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POLITICS

Merkel: Trump tweets ‘go against what makes America great’

In her last press conference before her summer holiday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced solidarity with four minority congresswomen attacked by the US president.

Merkel: Trump tweets 'go against what makes America great'
Merkel speaking at the Bundespresskonferenz

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday condemned President Donald Trump's xenophobic tweets against four minority Democratic congresswomen, saying the US leader's attacks “go against what
makes America great”.

“I firmly distance myself from (the attacks) and I feel solidarity towards” the women, she told journalists.

“In my view, the strength of America lies in that people from different (origins) contributed to what makes the country great.”

Trump on Sunday urged a group of four progressive Democratic congresswomen of colour — all American citizens and three of them US-born — to “go back” to their countries of origin.

Despite a domestic uproar over the comments which were deemed “racist” by the House of Representatives, Trump repeatedly renewed his attack.

“If you're not happy here, you can leave…. This is about love for America, certain people hate our country,” he tweeted on Tuesday, while repeating the same message to a rally on Wednesday.

International condemnation has rained down over the comments. British Prime Minister Theresa May called them “completely unacceptable”. New Zealand's leader Jacinda Ardern said she “completely and utterly” disagreed with Trump.

While usually refraining from commenting on other countries' domestic politics, Merkel on Friday had markedly sharp words about Trump's latest attacks.

Questions over racism are particularly sensitive in Germany given its Nazi past, and the government routinely speaks out forcefully in favour of tolerance and diversity.

Marked differences

Trump and Merkel's relationship had been strained from the start, with the US leader haranguing the German chancellor even before he took office.

During his election campaign, the US property mogul called Merkel's decision to take in a million asylum seekers a “catastrophic mistake” and suggested that she was “ruining Germany”.

While Merkel had shared a visibly warm relationship with former US president Barack Obama, her contact with Trump has been formal and firm.

Besides the striking differences in their personalities, the trained German physicist with a deliberative approach and the brash US billionaire known for his Twitter outbursts also have contrasting views and stances on policies.

Setting the tone in her first phone call with Trump after he took office, Merkel offered cooperation, but also reminded him of democratic values.

That unusual warning led some commentators to suggest she had taken on the mantle of the “leader of the free world”, a title usually reserved for US presidents.

Since then, Trump has repeatedly ripped into Germany for failing to pay its “fair share” for transatlantic defence.

He has also lashed out against Germany's vital export industry which he claims is harming US producers.

The fraught ties and Trump's decision to withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris climate accord led Merkel to draw the startling conclusion that the US may no longer be a reliable partner for Germany and the European Union.

Europe must step up as a player in world affairs, Merkel said in 2017, signalling that the EU needs to take control of its destiny in the Trump era.

The first 'anti-Trump speech'

Earlier this year during a commencement speech at Harvard University, dubbed by German media such as Spiegel Online as her first 'Anti-Trump speech', German leader deplored attacks on free trade, “walls” of any kind and “lies (described) as truth.”

“We can find good answers even to difficult questions if we always try to see the world through the eyes of others (…) and if we don't always act on our first impulses,” she said.

“Protectionism and trade conflicts endanger free world trade and thus the basis of our prosperity,” she added. “More than ever we must think and act multilaterally instead of unilaterally, globally instead of nationally, open to the world instead of isolationist. In short: together instead of alone”.

Merkel also indirectly took a stab at Trump's penchant for hiding the truth. “We shouldn't call lies truths, and call truths lies,” she added, receiving the largest round of applause. One audience member shouted “Bravo.”

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POLITICS

‘Winter of rage’: Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

Experts are warning that economic hardship may lead to protests throughout Germany in autumn and winter - and that they could be infiltrated by right-wing extremists.

'Winter of rage': Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

In view of rising energy costs, supply difficulties, growing unemployment and general pessimism about the future, authorities in Germany are warning that there will be mass protests this year – and that these are likely to be abused by extremists.

The warnings come from civil servants from the federal offices for the Protection of the Constitution or Bundesverfassungsschutz – Germany’s watchdog for safeguarding free democracy at the federal level and in the 16 states.

Stephan Kramer, president of Thuringia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told German broadcaster ZDF that, following the pandemic and the world events of recent months, there is a “highly emotionalised, aggressive, future-pessimistic mood” among the population, “whose trust in the state, its institutions and political actors is tainted by massive doubts”.

He expects that “legitimate protests” will be infiltrated by extremists, especially those from the so-called Querdenker (lateral thinking) scene and that it is likely that some will turn violent.

READ ALSO: How Germany is saving energy ahead of uncertain winter

“What we have experienced so far in the Covid pandemic in terms of partly violent confrontations on social networks, but also in the streets and squares, was probably more like a children’s birthday party in comparison,” Kramer said.

The head of Hamburg’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Torsten Voß, told the Funke Mediengruppe that he expects “extremist conspiracy ideologues and other enemies of the constitution” will try to abuse protests for their ideological purposes.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said “a spectrum of radical opponents of vaccination and so-called Covid deniers have built up a protest infrastructure, with contacts and channels for mobilisation”. This group will try to use this infrastructure for the energy security protests in the autumn, he said.

READ ALSO: German households could see ‘four-digit’ rise in energy costs this winter

Brandenburg’s head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Jörg Müller, also fears that extremists could exploit the energy crisis and high inflation fears for their own purposes.

“Extremists dream of a German winter of rage” he told Welt am Sonntag. “They hope that the energy crisis and price increases will hit people particularly hard so that they can pick up on the mood and advertise their anti-state aspirations. We are following these goings-on with watchful eyes and open ears.”

Vocabulary:

Constitution – (die) Verfassung

Rage – (die) Wut

Violent – gewalttätig

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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