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How Merkel’s Lectures To Thin-Skinned Trump Can Backfire

Lesson number Einz
Lesson number Einz
Clemens Wergin


BERLIN — On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump released a joint statement regarding their first phone call earlier that day. The statement about their 45-minute conversation noted — in the neutral tone common to all statements of this kind — that a wide range of topics were discussed: NATO, the Middle East, north Africa, Russia and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

In light of the outrage Trump's immigration order against citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries has caused, the chancellor's press secretary, Steffen Seibert, thought it necessary on Sunday to elaborate on the topics covered during the phone call. He said that Merkel deeply regretted the U.S. president's immigration curbs and had voiced her displeasure to him during the phone call.

Merkel explained to Trump that the U.S., as a signatory to the Geneva Convention, had to accept refugees from war-torn regions for humanitarian reasons. Translation of this diplomatic speak: Merkel gave the U.S. president a lecture on international law.

This was, by itself, unusual. It was even more unusual for a press secretary to publicly announce what had transpired. It may be interpreted as evidence of the difficult relationship between Merkel and Trump, which is Trump's fault, as he had attacked Merkel's refugee policies during his presidential campaign. Even after his election victory, and shortly before he began his presidential term, Trump repeated this opinion in interviews with German newspaperBild and Britain's The Times.

To be fair, Merkel has done little to ease their troubled relationship. Her immediate reaction to Trump's election, for example, felt like a lecture on morals, democracy and human rights. Merkel offered to work with Trump but only if he respected their "shared values' and then went on to name these factors. Other nations read her reaction as the lecture it was intended to be. The result? She was viewed as the new leader of the free world by American and international media, which did not go unnoticed in Washington.

President Trump on the phone with Chancellor Merkel on Jan. 28 — Pete Marovich/CNP/ZUMA

Merkel's raised stature may flatter Germans. Merkel is able to increase her popularity by distancing herself from Trump because most Germans reject Trump. But by doing so, Merkel has chosen a dangerous path because she openly risks being seen as an international enemy of the president. That's not in her interest. Neither is it in Europe's interest.

Trump's skepticism of the European Union is well known as is his support of Britain's exit from the EU, the so-called "Brexit." The EU is facing its most difficult period since its conception and it doesn't need an annoyed superpower that openly sides with enemies of Europe.

Merkel has become the source of strength and leadership in Europe since Brexit. That's why Merkel would do no favors to Europe if she were to become an antagonistic figure in Trump's mind. The president is known to quickly, and simplistically, divide people into friend or foe. He is also known to be vain and easily insulted. As understandable as it would be to continually oppose Trump, it would not be the smartest move to do so.

The EU already has a powerful enemy within Trump's inner circle, namely former Breitbart boss Steve Bannon, whose radical stance has become evident in the first few days of Trump's presidency. For Bannon, an anti-establishment figure, the EU embodies everything that he hates. He views it as a project of cosmopolitan elites, which is why he has formed close ties with anti-EU populists within Europe. His mouthpiece Breitbart News is now attempting to become a megaphone for those who want to crush the existing system.

Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, is also going to play a central role in future foreign policies as Trump has appointed him a permanent member to the National Security Council — a panel that is usually made up of security experts. This is an unprecedented elevation of a political animal. It's telling that the director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will no longer be permanent members of this council.

It's already tough for people like defense secretary James Mattis, a supporter of transatlantic relations, to convince Trump to play America's traditional role of being a stabilizing counterweight to Europe. Merkel would therefore be well-advised to resist the temptation to distinguish herself as Trump's adversary. By doing so she risks making the lives of people like Bannon easier, and fanning the flames of anti-European sentiment in Trump's mind.

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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