Germany’s next 30 years: What’s it gonna be?

Germany’s next 30 years: What’s it gonna be?

Today, hundreds of thousands of people will gather to mark "30 Jahre Mauerfall" in Berlin. For days, people have been streaming to open-air exhibitions at the Brandenburg Gate, the former headquarters of the Stasi, and other sites around the city that were part of the drama that culminated in the opening of the Wall on November 9, 1989. The celebrations will reach fever pitch Saturday evening as a concert by the Staatskapelle Berlin gives way to a massive techno and punk rock dance party that will carry on through the night at 27 different clubs across the German capital.


It's going to be very German and uplifting, but scratch the surface and there's an angst lurking beneath all the revelry. Nearly three decades after reunification, Germany is still struggling to solidify its own identity and to stake out its place in the world.

As its people look ahead to the next 30 years, Germany's leaders face three big challenges.

Germany is still, in some ways, two countries: Reunification was one of the great political accomplishments of the 20th century, but today people in the former East still make about 15 percent less than those in the old West. Meanwhile, just 42 percent of people in the East think Germany's current democracy is the "best" form of government, compared with 77 percent of people in the West. This sense of being second class citizens, along with fears about how refugees may change Germany's culture, are what have given rise to the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a largely East-based party that is the first far-right group to enter the national legislature since World War Two.

Mutti won't be around forever: The woman who has been a steadying force in both German and global politics for nearly 14 years – about half the time since reunification – isn't going to be on the political scene much longer. By 2021, and maybe sooner if her grand coalition continues to lose support, Chancellor Angela Merkel, the world's longest serving leader of a democracy, will be leaving her post. The increasingly fractious state of Germany's domestic politics makes it hard to tell who, exactly, will take her place.

What's Germany's role in the 21st century? How will Berlin position itself in a world where the US is retreating from its commitments to traditional allies, and China is seeking greater global reach as an authoritarian technology superpower? There is little political will to massively boost Germany's defense spending to fill the gaps where the US no longer wants to. And challenging Beijing on issues of authoritarianism and surveillance (something you might say Germany knows a thing or two about) is hard when Germany's major industries – like the auto sector – are hugely dependent on exports to China.

These are complex problems without easy answers. For now, though, it's time to celebrate – check in on me on Sunday morning, will you?

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Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

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That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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