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July 09, 2006

Panem et circenses

Today is the last day of the soccer world championship Germany has been hosting for the last four weeks. Suddenly we Germans are faced with the problem of what to do with our evenings now that there are no more matches to be watched. Alright, soccer certainly is the most popular sport in Germany but no one really expected these waves of sudden enthusiasm that have swept over the country during the last weeks. Not only were the stadions packed with people but also the public viewing places with their big screens. Even long standing members of the "I am not watching soccer on TV because that's as interesting as watching paint dry on the wall" suddenly found themselves dragged before the TV set by family and friends to watch the German team play. And I've never seen so many German flags around on display.

Much of this is owed to the coach of the German team who over a period of two years - against all odds - patiently built up a team of young entusiastic players who suddenly thought it an honour to play for Germany and not a nuisance. At least that is the impression I had about the old team. If I am wrong, I apologise. Before the championship not many would have bet money on the German team to last longer than the first three matches. But the players have demonstrated impressively that a real team is more than just the sum of its individuals. They richly deserve the 3rd place in the tournament they won yesterday against Portugal. They've played an attractive game of soccer all the time that is interesting to watch. And the fans never stopped supporting them even after they lost the semi final against Italy. That was probably the biggest surprise for the team.

With our President Horst Köhler and our Chancellor Angela Merkel being present in the soccer stadium every time the German team played one really got the impression that a whole nation stood united behind their team. Suddenly there seemed a breeze of optimism blowing through the country. Breweries were making a fortune, shop keepers were quite pleased with additional income from longer opening hours and even the stock exchange was affected positively.

But politicians would not be politicians if they would not grab the opportunity when everyone else was apparently only thinking "soccer" to pass a few bills of legislation almost unnoticed by the public. The first is about a "reform" of our National Health system". The reform is that I will have to pay higher premiums to my health insurance company and get less in return. We wouldn't have needed a reform for that. That has been the development over the last years! I had the hope that something would be done about the structure of the system itself. Do we really need more than a hundred insurance companies? Stupid me, of course we - to provide jobs for a lot of admin people!

The second bill concerns the relationship between the Federal Government and the Federal States. Up to now quite a number of bills that affected the Federal States in some way or other had to be approved not only by Parliament but also by the representatives of the Federal States. That meant that during the last ten years almost nothing got through because we had a socialist government and christian democratic dominated representatives of the Federal States. Now responsibilites between the State and the Federal States have been reorganised and a considerably lower number of bills will have to be approved by the representatives of the Federal States. We live in hope that now some at least will pass the parliamentary hurdles.

The way the responsibilities have been reorganised makes you wonder, however, if we are about to fall back into the old times when the present Germany was just a cluster of little principalities and kingdoms. Up to now each Federal State had its own police but now they will also have their own civil service meaning that they are free to decide how much they will pay a civil servant. Before a civil servant in Schleswig-Holstein earned the same amount of money as his colleague in Bavaria. Bearing in mind that for example teachers also belong to the civil service in Germany it makes you wonder what impact the arising competition between richer and poorer states will have on the quality of the civil service they provide.

And from now on the Federal States will also have their own representatives at the EU negotiating their own affairs. That will be interesting to watch, indeed!

I know, I shouldn't be so pessimistic with all that new optimism around me, it might all work out for the best, I just don't wee it at the moment ...

Posted by Mausi at July 9, 2006 11:27 AM

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