Posts Tagged Angela Merkel

The Forrest Gump of French Politics

The Forrest Gump of French Politics

Nicolas Sarkozy has this funny habit of making me laugh.

No, not because he is in every way a wannabe modern Napoleon Bonaparte. Not because, like Kim Jong-Il, he wears high-heeled shoes in order to look taller when standing behind a podium. Not because he flaunts his supermodel wife like a fashion accessory.

Sarkozy has it all – he is president of one of Europe’s largest democracies, is married to the not unattractive Carla Bruni and gets to live in the Élysée Palace. And yet he still feels the need to play the role of the man who somehow needs to have done everything and been everywhere, even when it makes him look like a blithering idiot. One can only wonder what might have happened had we managed to get Sarko, Gordon Brown and former US President George W. Bush into a room to have a game of pin the tail on the donkey: Dubya would have pinned the tail where the head would go and break into a gurning smile, McBroon would have missed the point of the exercise completely, while Sarko would have waited twenty years to tell us all that he had managed to ride away on what was not a donkey buy a thoroughbred cheval.

Sarko’s latest stunt – some would say scandal, though I think it is far too comedic for that – involves his alleged appearance in Berlin on November 9th 1989 which he has shared with the world on his Facebook profile page. Here we see the twenty-years-younger Sarko and a friend chipping merrily chipping away at the Berlin wall – playing his own little part in what was the beginning of Die Wende.

It now has emerged that Sarkozy, then mayor of the Paris district of Neuilly, was not in Berlin at all on November 9th but in Paris celebrating a Charles de Gaulle anniversary; his claim that he was there with former Prime Minister Alain Juppé has also been disputed by Juppé himself, who has said that the pair arrived in Berlin a week later on November 16th. That said, even if Sarko had managed to be in Berlin on November 9th while his double was in Paris he would never have been able to be seen chipping away at the wall that evening; there was little chance he would have made it in time – even if he had a direct line to Erich Mielke at Stasi HQ – and West Berliners only started hacking at the wall on the following day in any case.

Nicolas Sarkozy playing his own little role in history...

Nicolas Sarkozy playing his own little role in history... Allegedly.

Ah, but Sarko tells us that he had gone through Checkpoint Charlie and had started hacking at the wall from the Eastern side – so what does it matter that the citizens of West Berlin only got wind of things the following day? They were beaten to the punch, donchaknow. Le Supersarko got there first:

“Later, we went to Checkpoint Charlie to go through to the eastern side of the city and confront this wall, on which we were able to land a few blows with a pickax[e]”. (“In France, a Clash of Memories and Media”, New York Times)

Hmm. Despite Sarko’s invented memory suggesting that he and his pals were chipping away from the Eastern side, this is contradicted by the photograph itself which shows the section of wall covered in graffiti. And as anyone with even a passing knowledge of this period of history knows, the graffiti was on the Western side. Nobody – save those who ran the risk of being shot at by the trigger-happy Grepos – got even close enough to daub enough a spot of paint on the eastern side of the ridiculously-titled Antifaschistischer Schutzwall or “Anti-Fascist Protective Rampart”, which was as plain and grey as the day it was constructed in 1961.

So what is the point of this exercise? Not content to simply play his presidential role, Sarko has seen fit to buttress this with some cock-and-bull story that he somehow did more – and that he was right in the thick of the action. It leaves German Chancellor Angela Merkel trailing his wake: while Sarko the hero was supposedly rubbing shoulders with the newly-reunited citizens of East and West Berlin, Frau Merkel was heading off after work for her weekly session at the sauna. Which is, of course, far less exciting.

One has to wonder where Sarko will be seen next – rumour has it that he was also seen in Nazareth some two-thousand years ago. Or was it on the moon? Or at the elaborate coronation of Emperor Bokassa I?

I think it is time for some Sarkozy-related Photoshop phuckery-phoo, Forrest Gump stylee… Watch this space!

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Schwarz-Gelb!

Schwarz-Gelb!

No, I haven’t suddenly been transformed into a Dynamo Dresden supporter – or, heaven forbid, a fan of Borussia Dortmund. But after a lengthy build-up Germany went to the polls yesterday and finally said auf wiedersehen to the Sozis.

Of course, many of us here in the UK would have been none the wiser, as there was none of the almost wall to wall coverage that followed the recent presidential elections in the United States. Given that Germany is the largest country in EU I found this just a little bit strange.

So, Angela Merkel has finally got what she wants and is all set up to lead a Black-Yellow coalition – so called after the respective colours attributed to Merkel’s CDU (and its Bavarian sister party the CSU) and the pro-business FDP (which British journalists often confuse with our own Liberal Democrats). I am hopeful that this new government unburdened by the tight ropes of Socialism can press on and take Germany – and with it, Europe – out of this recession. We already have Nicolas Sarkozy in power in France (OK, they could do better, but hey…), and all we need now is for the Labour Party to be well and truly crushed on this side of the channel come next year.

Back in the mid-1990s as part of my course at University some of us spent a week in Germany following the election campaign – the highlight of which was meeting the then Bundeskanzler Helmut Kohl in Bonn. We then followed the campaign to Karlsruhe and met FDP leader Klaus Kinkel, where my friend Ralf (who now works for a major German newspaper, I believe) cheekily tried to cadge some tickets for the football match between BVB and local team KSC. Herr Kinkel was friendly but apologetic – he had indeed received a number of complementary tickets but had already given them away! (We got tickets for the match anyway…)

The fact that we could walk up to a party leader – a man who at the time was also both Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor –  in the street was in today’s context amazing. Nowhere today would you be able to walk up to such a high-level politician and chat for more than a few minutes. I think he also found it fascinating that some of us had specially come over from the UK to follow the election and was genuinely interested in what we had to say about the experience.

Perhaps the funniest moment was when we saw a group of visiting Dortmund supporters chanting “BVB BVB” on their way to the FDP beer tent – only to emerge suitably refreshed chanting “FDP, FDP”. A sure-fire campaign winner, perhaps. Of course, I soon headed off for the CDU tent for a pre-match Maß, where I spent a good few hours discussing how us young British and German conservatives could put the world to right.

Ah, the good old days.

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