need our protection and are making an effort to integrate into our country”.

Her traditional New Year’s Eve address to the country will give her another opportunity to drive this message home. But will it be enough?

‘Germany is no longer safe’

Whoever turns out to be responsible for the Berlin attack, the political damage is done. Frauke Petry, the outspoken leader of the right-wing populist Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) has already pointed to the government’s refugee policy as being partly responsible for the atrocity. She claimed it has negligently and systematically imported a milieu in which such acts can thrive and that “Germany is no longer safe”.

Provocative as these claims are, they have been matched by voices from within Merkel’s own party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU/CSU). The Berlin attack has already shattered recent attempts to heal the intra-party rift over immigration that could threaten to derail party unity in next year’s election campaign.

Klaus Bouillon, CDU chair of the standing committee of interior ministers from the federal Länder (regions), was quick to claim that Germany found itself in a “state of war” – even though “some people, who only ever see the good, won’t like to admit this”. Noting that copycat attacks would be likely, Bouillon called for upgraded security measures and for the police to be heavily armed.

Problems at home – but promise for Europe?

Before the Berlin attack, Merkel might have been able to prevent the refugee issue from dominating the election agenda by making a feature of other public concerns (albeit less pressing), such as pensions and care for the elderly. Now, the field is open for the right to make capital from criticisms that Merkel is too involved in her role as international statesman. They are likely to step up critiques that she is losing touch with domestic problems, that her policies are tired and that she is running out of ideas.

Perversely, at the European level, the Berlin attack might offer an incentive to heal fractious relations between member states and to consolidate the co-operation that already exists on internal security and counter-terror operations. Following the UK’s June referendum result and Theresa May’s rhetoric of a “hard Brexit”, the UK’s standing within the EU is at an all-time low.

However, it is widely recognised that no other European member state has as much experience and expertise in counter-terrorism. Constructive co-operation with Germany in a concerted effort to keep Europeans safe may help a little to stabilise relations between EU partners in the testing times to come.

The ConversationPatricia Hogwood, Reader in European Politics, University of Westminster

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reblogs

Geoff Taylor: author, bomber pilot and sailor

by Tim Harding

Geoffrey (‘Squizzy’) Taylor was born in 1920 in England and came to Adelaide at the age of three. By the age of 14 he had won a cadetship and became the shipping reporter on the ‘Adelaide News’. He went to Brighton in Victoria at the age of 19 and joined Goldberg Advertising.

When World War II was declared he joined the RAAF in 1939 and became a Lancaster pilot with Bomber Command. After being shot down by German ace night fighter pilot Friedrich-Karl Müller in 1943, Geoff Taylor spent the rest of the war as a P.O.W. in the notorious Stalag IV-B Prison Camp, near Mühlberg in the Prussian Province of Saxony in Germany.


Photographed on a local flight, Geoff Taylor’s bomber LM326 is seen here against a background of countryside east of Grantham.

Whilst sorting through some family photographs recently, my wife and I found this photograph of Geoff’s crashed bomber. The inscription on the back of the photograph reads: ‘Lancaster Mk.II Serial No. LM326, No. 207 Squadron, Bomber Command (EM-Z). Crashed near the village of Aerzen, near Hamelin, SW of Hannover on the night of 18.10.43.’


Geoff was demobbed and returned to Australia in 1945, joining the “Age” as a reporter. His main interest was flying, and he also loved to sail. He was a member of the Royal Brighton Yacht Club from the end of the War to 1991. He was a good friend of my father, Bruce Harding, and was in the same yacht syndicate, the ‘Vallhalla’ (which means ‘home of the gods’). I admired and liked Geoff a lot.

Geoff Taylor loved to write and published 12 books including ‘Piece of Cake‘, (his autobiography) and a book for children.


He completed the manuscript ‘Hours of Glory’ of a biography of the young South Australian aviator Charles James (“Jimmy”) Melrose (1913-1936) which was not published. It was awarded the Inaugural Alan Marshall Award for the best unpublished manuscript. He suffered a severe stroke in 1991 and died at an East Brighton nursing home on 19 December 1992. His widow Mrs A. Taylor donated his papers relating to his research and book about “Jimmy” Melrose to the Mortlock Library in 1993.


Melbourne suburban newspaper article: “Farewell to a man of many talents after a life of adventure” c. December 1992.

1 Comment

Filed under Memoirs