Tag Archive | "Germany"

VW Under Fire: Legal fallout of the emissions sensor deception

Volkswagen (VW) has faced hurdles in the company’s almost 78-year history. As a company formed under infamous Nazi leader Adolph Hitler’s vision and direction, reformation was in order for the car to ultimately live up to its name as the “people’s car.” However, after World War II ended, the company did succeed in creating well-built, affordable cars.

Now, VW is facing another hurdle that may be worse than previous ones. VW was recently exposed for using software to “rig” diesel emissions tests in the United States and across Europe. The software was used to cover-up emission outputs in order to meet the emission regulations of countries in which their cars and products were sold. Over 482,0000 vehicles in the U.S. are thought to be affected by this scandal and estimates of up to 11 million cars effected worldwide. In the U.S., alone, the carmaker could face penalties from the Environmental Protection Agency of up to $18 billion, and, again, that is only from the less than 500,000 cars affected within the U.S.

Potential Fall-Out

Germany is currently considered the most economically sound country within the European Union, has often been looked to for bailouts for other countries, i.e. Greece, and has been at the forefront of most recent EU stimulus and growth plans. The Country may now be in for a massive storm.

One in seven workers in Germany are dependent on the car industry, 274,000 of those workers are employed directly by VW, and 18% of Germany’s exports are VW cars and parts. VW has already admitted to “rigging” emissions tests on 2.8 million vehicles in Germany. Results from European Road Tests showed a 40% higher nitrogen oxides emission than standard allow and was advertised by the company. Due to these revelations, VW stock has dropped over 34% as of September 25th, 2015 and the threat of astronomical fines and consumer lawsuits that are very likely to arise or have already been filed, looms large over Germany and her citizens. If VW is not able to pull through this scandal or has to sell-off additional assets or subsidiaries, there is no telling what the damage might be to Germany’s economy, and, in turn, the EU as a whole. Additionally, in regards to the current migrant crisis and Germany at the helm of plans to relocate and assimilate such people, the depression of the German economy may thwart governmental plans and avenues for which support and jobs may have been provided.

The fall-out is likely to reach other countries as well, and, in fact, has already affected some industries in China and Japan. Some stocks in the Japanese markets fell as much as 16% and carmakers across the board saw dips in their shares. The most affected stocks were manufacturers of car parts and specifically parts used in diesel engines.

Another aspect of the fall-out of this massive scandal will be trust in corporate social responsibility programs. In Volkswagen’s 2014 Sustainability Report, environmental issues are named as a top priority. The quote leading the Environmental section of the report is as follows: “We have set ourselves ambitious targets with regard to environmental protection, because we’re aiming to be the leading player in ecological terms.”

The company touts its accomplishments of being the first automobile manufacturer to commit to the EU’s emission standards, with an achievement of this goal by the year 2020. While the company still has time to reach such a goal, however unlikely, one has to wonder if they committed to such high expectations with the thought of mind to cheat the system and will likely be skeptical of all future goals and sustainability reports.

Not only did Volkswagen damage the image of their own Corporate Social Responsibility programs, but investors and consumers across the globe may now question the motives, intentions, and sincerity of good deeds committed by all corporations and wonder whether the company is contributing as they say. With a growing distrust of corporations due to greed and massively disproportionate wealth and power, many consumers now a day are researching what they buy, from whom they buy, and many are deciding to “buy local” so as to avoid just this type of deception. This type of scandal reinforces the need for consumers to spot check corporations and holds them to higher standards. Volkswagen has severely damaged their image as the “people’s car” and has likely destroyed their ability to meet any of their goals, including becoming the most “successful, fascinating, and sustainable automobile manufacturer in the world.”

Current Investigations and Potential Liability

At this point in time, it is unclear how far up the ladder the deception at VW went. It is not known whether the CEO, Winterkorn, who has since resigned, directed the use of the rigging devices or if he knew the devices were in use. There are clues that he was or should have been aware, as evidence has surfaced that the company was previously warned against their usage. If there was deliberate fraud or malfeasance, Winterkorn and other directors and officers of the company may become personally liable for damages.

An investigation regarding the company’s liability for Securities fraud is also underway. Investigators are attempting to determine whether VW provided intentionally false information to investors and the public as a whole. A lawsuit has already been commenced claiming such fraud; however, there does not seem to be enough information, as mentioned before, to determine the intentionality of the misleading and deceptive information or who within the company was aware of the use of the “rigging” devices.

Additionally, any product liability or product recall insurance VW may have held will likely not pay out on any or most of the claims against the company. Because of the deliberate nature of the act, the company will most definitely pay fines and legal fees out of their own reserves and future profits.

Criminal charges are likely also pending against all involved in the scandal, both officer and director level and engineers or other workers involved in implementing the illegal devices. The U.S. may have trouble prosecuting those involved, however, because most of the activity involved, occurred overseas and European countries will likely have first “dibs” on prosecutions.

VW has hired Kirkland & Ellis LLP to defend against all charges. The firm defended BP after the oil spill disaster in the Gulf Coast in 2010. It is yet to be determined if any defenses will be put forth or if a settlement will be forthcoming. One quote from Volkswagen’s Corporate Social Responsibility Report sticks out as a great way to end this blog: “One-time certainties are being consigned to the past; uncertainty is becoming our constant companion.” Hans Dieter Potsch, Member of the Group Board of Management responsible for Finance and Controlling.

It will be interesting to see how or if Volkswagen may recover from the greedy and deceitful actions of the company’s leadership and how Europe will react to the scandal over the long term. Uncertainty will definitely remain a  “constant companion” to VW, Europe (specifically Germany), VW consumers, environmentalists and corporate- watchdogs, alike, well into the future.

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Migrants seen as Economic Detriment to Greece and Benefit to Germany

By the end of July 2015, more than 124,000 refugees and migrants had arrived in Greece; an astonishing 750% increase in the amount of refugees and migrants from the same time the previous year. The vast majority of these refugees are those feeing conflict and human rights violations in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq in wake of the humanitarian crisis.

Refugees arriving in Lesbos, Greece. Photo credit: Laxar Simeonov (click for source)

For these refugees, the Greek financial crisis has been both a blessing and a curse. For many, travel into the Greek islands is attractive because of the country’s reputation for leniency in immigration laws and lack of resources to adequately control its borders and the flow of immigrants. However, once they’re in, many face the bleak reality of the struggling Greek economy. Though some view Greece as simply the entry point into Western Europe with plans to move north to more prosperous countries such as Germany, many flee to Greece with very little possessions and money and can’t afford to travel any further. It’s at this point that the realities of the Greek economy and the scope of the refugee crisis come into view: Greece simply cannot support and process the major influx of refugees while at the same time trying to recover its dismal economic state. Frustrations in the wake of such considerations have reached a tipping point recently culminating in riots on the island of Lesbos over seemingly inefficient process for intake of refugees and inability of the government to provide basic necessities to those arriving on the islands.

Although Greece is struggling to assist refugees, the generous response from the Greek society, in a very difficult time, should be and appears to be acknowledged with action and support from the European Union. On September 22, the EU Interior Ministers voted in favor of a quota system to address the crisis and help to relocate asylum-seeks throughout Europe. Though the plan has been approved by the EU Interior Ministers, it still must be considered by the EU Presidents and Prime Ministers, and the EU remains divided on how best to address the refugee crisis, with some member states calling the quota system “unreasonable” and a “waste of time.” However, scholars on the other side have taken the position that the massive influx of refugees seeking employment and ready to build a new life presents a valuable opportunity for countries like Germany, with an aging workforce and declining population, and have gone as far as to forecast that a sharp increase in growth will result for those willing to accept new migrants and asylum-seekers stating, “an influx of 1 million people over the next three years would raise the country’s GDP by 0.6% by 2020.” Germany’s ability to integrate a substantial number of asylum-seeks seems to have been taken into consideration, with Germany being asked to take by far the highest number of immigrants under the proposed plan.

Demi Arenas is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal or International Law and Policy.

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Schengen Fails Under Weight of Migrant Influx as Sovereignty Trumps


The migrant crisis is forcing tensions between the free-movement created by the Schengen Agreement and notions of state sovereignty.  The crisis has brought into questions of European solidarity as countries force migrants from one country to the next.  In practice the EU’s Dublin Regulation, which requires that a migrant’s asylum claim be processed in the European country where he/she first arrives, has been de facto suspended.  Some have suggested, which this author agrees with, that the Dublin Regulation needs to be completely revamped to respond to the current crisis.

Just this weekend, the Hungarian government has accused Croatia of breaching international law by failing to register migrants.  At the same time, Hungary is currently building a razor wire fence in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants into the country.  Additionally, a number of migrants who reached Austria via Hungary have told the BBC they had not been registered in Hungary either, simply driven in buses across the country and told to walk over a railway line into Austria.

Meanwhile, in the last 24 hours, Austria has seen the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants.  Migrants were sent first to Hungary by Croatia, who stated it was unable to accommodate the 20,000 plus migrants who had arrived since Wednesday. While initially welcoming them, Croatia later state said it was unable to cope, sending them to Hungary.  Hungary then turned to Austria, while accusing Croatia of breaking rules by failing to register migrants.

EU Crisis - Boheme
Migrants queue as they wait to board a regional train at the main railway station in Munich, Germany. (Reuters)

Countries like Germany, which have welcomed refugees and have offered to take in records numbers of migrants are now finding that such offerings are untenable.  In his State of the Union speech on 9 September the EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, called free movement under Schengen “a unique symbol of European integration”.  However, such integration is now being tested.  While Mr. Juncker called for “better joint management of our external borders and more solidarity in coping” with the influx, the reality is that few countries have demonstrated solidarity in order to find a durable solution to the crisis.

While EU nations desperately guard their sovereignty and shift the burden from one country to the next, the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Eritrea continue raging, forcing migrants to choose between enduring extremely dangerous and dire situations at home, or leaving their homes and embarking on perilous journeys towards what they hope will be safety. Illustrating the dangers many migrants face in their flee towards safety is a recent warning from Croatia of the risk of landmines if migrants venture off the main roads in border areas, where Croat and Serb forces clashed in the early 1990s. Yet many migrants are still reported to be entering Croatia across those dangerous fields in an attempt to bypass border controls.

One migrant who made it safely to Austria told the Associated Press, “I feel like I’ve been born anew. It makes no difference whether I am delayed, whether I stay here two days. The important thing is that I’ve finally arrived and that I am now finally safe.”  However, the travel options for migrants remain dangerous, with the Greek coastguard reported that a five-year-old girl died when the boat taking her from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos sank, and at least 13 other migrants on board are missing.

What is clear is that the conflicts in countries such Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan shows no signs of stopping, and as a result, migrants will continue to seek safe haven in Europe.  With attempts such as the EC’s recent proposal for mandatory quotas to distribute 160,000 migrants EU-wide being rejected, countries need to do much more to address this issue which will not disappear any time soon.  However, the problem is incredibly complex, as migration expert Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute Europe has suggested.

Papdemtriou stated recently that to address the migrant crisis, Europe will have to invest in creating real opportunities for refugees so that they can stay in neighboring countries, make a livelihood, get an education, and access health services. He suggests further that Europe should work with countries that are a launching pad, by targeting three or four key countries on the pathway from countries experiencing large patterns of migrations, and do as much as it takes to get their cooperation — to stop traffickers, to create opportunities for people to stay, and create a safe pathway.  This of course requires the cooperation of European countries and governments, something that has been in short supply during the crisis.  This is not to oversimplify the fact that governments have genuine security concerns, and real concerns regarding resources both economic and otherwise, and this crisis is incredibly complicated.  There is no “easy” solution.  However, what this situation requires is a strategic response, which cannot be achieved without the cooperation of affected countries, including a possible revamp of the Dublin Regulation and an open dialogue on the functioning of the Schengen Agreement within the framework of the current crisis.

Emily Boehme is a 3L at University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Senior Managing Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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The College Conundrum: How US student loan repayment policy created $1 trillion in outstanding debt


Credit to: https://farm1.staticflickr.com/44/148486190_9e1daed403_o.jpg

On average, a US student will spend approximately $21,000 per year pursuing a college degree, approximately 22% of which will be paid through borrowed funds. Considering the increasing costs of college tuition coupled with the need for students to borrow almost ¼ of their tuition, it no surprise that the outstanding federal student loan debt has crossed the $1 trillion mark. With continuously increasing tuition threatening to put higher education just out of reach for many Americans, it’s intriguing to consider that many countries around the world take a surprisingly different approach to higher education tuition and funding.

Recently, Germany reverted back to a free tuition model for public universities, after an eight year period in which the universities were allowed to charge up to €1,000 per year (approx. equivalent to $1,300). Denmark takes a similar approach but goes a step further by providing higher education completely free, not only to its own citizens but also to those of any country in the European Union, while also providing monthly stipends for cost-of-living expenses. While not tuition free, Australia nonetheless has a similar student-centric policy that bases tuition on major, with higher rates for those areas in which the student can expect a higher future income. As an incentive to lessen the amount of debt taken on by students in financing their education, students who pay as much of their tuition upfront as possible receive a 10% discount on their tuition rate.

When compared with countries like Australia and New Zealand, the United States’ debt forgiveness and repayment policy seems rather harsh. As previously mentioned, Australian students who are able to pay some of their tuition upfront receive a discounted rate. Anything that is not paid up front is paid back based on income but only once the student has graduated, become employed, and their income has reached a certain minimum level. In the event that their income drops below the minimum level, they are not required to make further payments until their income again meets the minimum standard.

While the US does offer a somewhat comparable systems in theory, in practice the differences are significant. For example, American students do have the option of applying for an income-based repayment plan, but rather than automatically being enrolled in the plan or allowing anyone to opt-in, only students demonstrating partial financial hardship can take advantage of this option. Similarly, American students have the option to apply for deferment or forbearance if they are unable to continue making payments on their loans, however, these options are limited in time, up to three years for deferment and twelve months for forbearance. Most significantly, interest continues to accumulate during the deferment/forbearance period whereas no interest accumulates during the Australian no-payment period.

So is a US college degree worth the increasing price tag? The answer depends on your perspective.

In the US, college graduates in general have a much lower unemployment rate than those without a college degree. As you might expect, when comparing unemployment rates of all college graduates with recent college graduates, the unemployment rate for recent college graduates is higher but maintains fairly steady (peaking at 5% for all graduates in 2010 compared with 7% for recent college graduates in the same year). Somewhat troubling however, is the fact approximately 44% of graduates are underemployed, meaning those graduates who report having a job are employed in a job that does not require their degree. Thus the question of whether or not to pursue a college education depends on balancing the likelihood of landing a “dream job” (or even finding a job after graduation), with the encumbrance of a large amount of unforgivable debt. Given the staggering and still increasing amount of federal student loan debt, this, apparently, is a gamble that many hopeful young Americans, myself included, are willing to take.


Demi Arenas is a 2L and Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Germany takes center stage in diplomacy


Credit: http://www.zif-berlin.org/fileadmin/uploads/ueber_zif/bilder/News-Bilder/Logo_Review2014.png

In order to reevaluate its foreign policy approach, Germany conducted a review (“Review 2014”) last year.  Review 2014 included multiple town hall meetings with German voters and debates among foreign policy experts around the world.  Even during Review 2014, voters’ and experts’ opinions and approaches changed.  Initially, the majority of German voters disagreed with the statement “Germany should be more engaged internationally.”  This position changed, however, as 2014 progressed.

When looking back at 2014, and the world events contained therein, it is no wonder Review 2014 transformed.  The Ebola crisis in Africa; Ukraine, Russia, and Crimea dispute; continued fighting between Israel and Hamas; the rise of ISIS; and the revival of the Euro crisis when Greece rebelled against austerity just to name of few, the Western powers were spread thin.  Germany, as France was preoccupied in Africa, the United States involved in the Middle East, and the United Kingdom taking, what some would say, a negligible stance on foreign policy, left Germany to attend to the crises occurring in Europe: Ukraine, Russia, and Crimea and the Euro and Greece.

Chancellor Angela Merkel showed her stamina in diplomacy when working to resolve these disputes.  Chancellor Merkel takes the approach that it is always better to keep talking than to fuel conflict.  Germany’s history essentially forces Germany to take this approach, however.  World War II and the politics surround the Berlin Wall are still too fresh to ignore.  Any fueling of the fire or unilateral action by Germany, automatically brings back feelings of a not so distant past.  Regardless of why Germany and Chancellor Merkel takes this approach, their persistent diplomacy and “ethical” methodology sits well with German citizens.

As a result of these events and Germany’s responses, Review 2014 led to the following goals:

These goals were posted online where Review 2014 encourages visitors to continue the conversation as Germany’s foreign policy evolves.

Review 2014 has evolved into a social platform to discuss and change Germany’s foreign policy approach.  Should other countries use a similar review process to address foreign policy or is this process unique to Germany?  Engaging citizens is never a bad idea and it would not be surprising to learn that the majority of Western citizens likely agree with the statement “speak softly and carry a big stick,” putting diplomacy before fueling a conflict.  However, other Western countries do not need to tread as lightly when making changes to foreign policy because they do not have the same recent tainted past.  Opening up discussions regarding politics to citizens using a social platform appears to be a unique way to communicate with voters, but let’s withhold any firm judgment for 18 months to see what Germany does with the goals from Review 2014.

Alicia Guber is a 3L and the Editor in Chief on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy. 

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Critical Analysis: The Resurgence of the Modern Baby Box

Baby hatches (also called baby boxes) are not an entirely modern concept, as their use can be traced back to medieval times.  Their purpose has also largely remained the same: to allow a mother to anonymously leave the child in a safe and protected place, the baby box, when she feels she is not capable of providing for the child.  The child’s father or other family members can utilize the baby box as well.  Whether the mother is leaving the baby at a local hospital, church, or charity, mothers do so for different reasons, be it to avoid having an abortion or female infanticide (in some countries), or to leave an illegitimate or disfigured child in the care of others.  However, the resurgence of the baby box in numerous countries throughout Europe and Asia has spurred a hotly contested debate between the desire of the mother to leave the baby anonymously and the right of the child to discover the identity of his or her parents, a conflict that may never be resolved.

This is a baby hatch fixed in a wall near a hospital in Berlin, Germany. Image Source: AP

This is a baby hatch fixed in a wall near a hospital in Berlin, Germany. Image Source: AP

In Germany, there are nearly 100 baby boxes in existence.  Generally, the baby is cared for by the providers of the baby box before going through Germany’s legal system for adoption.  In some instances, a mother has the opportunity to return to the site where she left her baby and reclaim him or her within a certain time period.  After a set time, however, the mother cannot return to reclaim the baby and the adoption will be final.  However, the entire operation of baby boxes in Germany is at odds with the country’s laws.

Abandoning a baby is illegal in Germany, and the country’s Constitution provides its citizens with the right to know who their parents are and gives fathers a right to help raise their children.  So allowing the continued operation of the baby boxes falls within a legally gray zone, one that strongly nods towards the social policy that is the foundation of its existence.  Supporters of the baby boxes view them as a last hope for women who are unable to shoulder the burden of taking care of their baby.  Those in opposition believe that baby boxes send the wrong message to society that women can hide their pregnancies and then abandon their babies.  For now, Germany appears to be allowing the operation of the baby boxes despite strong criticism against their existence.

In France, the law gives women the right to have an anonymous birth and a right for their identity be kept secret from their child if they so desire.  The European Court of Human Rights upheld the law in 2003, stating it does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.  However, the operation of baby boxes in France, Germany, and other countries clashes with the right of a child to know or preserve his or her identity, which is guaranteed in Article 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Article 7 also gives a child the right, as far as possible, to know and be cared for by his or her parents.  If a country allows a mother to legally leave her child in a baby box, the child will never know the identity of his or her parents let alone be given the opportunity to be cared for by them.

The continuing conflict between the mother’s desire and (in some countries) right to give birth anonymously and the child’s right to know and be cared for by his or her parents is prevalent in not only Europe but other corners of the world as well.  Whether or not governments will continue to allow the operation of baby boxes in the midst of a debate with no clear right or wrong answer is yet to be determined.

Laura Brodie is a 2L and a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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Critical Analysis: Mother Merkel’s Victory in Germany

Angela Merkel won a large margin victory September 22, 2013, to retain her position as Germany’s Chancellor. Merkel’s political party, the Christian Democrats, received 41.5% of the votes. The opposition, the Social Democrats, garnered 25.7% of the votes, creating the largest voter margin since Germany’s reunification in 1990. Although winning by an unusually high margin, Merkel’s party fell short of securing an absolute majority meaning Merkel and the Christian Democrats must turn toward the formation of a new political coalition.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats, with 41.5% of the votes, have few options to secure a majority in Germany. The Christian Democrats were last aligned with the Free Democrats, but could not push for a coalition with the group in the upcoming term because the Free Democrats failed to secure any seats in parliament.  However, with the failure of the Free Democrats to secure seats in parliament, it would seem a new “grand coalition” is likely. Therefore, the Christian Democrats will likely engage in negotiations with the Social Democrat Party to form a “grand coalition” in the coming weeks. A similar coalition was formed between the Social Democrat Party and Merkel’s Christian Democrats during her first term from 2005-2009. Although the Christian Democrats are expected to reach agreement with the Social Democrat Party, Merkel’s group will also engage in discussions with the Greens Party.  A coalition between the conservative Christian Democrats and the Green Party is unlikely because the Green Party has slowly developed more liberal policies than both the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats.

Angela Merkel making the “Merkel Rhombus,” a symbol of the German Chancellor’s calm and powerful leadership.  Source: Reuters

Angela Merkel making the “Merkel Rhombus,” a symbol of the German Chancellor’s calm and powerful leadership.
Source: Reuters

Chancellor Merkel’s large margin re-election victory in Germany was a rarity in the Eurozone. Merkel remains one of the last leaders in office following the European financial crisis that began five years ago; the leaders of Britain, Italy, Spain, and France have all been subsequently ousted from office.  German media portrays Merkel as a motherly figure for the country, and Merkel’s latest victory in Germany is indicative of the trust placed in her by the German people. The victory further reaffirms her important role in structuring the recovery process for the Eurozone as a whole.

Merkel opposes the issuing of European joint-bonds, and she has been applauded by some for such opposition because Germany has come out of the euro crisis in a much better position than most of its counterparts.  However, as one commentator argues, the success of the Eurozone is dependent on Germany’s actions surrounding economics, including issues such as bailouts and the European banking union.

It is likely that Merkel and the Christian Democrats party will continue to practice policies of austerity, at least in part, and continue to oppose efforts to strengthen the European Central Bank through debt financing. These policies put the Christian Democrats at odds with the Social Democrats; therefore, in order to form a successful coalition, the Social Democrats will need to cooperate with the Christian Democrats in forming a policy of compromise.  Both the Social Democrats and the Green Party support debt mutualisation for the European Union, but Merkel’s Christian Democrat Party is unlikely to change its opposition for such a policy. Therefore, the Eurozone crisis will certainly play a large role in the formation of Germany’s new coalition.

The European Union Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, optimistically stated after Merkel’s victory, “We have now the first signs of recovery in Europe, but it’s still a fragile recovery.”  The German population has already shown that they trust Merkel to improve the European economy and now the European Union is also relying on her to help improve the economic conditions within the Eurozone.  As Merkel becomes more involved in the crisis, her motherly depiction from the German media is slowing spreading.  For now, the struggling European countries, namely, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Cyprus, will have to wait to learn their fate in the coming months as such fate is intimately linked to the direction mother Merkel takes next as Chancellor. But with unemployment reaching over 25% in both Greece and Spain, the countries are hoping for quick resolution.

Stacy Harper is a 3L at Denver Law and Marketing Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Angela Merkel and David Cameron

How Germany Surpassed Great Britain … Economically At Least

In the wake of Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for a voter referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU, new grassroots groups have sprung up supporting a renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership.[1]  While Britain considers removing itself from the EU entirely, Germany has emerged as a powerful leader in the EU.  Some scholars have gone so far as to say that Germany is “keeping Europe afloat.”[2]  What led to Germany’s current power player status is complicated.  Whether it be Germany’s rapid economic growth or German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personality is anyone’s guess.

Now, as Cyprus repeats the Greek meltdown, it has become clearer that the euro zone has not been able to create a “banking union” in any meaningful sense.[3]  Developing a true banking union is made more difficult by the fact that Germany continues to oppose creating a euro-wide deposit insurance program.[4]

Despite the Greek bailout in 2010, and the follow-up bailout in 2012 (of which Germany was the biggest contributor of funds[5]), the EU has record-high unemployment.[6]  As a result of Germany’s economic influence throughout the EU, it will likely be Merkel who dictates what happens in Cyprus.  While Britain was notably absent from discussions surrounding the creation of an EU banking supervisor, Merkel noted that it was “a big step toward more reliability and confidence in the euro zone.”[7]  This post explores some of the factors that led to Germany’s strong economic position in the EU and what that could mean for Britain in the future.

German Economic Influence

Angela Merkel and David Cameron

And with good reason, too!

Most people in Germany, even down to the standup comedians, believe that Germany is economically dominant because of their “system of apprenticeships” and commitment to building a society that helps entrepreneurs.[8]   Germany also overhauled the labor market in an effort to hold down costs.[9]  On top of the societal systems, Merkel reminds Germans of Great Britain’s Margaret Thatcher as one who seems to “balance government accounts as though they were a household budget.”[10]  The difference, however, is that Thatcher had the British people’s support for doing so, but Merkel has no democratic mandate.[11]

This system has led to Germany being the only country in the EU with the funds necessary to deal with financial crisis.[12]  The German economic platform has also given Merkel the power to “dictate the terms under which struggling euro zone nations can apply for further credit, eroding the democratic autonomy of the Greek, Italian and Spanish parliaments.”[13]  In 2012, when Merkel approved the second round of bailouts for Greece, she stated: “The risks of turning away from Greece now are incalculable. No one can assess what consequences would arise for the German economy, on Italy, on Spain, the euro zone as a whole and finally for the whole world.”[14]  Despite these admonitions, the tide of approval for Greek bailouts was turning.

Various headlines such as “German money is being thrown away on the bankrupt Greeks” bore out a strong current of German criticism.[15]  Some posit that Germany continues to do provide bailout funds because of their “self-imposed obligation to help build a Europe where the petty nationalisms that had ruined the continent in two world wars could be definitively overcome.”[16]  As stated by Simon Winder, author of Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern: “The tragedy for the Germans is that they viewed the euro as their great, healing gift to the rest of Europe, an act of self-denial in which they cashed in their totemic deutschmark for the continent’s greater good.”[17]

Britain Meanwhile…

Britain continues to extricate itself from the EU and from any sort of indication that they are willing to assist other failing countries.  In the face of calls for Britain to leave the EU altogether and with Cameron seeking re-election, he is unlikely to offer any British assistance that will back British taxpayers into a European Union corner that they do not want to be in.  Pulling away from the EU at this point has left an opening that Germany’s economy has filled.

Where to From Here? Culture v. Economics

The contrast between the economic strength of Germany and the cultural influence of Britain is stark.  While Germany seems devoid of a cultural identity, “Britain is the cultural dynamo of Europe by a million miles.”[18]   What kind of actual power British cultural influence can bring to the EU with a fledgling British economic system remains to be seen.  What is clear, however, is that the world is looking to Germany for economic answers.

[1] Stephen Castle, British Group Backs Renegotiating E.U. Role, The New York Times, April 22, 2013.

[2] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[3] Hugo Dixon, A Union That Exists in Name Only, The New York Times, March 31, 2013.

[4] Id.

[5] Louise Armitstead, Germany Approves Greek Bail-out but warns Angela Merkel Against Further Help, The Telegraph, Feb. 27, 2012.

[6] David Jolly, Unemployment in Euro Zone Reaches a Record 12%, The New York Times, April 2, 2013.

[7] Raf Casert and Don Melvin, EU Backs Banking Supervisor, Greece Bailout, Yahoo! News, Dec. 13, 2012, available at http://news.yahoo.com/eu-backs-banking-supervisor-greece-bailout-145720588–finance.html.

[8] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[9] David Jolly, Unemployment in Euro Zone Reaches a Record 12%, The New York Times, April 2, 2013.

[10] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[11] Id.

[12] Louise Armitstead, Germany Approves Greek Bail-out but warns Angela Merkel Against Further Help, The Telegraph, Feb. 27, 2012.

[13] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[14] Louise Armitstead, Germany Approves Greek Bail-out but warns Angela Merkel Against Further Help, The Telegraph, Feb. 27, 2012.

[15] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, Treana HickeyComments (0)

David Cameron and Angela Merkel

Cameron Courts Germany to Discuss Great Britain’s Future in the EU

This is a follow up post to my prior post: David Cameron Wants Out of the EU: What are the Risks and Rewards?

Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, arrived in Berlin last week to engage in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The purpose? Demonstrate “the close relationship between the two center-right leaders and a discussion of Britain’s future with the European Union.”[1]  Earlier this year Cameron announced that if his Conservative Party were to be reelected in 2015, he would either “reduce British entanglement with the EU – or allow his people to vote in a referendum to leave the bloc all together.”[2]

David Cameron and Angela Merkel

Sitting down to discuss their differences.
(Irish Examiner)

In the months following his announcement, Cameron has not let up on his calls for a re-evaluation of Britain’s membership in the EU. Just last week, he stated that “British support for the EU was ‘wafer thin’”[3] and that he would like to see member states given the right to opt of some EU laws.   Cameron’s conclusion that Britain’s placement in the EU has lost much of its utility comes on the heels of Britain’s weak economic data[4] and his claims that the EU has “sometimes overreached itself with directive and interventions and interference.”[5]

According to Cameron, “Europe will be more successful if it has the strength of flexibility rather than the weakness of inflexibility.  I think the best outcome for Britain is our membership of a reformed European Union.”[6] This signals a slight change in Cameron’s phrasing of the EU/Britain relationship. Previously, Cameron seemed determined to get Britain out of the EU altogether; now, however, he has started to focus more on reforming the EU.[7]  It is likely that the backlash from both France and Germany have tempered Cameron’s hardliner approach.

Great Britain and Germany Face Off Over Competing Views of the EU

While Cameron and Merkel are making the weekend into a family affair by bringing along their spouses, the relationship between the two has not always been so cordial.[8]  In 2009, Cameron pulled “his Conservatives out of the centre-right bloc in the European Parliament to which Merkel’s Christian Democrats belong.”[9]  Cameron’s previous visit to Berlin in 2011 came on the heels of a Cameron speech where the central message was “less Europe” and Merkel’s speech, given on the same day, emphasized the need for “more Europe.”[10]  Granted, Britain was attempting to maintain its distance from the euro-crisis, but Merkel scoffed at the idea that Britain should still have political pull in the EU.[11]

In March 2012, Britain and the Czech Republic were the only two Eurozone states that refused to sign a new fiscal treaty. While Cameron was complaining that his ideas were being ignored, Merkel described the treaty as a “great leap” and “a first step towards stability and political union.”[12]

Even more recently, Cameron’s plan “to defuse the Tory civil war over Europe by winning back powers from the EU has been thrown into doubt after Germany said it would prefer to solve the Eurozone’s problems without a new European treaty.”[13] Germany’s opposition to Cameron’s plan adds to the already sharp criticism pointed at Great Britain by France, which has come “out against opening up the EU rulebook again in the timescale envisaged by Cameron.”[14]

At Stake for Both Sides

Cameron’s visit is aimed to reduce the chatter surrounding Britain’s touchy relationship with the EU throughout the Eurozone.  Recall that shortly after Cameron’s referendum announcement, France commented that Britain could not have an “a la carte” attitude towards the EU,[15] and “German officials said Britain could not ‘cherry-pick’ the terms of membership.”[16] While German officials are not encouraged by Cameron’s desire to roll back EU powers, they were not surprised.[17]

If Britain leaves the EU, many argue that “France’s relative influence would increase as would that of the southern ‘Club Med’ nations, which tend to be less committed to free markets and budgetary rigor . . . . If Merkel [and Germany lose] Britain, then her game of politics of options”[18] will cease. The question really becomes what price Germany is willing to pay to keep Britain in the EU due to the fact that Britain is an “important German ally, especially on free trade issues.”[19]

The consensus is that Merkel needs Cameron: whether it be for free trade policies that require approval of all 27 EU member states, or on broad sweeping free trade policies.[20]

Some commentators have hinted that Germany and Britain could come to common ground on the issue of reforming the EU, but the depth of that reformation is likely going to be more limited than any of Cameron’s supporters envision.[21]  Germany is unlikely to budge on allowing Britain to opt out of more policy areas or give up “on the core values of European integration, a much stronger political idea on the Continent than in Britain.”[22] Tobias Etzold, an expert on European integration with the German Institute for International Security Affairs, warns: “It is important that Great Britain understands that possible alternative to full membership in the EU would hurt them more than it would hurt the remaining members.”[23]

Cameron would be wise to remember that just this month Merkel and French president, Francois Hollande, “snubbed a UK exercise to assess the impact of EU laws and regulations on Britain and the rest of Europe.”[24]


The topics that are officially slated for discussion between Cameron and Merkel range from the forthcoming G8 summit to the situation in Syria.  The highlight, however, is that the two leaders are scheduled to talk over “all aspects” of EU reformation.[25]

It is interesting to note that at the same time that Cameron seeks to increase Britain’s independence from the EU, he also is fiercely against Scottish independence.[26]  While Cameron may have hundreds of years of history to bolster his argument that Scottish independence is bad for the United Kingdom, one cannot help but be struck by the juxtaposition.

Treana Hickey is a third year law student at the University of Denver and is a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy.

[1] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[2] Andrew Higgins, Europe is Edgy as Cameron Seeks to Loosen Ties, The New York Times, Jan. 23, 2013.

[3] Stephen Brown, Merkel, Cameron to Bring Families Together in Castle Outside Berlin, Yahoo! News, April 12, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-cameron-bring-families-together-castle-outside-berlin-143320632.html.

[4] Carsten Volkery, Opposing Visions of Europe: Tensions Ahead of David Cameron’s Berlin Visit, Spiegel Online, Nov. 17, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/opposing-visions-of-europe-tensions-ahead-of-david-cameron-s-berlin-visit-a-798399.html.

[5] Andrew Sparrow, Cameron and Merkel to Discuss EU Reform in Germany, The Guardian, April 12, 2013.

[6] Cameron to Press for EU Reform During Berlin Visit, Europe Online Magazine, April 12, 2013, http://en.europeonline-magazine.eu/cameron-longs-for-eu-reform_275521.html.

[7] Andrew Sparrow, Cameron and Merkel to Discuss EU Reform in Germany, The Guardian, April 12, 2013.

[8] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[9] Stephen Brown, Merkel, Cameron to Bring Families Together in Castle Outside Berlin, Yahoo! News, April 12, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-cameron-bring-families-together-castle-outside-berlin-143320632.html.

[10] Carsten Volkery, Opposing Visions of Europe: Tensions Ahead of David Cameron’s Berlin Visit, Spiegel Online, Nov. 17, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/opposing-visions-of-europe-tensions-ahead-of-david-cameron-s-berlin-visit-a-798399.html.

[11] Id.

[12] EU summit: All but two leaders sign fiscal treaty, BBC News, March 2, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17230760.

[13] Toby Helm, Germany and France ‘will block David Cameron’s plan for a new EU treaty’, The Guardian, April 6, 2013.

[14] Id.

[15] France’s Hollande rejects ‘a la carte’ attitude to EU, BBC News, Feb. 5, 2013,  


[16] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[17] Stephen Brown, Merkel, Cameron to Bring Families Together in Castle Outside Berlin, Yahoo! News, April 12, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-cameron-bring-families-together-castle-outside-berlin-143320632.html.

[18] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[19] Stephen Brown, Merkel, Cameron to Bring Families Together in Castle Outside Berlin, Yahoo! News, April 12, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-cameron-bring-families-together-castle-outside-berlin-143320632.html.

[20] Carsten Volkery, Opposing Visions of Europe: Tensions Ahead of David Cameron’s Berlin Visit, Spiegel Online, Nov. 17, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/opposing-visions-of-europe-tensions-ahead-of-david-cameron-s-berlin-visit-a-798399.html.

[21] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Andrew Sparrow, Cameron and Merkel to Discuss EU Reform in Germany, The Guardian, April 12, 2013.

[25] Id.

[26] John F. Burns and Alan Cowell, Cameron Details Arguments Against Scottish Independence, The New York Times, Feb. 16, 2012.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, Treana HickeyComments (0)

News Post: Is Germany Determined to Combat a Growing Neo-Nazism Problem?

National Socialist Underground (Getty)

On January 20, 2012, the German President Christian Wulff remembered the 70th anniversary of the “Wannsee Conference,” in which historians believe Nazi leaders coordinated plans to exterminate European Jews and thus established the official German policy of genocide.

The President reminded the German people not to forget the “unbelievable and unimaginable” history that Germany could not afford to repeat.  He vowed to fight the terror and racial hatred caused by violence perpetrated by far-right neo-Nazi groups. While the President’s promise is commendable, Germany needs to match their words with proactive changes when it comes to tackling the right-wing extremist groups that have been growing in Germany.

Germany’s right-wing extremist movement is founded on the concepts of nationalism and racism. Since the end of the Second World War, Germany has continually tried to become a multinational country, welcoming immigrants from around the world to live peacefully in a new democratic Germany. However, many decades later, the reality depicts a different picture.

The number of politically and racially motivated crimes committed by followers of the right-wing movement in Germany reached the all-time high of 20,000 in 2008. While the number of these crimes has been declining since 2008, 3,044 violent politically motivated crimes were recorded in 2009 and 2,636 such crimes took place in 2010. The German authorities count “hate crimes” as a subcategory of politically motivated offenses, thus the actual number of the hate crimes is likely much higher.

Some experts on the subject think that the German authorities have been trivializing the extent of the right-wing violence in the country. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the German domestic intelligence service, estimates that there are 25,000 far-right group members, 9,500 of which are prone to violence. These experts believe that the right-wing groups have committed more than 100 murders in Germany since 1990. Despite the persistent trend in the growth of the hate crimes, police have not stepped up efforts to track and investigate these extremist groups. Police and governmental authorities are more concerned with surveillance of Islamist terrorists present in the country, but the overall damage caused by Islamist terror groups is significantly less that that caused by domestic neo-Nazis.

While German authorities have improved their response to hate violence in recent years, many such crimes are not investigated adequately or are prosecuted wrongly as ordinary crimes.  Another problem is that police themselves discourage victims of hate crimes from filing complaints and often scrutinize the victims rather than gather evidence and pursue the perpetrators. In addition, minorities and immigrants are normally reluctant to complain to German police about the hate crimes.

Germany’s inadequate methods of combating the hate crimes have been under close scrutiny following the recent revelations about the German police failures to adequately investigate a dangerous neo-Nazi group called the “National Socialist Underground.” The small Neo-Nazi group brutally killed nine people, eight of whom were Turkish immigrants or of Turkish decent, and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007. The group also bombed an immigrant neighborhood in Cologne in 2004, injuring 22 people, mostly Turkish immigrants.  The information about the existence of the neo-Nazi gang came to light after two of its members were found dead having committed suicide to avoid prosecution while an additional member surrendered to police.

Some German politicians rightfully expressed disappointment in the law enforcement, blaming the authorities for not taking the hate crimes committed by the right-wing extremists seriously.

The criticism of German authorities increased after it became known that German intelligence agencies had information about “National Socialist Underground,” but did not act to stop them. Most troubling is the fact that an employee of a German intelligence agency, who was known for openly expressing his right-wing views, is suspected in being present during the three of the murders committed by “National Socialist Underground.” His precise involvement in the murders is under current investigation.

President Wulff said the recent killing spree was “something that authorities didn’t believe to have been possible in this day and age.” Yet, these racially motivated murders provide ample evidence to the contrary.


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