Let’s not pretend, we all watched the Germany game yesterday, in Berlaymont, in offices, in nearby pubs. At least the shocking end, Mannschaft’s first group stage exit from a World Cup in 70 years, which generated considerable interest around the globe.
When Kim Young-gwon scored Korea’s second goal, deep into extra time, a pub just opposite the Commission headquarters erupted in emotion. A few understandably underwhelmed Germans slunk away, but for many, if not most of the pub crowd, it was cheers and high-fives and fresh rounds of beer. Schadenfreude at its best.
Why did so many people relish Germany’s resounding defeat, which prompted Gary Lineker to rephrase his famous definition of football? And did it symbolise something more than football? Let’s look at the difference the last four years have made to Germany’s international standing.
In 2014, it won the World Cup, humiliating Brazil along the way like no one ever did. Its austerity policy imposed on the eurozone was in full swing and its own economy was on the rebound, growing almost 2% year-on-year in a clear sign that the crisis was over.
A year later Chancellor Merkel stood up and said ‘refugees are welcome’ – in the face of many other leaders who sought to keep them out. And therein, as we know now, was the start of her downslide.
Two years on, and Merkel is in trouble like never before. An entire EU summit is working to find a solution to the migration issue, which is threatening her government back home.
There is an ironic reversal of fortunes in the fact that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras generously agreed to help her by voicing readiness to sign a deal that would make it easier for Germany to send asylum seekers back to other European countries. Merkel, the leader of the EU, is relegated to seeking bilateral deals.
Add to that the fact that the German-imposed austerity is no longer en vogue and that Greece is ending its bailout this summer, and it’s clear that we are seeing a realignment of power in Europe. One where Germany, of all countries, is dragging its feet on any ambitious reform of the eurozone.
Of course, Germany remains Europe’s number one economic powerhouse but even there, things are not hunky-dory. Its car industry, the backbone and symbol of its power, is threatened from two sides: the full frontal attack of Trump’s trade tariffs and the creeping advent of electric vehicles (quite possibly, from China and India).
And then, there is the energy and environment, where Germany is hardly the teacher’s pet and is no longer the climate leader it once claimed to be. CO2 emissions, especially from transport, have risen instead of falling, according to figures released this spring.
But, as always in life, there is a but, and it’s this:
Never underestimate Angela Merkel’s survival skills and her staying power.
Never underestimate the stamina and persistence of the Germans. The referee has not sounded the final whistle. So don’t write them off just yet.
Besides, there is England vs Belgium tonight and the big TV screens in the Council building have already been prepared…
PS. The number 4 jersey was worn by none other than the Kaiser, Franz Beckenbauer. [For Belgians, that’s Vincent Kompany.]
By Freya Kirk
A knight in shining armour has arrived to save Angela Merkel. Greek PM Alexis Tsipras said he was ready to sign a bilateral agreement with Germany on migration.
Speaking of the hot topic of the day: migration is set to overshadow all other topics at the European Council. This makes for an unhappy Macron, who expected to make headway on his idea of a eurozone budget.
Ska Keller, co-chair of the Greens/EFA group at the EP, spoke of the reform of the Dublin Regulation and called for “a solution based on the principle of solidarity”, in an interview with EURACTIV.
It’s the final countdown before Brexit but a number of issues are still to be resolved. However, Brits are tired of debates on the subject, which overshadows all others.
Now that the US has imposed the first wave of tariffs, Stefen Legge and Priotr Lukaszuk ponder whether the EU has become the standard bearer of multilateralism and free trade or whether it will it ultimately follow America’s course of action.
Serbia opened two more chapters in its EU accession talks this week. However, the country also received a clear message that more progress on the rule of law and the normalisation of relations with Kosovo is needed before opening new chapters. The EU also agreed to open the path for accession talks with Albania and Macedonia next year, despite its internal difficulties, write Adnan Ćerimagić and Zoran Nechev.
Our very own Frederic Simon takes a closer look at EU budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger’s Italy gaffe, as part of the ‘Fact or Fake’ series. Watch the video here.
Look out for…
Day 2 of EUCO, it promises to be a little shorter than the first one, with “only” Brexit and the eurozone on the agenda.
We stay right in the thick of it, continuing our live blogging.
World Cup Watch
England are playing Belgium later today but it seems like its Brexit team isn’t doing too well, let’s wait and see. South Korean goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo has been promoted according to his Wiki page, and Fox News Brasil is feeling a little too triumphant.
Matches tomorrow: none | Round of 16 starts on Saturday
Saturday: FRA-ARG, URY-POR
Views are the author’s.