Quotes: On European Populism

I think this quote, from Will Italy’s Populists Upend Europe? by Mark Leonard today at Project Syndicate, makes the salient point with an economy of words:

“An Italian government combining two very different strands of populism will pose a serious threat to the European project, because it could form the core of a new federation of populists and Euroskeptics that have hitherto operated separately. No longer would Euroskeptics be fragmented into different tribes of anti-immigrant politicians on the right and anti-austerity politicians on the left.”

Seems to me this is the key to making an effective (if potentially frightening) populism adhere. Can opposite poles hold together?

I’m with the less austerity camp, and I find some level of “common currency abuse” on the part of “German fiscal hawks,” as Leonard calls them. I’m less inclined toward the xenophobes and God-and-country nationalists at the other pole. Perhaps they feel the same in reverse?

Can this coalition hold together?

Italy is the European spot to watch this summer. That is, unless the May government falls.

Anybody?

Africa Vignette 3: Germany Enters the Scramble

Tanzania generally comprises the former German East Africa. Germany came late to the Scramble for Africa, as the Europeans’ colonizing land grabs came to be known, and left early, because it was stripped of its colonies after the Great War. Its important colonies were only four – today’s Togo, Cameroon and Namibia along the west coast and today’s Tanzania, in the east.

For a while, German Chancellor Bismarck hung back from colonizing Africa with plaintive realpolitik: “Here is Russia and here is France,” he said, “with Germany in the middle. That is my map of Africa.”

Bismarck was no cosmopolitan, hardly a product of the European salon. A provincial, a scion of Prussia, he declared “The only healthy basis of a large state which differentiates it essentially from a petty state, is state egoism and not romanticism.” And by 1884, as Britain and France were madly laying their African stakes, a sense the Germans called Torschlusspanik, or “door-closing-panic,” took hold in Germany, a fear that it might be left out. Traders felt mercantile pressure from their British and French rivals, and let the government know it.

Maybe it was best to get while the getting was still good. Bismarck reexamined, applied a dose of egoism and with the support and urging of business interests from Hamburg and Bremen, Bismarck instructed the German explorer Dr. Gustav Nachtigal to seize Cameroon, Togoland and Southwest Africa, which is now Namibia.

Climbing sand dunes in Sossusvlei, Namibia.

See more photos from Namibia in the Namibia Gallery at Earthphotos.com.

That’ll Show ‘Em

To the long list of stiff upper lip-wielding Brits, including the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, Sir Francis Drake who defeated the Spanish Armada and Henry V, the king who defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt, we may add King George VI, father of the current Queen Elisabeth.

King George woke one desperate May morning in 1940 to a call from Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who was just then desperately holed up in an air raid shelter in a palace garden against an ongoing assault from the Germans.

“She begged me to send aircraft for the defense of Holland. I passed this message on to everyone concerned & went back to bed.”

Attaboy.

Quoted in Last Hope Island by Lynne Olsen.

Quotes: On the Berlin Wall

Remarkable. According to Leonid Bershidsky writing on another matter at Bloomberg, the Berlin Wall has been down now for as long as it stood:

“The Berlin Wall divided the city for 28 years, two months and 28 days starting Aug. 13, 1961. It ended on Nov. 9, 1989, when Guenter Schabowski, a top East German official, erroneously announced that crossing into West Berlin was now permitted. Now that the same amount of time — 28 years, two months and 28 days — has passed, it’s fitting that the next German government is expected to end the solidarity tax created to even out economic differences between both sides.”

These photos are from a few weeks later, New Year’s Eve in 1989, the only time I’m pretty sure I was where the most important thing happening on earth was happening that day.

Just off to the left of the midnight photo, David Hasselhoff had been standing way up in a bucket raised above the crowd, singing all night. Okay, so there’s no accounting for taste.

Best Photos

This guy lives in the Munich zoo. He’s from my other web site, EarthPhotos.com, where there are some 20,000 photos from over 100 countries. Check it out.

Here are the four most viewed photos there, as of today:

Tree climbing lion, Ishasha, Uganda

Vegetable market alongside the huge fish market in Hoi An, Vietnam

Balloon ride over Cappadocia, Turkey

And here, masters of the(ir) universe, in an office block along Oxford Street, London at quitting time

Explore all 20,000 photos.

The European Question

In light of German politicians’ inability to form a government, the German Question has been turned on its head. Post-Cold War, the German Question asked how the unification of East and West Germany might be achieved without creating an economic and political juggernaut, with all the baggage that prospect carried.

Suddenly now, wonders Handelsblatt Global, is Germany “becoming incapable of assuming enough leadership to guide and champion Europe in a globalized world?” In the same week, Matthew Engel’s Travels in Belgium, the dysfunctional, fractured state at the heart of the EU reminds us that that country “went 589 days in 2010-11 without a fully-formed government.”

Meanwhile, Brexit still means Brexit and we can all see how that’s working out. Just ask, (among just about anybody else) anyone living along the once and future Republican/Northern Irish border.

Can European governments govern? That is the new European Question.