Ilka

I talked yesterday with Ilka Schroeder, who was speaking from her new and probably temporary home in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of
Washington, D.C.

 

Schroeder (whose Web site ilka.org is in German with some English here and there) defies party and ideological labels. She got involved in Germany’s Green Party, interested in environmental and other issues, at age 15 and was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2004. In 2001 she quit the Green Party, becoming an independent but lining up with left-wing groups in the parliament.

 

What Schroeder found in the parliament, she said to me yesterday, was not quite what she expected. Decision-making, in her view, was being clouded by people’s anti-American and anti-Jewish views. “Not only the politicians, but people anywhere else,” she says.

 

No longer in office, Schroeder is spending a semester in Washington, D.C., teaching a course at Georgetown University. The topic: anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.

 

Meanwhile, Germany–Europe’s largest economy–is showing mixed signals, according to Reuters. Exports are hot; private consumption is not. Schroeder is optimistic about Germany’s economic future, and notes that while some complain about the “social system,” it has been around since 1949, she says, and the country has done well. She’s not happy about the coming increase in the VAT, one that she says will “hit the poor the most. It’s not a progressive tax.”

 

Two months ago, a Watson Wyatt survey found that only 14 percent of German employees planned on leaving their jobs within the next 12 months. This is a low figure, particularly compared to Sweden, Spain, France, Ireland, the UK, and Italy, all 40 percent and over. “Maybe people are more afraid,” Schroeder says, noting that she hears of more Germans “taking internships for no money,” as well as working temp jobs.

 

While some German companies have talked about cheaper labor being available elsewhere, Schroeder says that “most who threaten to go elsewhere do stay in Germany.” This, she says, is because the country is in a good geographic position and is politically stable. Despite high taxes and thick red tape, Germany is one of the world’s most advanced nations.

 
Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “change and innovation are needed to address malaise in Europe,” according to the Xinhua News Agency. “We have no choice but this urgency to change,” Merkel said. “Something has to be done. As the biggest economy in Europe, we must take up our responsibility.” These changes, Merkel said, include reducing labor costs.

 

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