The divisive force of migration politics and the end of the coalition negotiations in Germany   

November 20, 2017 - by Oliver Schmidtke, Centre for Gobal Studies, University of Victoria 

To the great surprise of the German public, the attempts to form a coalition government have failed. Last night, the Liberal Party pulled out of the negotiations putting an end to the effort to bring together the free-market liberals, the environmentalist Greens and the two Christian Democratic parties under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Next to the controversial phasing out of coal-burning power plants, the main sticking point in the negotiation seems to have been how to handle the ongoing challenge of governing immigration and refugees in Germany. While the Green party was adamantly in favour of allowing family members of refugees to move to Germany, both the Bavarian CSU and the liberal FDP demanded strict restrictions on family unification.

The current stalemate in German politics has been shaped in a twofold way by the thorny question of migration. First, it was the rise of the so called Alternative for Germany (AfD) that, for the first time in the postwar history of the country, has succeeded in being elected to federal parliament. The 13.3% support for the national populists indicates how Germany’s response to the ‘refugee crisis’ over the past years has antagonized the German electorate. The AfD could tap into growing anti-foreigner sentiments and the anger over the lack of a genuine opposition during the time in which Germany was governed by the Grand Coalition.

The issue of migration also had a decisive effect on the negotiations to put together the four-party coalition under Chancellor Merkel’s guidance. Not at least for electoral reasons, the Bavarian CSU and the Liberals opted for a reversal of Germany’s liberal refugee policy. While the right-wing AFD is shunned in parliament, its political ideology has already changed the political culture in Germany. As was evident in the recent election in Austria it is difficult for centre-right parties to resists the lure of populist, anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Catalan Independence: A view from the demos

October 30, 2017 - by Pablo Ouziel, University of Victoria

On October 27th of 2017, the Parliament of Catalonia unilaterally declared independence from Spain. Following from this, the Spanish Senate activated Article 155 of theSpanish Constitution. Since then Catalan parliament has been dissolved, andearly elections in Catalonia have been scheduled for December 21st of 2017.

At present the citizens of Catalonia are living in a socio-political and legal context in which two different parties are telling them which nation-state they belong to. On the one hand, the Spanish state which has applied Article 155 reducing the rights of citizens in the autonomous region. On the other, a Catalan Republic that has been declared by the Catalan parliament and automatically been rejected by the international community.

 Democracy has been the catchword used by both the Catalan and the Spanish governments over the past few months, while the population as a whole has seen its rights being crumpled.

This is the first unilateral declaration of independence by a region within a European Union member state. It is important to make sense of the process in order to understand the vicious cycle we seem to have entered. Better understanding can help democratize our democracies and present virtuous responses to the threats we face as citizens.  


For more

Listen to the last  radio interviews of Pablo Ouziel: / This interview starts at the beginning of the show. / This interview runs until minute 9:45, and then it should be forwarded to minute 19:35 for the second part (it was rendered wrong and at minute 9:45 it repeats what has already been heard so one needs to just jump past it to minute 19:35

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