(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
Norwegian interest in German politics does not necessarily come by itself. Unless it's about "the war" (World War II) or socker. Who can honestly say that they know the reasons why the conservative party (CDU) run by Chancellor Angela Merkel for 16 years fell dramatically in popularity and had to watch the Greens, the "business party" FDP and the social democrats SDP take government offices in the 2021 election and formed a so-called "Ampel" government? (Alludes to the colors of traffic lights.)
Writer and journalist Ingrid Brekke makes a wholehearted effort to change this, in the book The land of broken hearts. An insight into German politics. Here she takes us inside German administration, epoch-making currents and the country's special position in historical and to-day's political context.
But where are the broken hearts? The phrase originates from Federal President Frank Walter Steinmeier: "German history is a broken history – responsible for millions of murders . It breaks our hearts to this day. Therefore, one can only love this country with a broken heart.”
German past manifests itself in many ways, such as in relations with Israel ("Israel's right to exist is inviolable"), or regarding military efforts. It has played a role in Germanys half-hearted military rearmament and in their hesitant response to Ukraine's pleas for delivery of arms. Importantly, the past has led to an ambivalence in the country's view of itself: Faced with many calls to assume a leadership role in Europe, it hesitates. As if fearing an inner sleeping bear.
Die Grünen and AfD
Despite many similarities, Norway and Germany differ in important areas. The party Die Grünen is an example of the difference between our two countries. As Brekke points out: The party has played a significant role from the start, first mainly as a protest party. Their consistent no to nuclear power won them many supporters, and massively so after the Chernobyl accident. They came into government position under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, lost it under Angela Merkel, but came back and today hold two heavy ministerial posts – Robert Habeck, Vice-Chancellor and Minister for Economy and Climate; Anna Lena Baerbock, Secretary of State. Thanks to Putin's war in Ukraine, Die Grünen must now struggle with their ideals on the environmental front, as the country's attempt to free itself from Russian gas while ensuring energy security requires painful course adaptations.
All new commercial buildings must have solar cells on the roof.
Brekke also mentions AfD (Alternative für Deutschland), the far-right party, which also shows clear differences from Norway's dealings with the Progressive Party (Frp). Here, contrasts between the federal states in the west and in the east (the former DDR) come into play. The 68 generation in the then Federal Republic of Germany played an important role in Germany's democratization process. AfD, which draws the majority of its voters from the eastern states (Die neuen Bundesländer), emphasizes completely different themes: stopping immigration, Nazi sympathies, opposition to equality. The AfD is in the parliament (Bundestag), but – as the German public can confirm – no other parties will cooperate with them, and no one will sit next to them.
Brekke devotes a chapter to "the legacy of Merkel". That legacy is currently just starting to form. "Mutti" Merkel was honored in the Trump era as "leader of the free world" and as the "crisis chancellor". "But", says the author, "she has not really solved a single crisis, she has only managed them. The conflicts are subdued, but the causes continue to flourish and may simply pop up again." Among critics in the German press, she enjoys the dubious praise of "the leader of small steps".
As we know here in Germany, Angela Merkel waited half a year after her departure before reappearing in public. With intimate knowledge of Vladimir Putin and as responsible for Germany's fateful dependence on Russian gas for XNUMX years, she had to endure sharp criticism in the media. Among other things, she had supported the construction of the highly controversial Nord Stream II gas pipeline (which was supposed to bring Russian gas through the Baltic Sea directly to the German port of Mecklenburg Vorpommern) with the claim that this was not a political, but only an economic venture. In her first TV interview after her break from politics, ex-Chancellor Merkel put the first exclamation mark in the narrative of her legacy by declaring that she had no regrets.
“We are never offended. We are never hysterical.”
With the social democrat Olaf Scholz in the driver's seat, according to Brekke, it can seem as if Merkel's leadership style has taken hold. One of Scholz's mottos reads: "We are never offended. We are never hysterical.” He is clearly not a charismatic figure, but mammoth tasks are lined up, and he knows that best of all. After Putin's invasion of Ukraine, Chancellor Scholz launched the term "Zeitenwende" – a paradigm shift. The Nord Stream II project was shelved.
Now the whole country must pull the wagon, and in the same direction. Business and energy supply are at the very top of the priority list. XNUMX percent of the land is to be set aside for wind turbines. All new commercial buildings must have solar cells on the roof. Hydrogen is the magic word in Germany's "Energiewende". Brekke explains: "Liquid hydrogen can replace gas and petrol. If it is extracted using renewable sources, this becomes completely clean energy, i.e. 'green' hydrogen. Norway primarily wants to sell in hydrogen, produced using gas and CCS (carbon capture and storage). Through pipelines from the North Sea, such 'blue' hydrogen can be transported directly into the German network. Eventually, the tubes can also be used for green hydrogen, made with the help of ocean wind."
The author states that Germany's interest in Norway is increasing. The ambition is for 80 per cent of energy consumption by 2030 to come from renewable energy. A gigantic challenge that will also contribute to decide the fate of the "Ampel" government.
Brekke discovered Germany in earnest 18 years ago. Here she lost her heart to the land of broken hearts. And she discovered her interest in history: "I still enjoy hanging out in the German capital. I still think that Germany is a role model. The fact that the country was able to reinvent itself as a solid liberal democracy after laying Europe to waste gives hope for the future in a dark time."