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Ten things to look out for in 2014

The Local · 31 Dec 2013, 11:44

Published: 31 Dec 2013 11:44 GMT+01:00

1) Relations with Big Brother

Next year could prove a crucial one in Germany's relations with the United States. As fall-out from the NSA spying scandal continues to land, the German government is likely to come under great pressure to defend its people's internet security from American eyes and ears.

It could also prove to be a crucial year for the continuing trade talks between the European Union and the US. These were largely felt to be fairly uninteresting until it emerged that they could include the provision for corporations to sue governments for loss of business due to national regulations. Critics say this provision would undermine democracy in favour of big businesses, while festooned with false promises of job creation.

2) How to mark World War I

The centenary of World War I will be marked across Europe and the world from 2014 onwards. History students learn that Germany's defeat, its unsteady embrace of republicanism and democracy, and the harsh conditions imposed by the victorious Allies set the country on the path to fascism and the world on the route to World War II.

The government has not yet revealed its programme of events, and they are unlikely to be as bombastic as those planned in the UK and France, but academic institutions have already launched cooperative research projects with counterparts in other countries.

3) Berlin, we have a problem

The continuing disaster that is Berlin's yet-to-be-completed new international airport BER is likely to delight Schadenfreude connoisseurs through 2014 and probably beyond. The airport is already years late and managers have seen the original budget treble to reach nearly €6 billion.

This September the technical director of the project drew up a list of more than 66,000 problems with the enormous airport - nearly 6,000 of these were considered critical in a report. An already much-revised opening date of June 2012 was embarrassingly cancelled at very short notice. It is now supposed to be partly opened in 2014 but judging on past form, we wouldn't bet a cent on it.

4) Can the Liberals survive?

Could Germany lose one of its most illustrious political parties in 2014? The Free Democrats (FDP) failed to get the five percent of votes in the federal election in 2013 needed to enter parliament.

This was a suitable ending to a terrible few years during which, although the party was junior member of the governing coalition, its popularity ratings could barely get any lower. The FDP is currently coalition partner with the Christian Democratic Union in Saxony, where state elections must be held in 2014 - a wipe-out here could be the last nail in the party's coffin.

5) Justice for neo-Nazi victims?

This year should see the end of the trial of Beate Zschäpe and others accused of being involved in the gang of neo-Nazi terrorists responsible for nine racially motivated killings and the shooting to death of a policewoman.

Evidence which has been used in the trial has shone a spotlight on institutional racism within the police and other security forces in the country.

No matter what the outcome of the trial, its end will provoke a strong debate in Germany about what to do about the existence of neo-Nazis in society.

With any luck attention will also be diverted to ridding the authorities of racists and far right-wingers of the sort who were uninterested in solving the violent deaths of people because their skin was brown and their hair black.

6) Will Jogi's boys end 23 years of hurt?

Germany will fly to the World Cup in Brazil more confident of its chances of winning than at any time since the country was last crowned champions in 1990.

A poll in December showed 55 percent of Germans think Die Mannschaft can bring the cup home. They have good reason for confidence. The team is packed with young superstars and is so well equipped in attack that one of coach Joachim Löw's biggest challenges will be working out where to fit everybody in.

But Germany has fallen short in recent tournaments losing to Spain and Italy - the two teams they fear the most.

7) Merkel's grand coalition

Once bitten, twice shy, the Social Democrats (SPD) are likely to prove trickier coalition partners for Merkel than in her first partnership with them from 2005 to 2009. In that coalition they were overshadowed by Merkel and will be kicking harder and screaming louder this time for their policies.

The main arguments within the coalition government will be between Merkel's Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the SPD's more left of centre figures.

CSU leader Horst Seehofer has already upset SPD ministers with his call for restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians coming to Germany. Seehofer has also questioned the SPD's flagship policy of introducing a nationwide minimum wage. Merkel will have to find a way to please both the left and right flanks of her coalition while continuing to push through big projects such as the switch to renewable energy sources - the Energiewende. 

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8) European headaches 

Elections to the European Parliament in May are shaping up to be an unusually exciting affair. With the march of rightwing and anti-EU parties across the continent, Merkel will have to counter the threat from Germany's first eurosceptic party, Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD), while staying on good terms with her centre-left coalition partners, the SPD.

Expect the AfD to get into the EU parliament. They missed out on getting seats in Germany's parliament by 0.3 percent of the vote in September's national elections. Since then they have been continued to poll at around four to five percent and in the EU elections they will be campaigning on their pet issue. 

Apart from the elections, there will also be plenty of talk about a banking union, Greece and Germany's relationship with France. 

9) Military matters

German troops will be among the thousands of NATO forces withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014 after more than a decade of conflict. The intervention has been unpopular in Germany and has done nothing to suggest that the country has become more willing to send troops into foreign war zones. All eyes will also be on Germany's new defence minister Ursula von der Leyen. The mother-of-seven has been tipped as a successor to Merkel in 2017 and if she can survive in the normally scandal-hit post of defence minister she will emerge as a front runner to be the country's next chancellor. 

10) German growth?

The German economy may be performing well but it is under fire from both the US and EU for building up a huge trade surplus. Analysts are predicting unspectacular GDP growth of around 1.3 percent for 2014. Industrial output is also expected to increase. Also on the economic front, investors will also be hoping the DAX continues its record run. It has passed 9,500 points and rose by more than a quarter in 2013. 

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The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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