Over and Done With: President Gauck Retires, UK Leaves EU, Footballers drop out of EURO

Germany, 08 Jun - 05 Jul 2016
The end of the “perfect East German triumph” – President Joachim Gauck to step down ++ ”Out is out” – German government sending strong message to divorcing Britain ++ Toothless dominance – Germany’s top footballers drop out of EURO 2016 in semi-final. by Peter Sawicki
The end of the “perfect East German triumph” – President Joachim Gauck to step down


Despite enjoying relatively high approval ratings within the population as well as wide support among the major parties, Joachim Gauck, Federal President of Germany, announced he will not stand for a second term in office. 76-year-old Gauck, a former East German Lutheran pastor and anti-communist civil rights activist, said he had made a hard decision, but believed he was doing the right thing with regard to his age. “I do not want to commit myself to a further period of five years when I cannot guarantee that I will have the adequate amount of energy and vitality that is required,” Gauck said in his statement.

Gauck, a liberal-conservative Independent, has served as Germany’s 11th post-war head of state, a largely ceremonial post with little executive power, since 2012. While in office, Gauck has triggered numerous debates and has taken a clear stance towards a redefinition of the Federal Republic’s role in the world, urging the country to engage in diplomacy and to help forge human rights abroad, but likewise to consider military actions if necessary. He has also been a supporter of Germany’s liberal approach in the ongoing migrant and refugee crisis.

Between 1991 and 2000 Gauck had overseen the archive of the East German secret police, the Stasi (Staatssicherheit), exposing the crimes of the communist secret police. As a pastor, he had been an advocate of the civil rights movement in East Germany that contributed to the downfall of the communist regime.

Members of the German government paid tribute to Gauck’s service as the country’s president. Justice Minister Heiko Maas from the Social Democrats (SPD) said Gauck had proved to be a person of “extraordinary moral integrity”. Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic Union) expressed her regret over Gauck’s approaching resignation, emphasising she had hoped he would have decided to stand for a second term in office. During his presidency, Gauck had also faced criticism, particularly from the left. In late 2014 major politicians from the SPD had scolded Gauck who had publicly warned of the Left Party running a government after regional elections in the federal state of Thuringia.

Gauck’s successor as head of state will be elected in early 2017. This will not be decided through a direct vote, but by a congress (Bundesversammlung) consisting of federal and state delegates as well as selected celebrities and public figures. It is likely that the German parties will put up rivalling candidates. As the new head of state will be chosen around six months before the next general election, the presidential vote may become the subject of an overall political campaign. The current Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU), Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) as well as Norbert Lammert (CDU), speaker of the federal parliament, are considered as possible candidates.

“Out is out” – German government sending strong message to divorcing Britain


German politicians from across the political spectrum have expressed their concern over the United Kingdom’s decision to withdraw from the European Union. Leading representatives of the German government had unequivocally urged Britain to remain a part of the union, warning of unpredictable political and economic repercussions. Learning the result of the in-out referendum, with a 52 per cent-majority in favour of Brexit, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) said the vote’s outcome was “bad news for Europe”.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the finance minister, also said he had wished the UK to remain an EU member state. However, he had earlier warned it would be Britain suffering most from an EU withdrawal, making clear it would not be able to enjoy the advantages of a single European market any more without adhering to European rules such as the free movement of people. “In is in, and out is out”, Schäuble had told the Spiegel, a weekly news magazine.

Simone Peter, co-leader of the Green Party, described Britain’s decision to leave the EU as “shocking”. Peter further said the result was especially damaging to young Britons – most of whom had backed the ‘remain’ side – as their future prospects had substantially darkened. Peter likewise stressed it would now be wrong to abandon the idea of European integration. Vice Chancellor Gabriel echoed this call, though urging to quickly bring about political reforms on the European stage. He said the approaching Brexit was proof many people in Europe were disappointed of the EU’s current shape. Gabriel proposed the EU adopted a slimmer structure and committed to a more transparent style of politics.

There are fears Brexit will prove contagious and prompt more countries to hold in-out referendums, putting the entire European Union at risk.

Toothless dominance – German footballers drop out of EURO 2016 in semi-final


Germany’s national football team, the defending world champions, did not manage to fulfil their title ambitions at the EURO 2016, suffering a 2-0 defeat to France in the semi-final. France then went on to lose the final to Portugal. Despite being in significant control of the ball for the most part of the match, Germany’s team proved unable to create meaningful goal opportunities. Germany conceded the first goal at the end of the first half, with French top striker Antoine Griezmann scoring from a penalty caused by a handball by German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. Griezmann scored a second goal after 72 minutes, shattering Germany’s dreams of winning the European championship for the fourth time.

The inability to produce a satisfying number of goals proved to be Germany’s major shortcoming during the tournament, totalling just seven goals in six matches. Experts mainly attributed that to a lack of potent strikers. It’s a problem that has evolved for the past few years and accelerated after the retirement of Miroslav Klose, Germany’s all-time international top scorer, two years ago. Prominent former players such as Michael Ballack and Dietmar Hamann criticised the German coach Joachim Löw for his preferred style of playing primarily focusing on ball possession. They advised to put more emphasis on higher speed and better efficiency for the upcoming World Cup qualification.

Overall many observers in Germany considered the tournament a disappointment with regard to the level of the matches, primarily due to the increased number of teams participating. Clashes between rivalling hooligan groups moreover cast a shadow over the early stage of the championship, including attacks by German hooligans on supporters from the Ukraine. Some German fans made another negative appearance during their team’s quarter-final victory over Italy, singing insulting songs towards their opponents. That incident went almost unnoticed and was rather downplayed by Germany’s manager Oliver Bierhoff. He said singing the songs was “unnecessary”, but acknowledged it happened because of “erupting emotions” as Germany had lost all of its games with Italy at major tournaments so far.

Members of the German government paid tribute to Gauck’s service as the country’s president. Justice Minister Heiko Maas from the Social Democrats (SPD) said Gauck had proved to be a person of “extraordinary moral integrity”. Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic Union) expressed her regret over Gauck’s approaching resignation, emphasising she had hoped he would have decided to stand for a second term in office. During his presidency, Gauck had also faced criticism, particularly from the left. In late 2014 major politicians from the SPD had scolded Gauck who had publicly warned of the Left Party running a government after regional elections in the federal state of Thuringia.

Gauck’s successor as head of state will be elected in early 2017. This will not be decided through a direct vote, but by a congress (Bundesversammlung) consisting of federal and state delegates as well as selected celebrities and public figures. It is likely that the German parties will put up rivalling candidates. As the new head of state will be chosen around six months before the next general election, the presidential vote may become the subject of an overall political campaign. The current Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU), Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) as well as Norbert Lammert (CDU), speaker of the federal parliament, are considered as possible candidates.

“Out is out” – German government sending strong message to divorcing Britain


German politicians from across the political spectrum have expressed their concern over the United Kingdom’s decision to withdraw from the European Union. Leading representatives of the German government had unequivocally urged Britain to remain a part of the union, warning of unpredictable political and economic repercussions. Learning the result of the in-out referendum, with a 52 per cent-majority in favour of Brexit, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) said the vote’s outcome was “bad news for Europe”.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the finance minister, also said he had wished the UK to remain an EU member state. However, he had earlier warned it would be Britain suffering most from an EU withdrawal, making clear it would not be able to enjoy the advantages of a single European market any more without adhering to European rules such as the free movement of people. “In is in, and out is out”, Schäuble had told the Spiegel, a weekly news magazine.

Simone Peter, co-leader of the Green Party, described Britain’s decision to leave the EU as “shocking”. Peter further said the result was especially damaging to young Britons – most of whom had backed the ‘remain’ side – as their future prospects had substantially darkened. Peter likewise stressed it would now be wrong to abandon the idea of European integration. Vice Chancellor Gabriel echoed this call, though urging to quickly bring about political reforms on the European stage. He said the approaching Brexit was proof many people in Europe were disappointed of the EU’s current shape. Gabriel proposed the EU adopted a slimmer structure and committed to a more transparent style of politics.

There are fears Brexit will prove contagious and prompt more countries to hold in-out referendums, putting the entire European Union at risk.

Toothless dominance – German footballers drop out of EURO 2016 in semi-final


Germany’s national football team, the defending world champions, did not manage to fulfil their title ambitions at the EURO 2016, suffering a 2-0 defeat to France in the semi-final. France then went on to lose the final to Portugal. Despite being in significant control of the ball for the most part of the match, Germany’s team proved unable to create meaningful goal opportunities. Germany conceded the first goal at the end of the first half, with French top striker Antoine Griezmann scoring from a penalty caused by a handball by German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. Griezmann scored a second goal after 72 minutes, shattering Germany’s dreams of winning the European championship for the fourth time.

The inability to produce a satisfying number of goals proved to be Germany’s major shortcoming during the tournament, totalling just seven goals in six matches. Experts mainly attributed that to a lack of potent strikers. It’s a problem that has evolved for the past few years and accelerated after the retirement of Miroslav Klose, Germany’s all-time international top scorer, two years ago. Prominent former players such as Michael Ballack and Dietmar Hamann criticised the German coach Joachim Löw for his preferred style of playing primarily focusing on ball possession. They advised to put more emphasis on higher speed and better efficiency for the upcoming World Cup qualification.

Overall many observers in Germany considered the tournament a disappointment with regard to the level of the matches, primarily due to the increased number of teams participating. Clashes between rivalling hooligan groups moreover cast a shadow over the early stage of the championship, including attacks by German hooligans on supporters from the Ukraine. Some German fans made another negative appearance during their team’s quarter-final victory over Italy, singing insulting songs towards their opponents. That incident went almost unnoticed and was rather downplayed by Germany’s manager Oliver Bierhoff. He said singing the songs was “unnecessary”, but acknowledged it happened because of “erupting emotions” as Germany had lost all of its games with Italy at major tournaments so far.


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