Merkel in Berlin on Oct. 30
Heribert Prantl


MUNICH — Angela Merkel has seldom sounded so straightforward and genuine. It was a clear speech, it was an honest speech. It was such a remarkably clever speech too that you could almost believe that after retreating as party chief, Merkel actually wants to and will remain chancellor until Germany's next general election.

But it's not what Merkel announced — at least not exactly. She didn't declare that she was fighting for her chancellorship, she only said she was "ready" to run the government until 2021. That was a subtle, well-thought-out and obviously long-brewing announcement. It was the first half of a farewell speech, the great entrance into the great exit. Irony aside, the announcement of her withdrawal from her CDU party leadership means that the Merkel era is coming to an end. The renewal, the reformation of the CDU, can now begin.

And this will also force its coalition partners, the CDU's sister party from Bavaria (CSU) and the Socialist party SPD, to take action, bringing new dynamism to German politics. Indeed, none of the parties in the ruling coalition can any longer be content with just more of the same. This means that when Merkel leaves, others will also have to leave.

Previous German leaders failed to identify the right moment.

But for now, the country is faced with a forest of question marks. Who will succeed Merkel as party leader? There are the by-now usual suspects: her Health Minister Jens Spahn, the CDU's Secretary General Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet, or Merkel's longtime rival Friedrich Merz. Or will it be a fresh face, like the Minister President of Schleswig-Holstein Daniel Günther? What's left of Merkel's term will also depend on that decision.

Does this mean Angela Merkel is now a lame duck chancellor? Not quite. Merkel wouldn't have resigned from the party chairmanship if she had seen another possibility to keep the country's reins firmly in her hand. The unrest in her party was too great, nearly reaching a panic state. The Hesse election (in which the CDU lost more than 10 percentage points) was probably the line Merkel had set for herself to make the decision to step down. It was the right decision, and it was and is the attempt at an orderly stabilization of power for a transition period that should not drag out too long.

Merkel speaking in Berlin on Oct. 29 — Photo: Bernd Von Jutrczenka/DPA/ZUMA

In recent years, Merkel had repeatedly said that one of the most difficult decisions was to find the right time to stop. Previous German leaders failed to identify the right moment. Even the first post-War chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, couldn't find it. Neither did Helmut Kohl, under whose chancellorship Angela Merkel took her first political steps.

Had the times we live in been normal, the right moment for Angela Merkel to say "Thank you, that's it" would have been before last year's general elections, after three terms in office. But these are not normal times. In 2017, Merkel saw herself obliged to face an unpredictable new U.S. president and the unleashed furies of nationalism worldwide. While Europe and the U.S. were reeling, Merkel decided to stay on — less for pleasure than for duty. But that wasn't and still isn't enough. Government experience, seriousness, and solidity are a nice combination, but they're no guarantee of success. Merkel's recipe so far was success itself ... as long as she had it. Since it crumbled and finally failed to happen again, doubts about her leadership have been growing.

She's trying to defy the odds, and her decision opens up new possibilities. The continuation of the grand coalition under a new leadership is one of them. But it's more likely that things will gradually move towards a new broader coalition: the CDU/CSU, the liberals FDP and the Green party. This is the coalition that failed to materialize a year ago. Back then, the leader of the FDP Christian Lindner would repeatedly explain that the main obstacle was Angela Merkel. After Monday's speech, this obstacle no longer exists.

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A tribute to the 30,000 Iranian political prisoners murdered in Iran in 1988

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Laba diena!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Afghanistan's Taliban demand to speak at the United Nations, China takes a bold ecological stand and we find out why monkeys kept their tails and humans didn't. Business magazine America Economia also looks at how Latin American countries are looking to attract a new generation of freelancers known as "digital nomads" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.



• Taliban ask to speak at UN: With global leaders gathered in New York for the 76th meeting of the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan's new rulers say their country's previously accredited United Nations ambassador no longer represents the country, and have demanded a new Taliban envoy speak instead. Afghanistan is scheduled to give the final intervention next Monday to the General Assembly, and a UN committee must now rule who can speak.

• Four corpses found on Belarus border with Poland: The discovery of bodies of four people on Belarus-Poland border who appear to have died from hypothermia are raising new accusations that Belarus is pushing migrants to the eastern border of the European Union, possibly in retaliation over Western sanctions following the contested reelection of the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko. The discovery comes amid a surge of largely Afghani and Iraqi migrants attempting to enter Poland in recent weeks.

• China to stop building coal-burning power plants abroad: Under pressure to limit emissions to meet Paris climate agreement goals, China announces an end to funding future projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries through its Belt and Road initiative.

• Turkey ratifies Paris climate agreement: Following a year of wildfires and flash floods, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at the UN that Turkey will become the last G-20 country to ratify the emissions-limiting accords. Turkey already signed the agreement in 2016, but has yet to hold a vote in parliament.

• Mass evacuations following Canary Islands volcano: More than 6,000 people have fled the Spanish archipelago as heavy flows of lava have buried hundreds of homes. Four earthquakes have also hit the Canaries since the Sunday eruption, which could also cause other explosions and the release of toxic gas.

• Rare earthquake hits Melbourne: The 5.9 magnitude quake struck near Melbourne in southern Australia, with aftershocks going as far Adelaide, Canberra and Launceston. Videos shared on social media show at least one damaged building, with power lines disrupted in Australia's second largest city. No injuries have been reported.

• The evolutionary tale of tails: Charles Darwin first discovered that humans evolved to lose this biological trait. But only now are New York scientists showing that it was a single genetic tweak that could have caused this shift, while our monkey relatives kept their backside appendages.


"The roof of Barcelona" — El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world. Work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882 as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. The Barcelona-based daily reports that a press conference Tuesday confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years. Although it is currently the second tallest spire of the complex, it will become the highest point of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated "great cross."


Latin America, the next mecca for digital nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend, reports Natalia Vera Ramírez in business magazine America Economia.

💻🏖️ Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all. Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote on Twitter, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

🧳 While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050. Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

💰 In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work. It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.

➡️


$2.1 billion

Google announced yesterday it will spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building, in one of the largest sales of a building in U.S. history. The tech giant plans on growing its New York workforce to more than 14,000 people.


It is sickening and shameful to see this kind of president give such a lie-filled speech on the international stage.

— Opposition Brazilian congresswoman Vivi Reis in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's inflammatory 12-minute speech at the UN General Assembly. The unvaccinated head of state touted untested COVID-19 cures, criticized public health measures and boasted that the South American country's environmental protections were the best in the world.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

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