Political Overview: Bundestag approves same-sex marriage, Schulz attacks Merkel, CDU Wirtschaftstag showcases U.S.-German dissonances on trade

Bundestag has approved same-sex marriage.

In a historic vote, a strong majority of Bundestag MPS has approved same-sex marriage (393 MPs voted in favour, 226 against) on Friday, making Germany the twelfth European nation and the twenty-third worldwide to fully allow and recognise the “marriage for all“. Previously, Greens, FDP and SPD have voiced sharpe criticism on the CDU/CSUs stance on the subject, declaring same-sex marriage a non-negotiable precondition for entering a Merkel-led coalition after the upcoming federal elections in September. Things started to gain steam when Ms Merkel subsequently called the question one “of conscience“, thus enabling SPD lead candidate Martin Schulz to call for a  successful last minute vote. Political commentators remain divided over the question if the hasty vote on the issue was based on Ms Merkel’s intention to take a crucial topic with approval ratings of more than 80 percent off of the agenda or if the chancellor was tactically outsmarted by her parliamentarian opponents. In any case, the fact that much more CDU/CSU MPs than expected supported the bill – despite the confusion surrounding its introduction – may serve as a strong indicator of growing intra-party comfort with the issue.

Just shortly before, Mr Schulz has dominated the headlines with his sharp attack on Ms Merkel who he accused of “assaulting democracy“ by dangerously depoliticising Germany’s political discourse. After harsh criticism, Mr Schulz has defended his claims and reiterated his plan to replace the Merkel administration as a hole instead of just entering another grand coalition. However, Mr Schulz is still running low in the polls with the most recent Forsa projection giving his SPD a mere 23.0% – a result that would match the party’s historical 2009 defeat. 

Meanwhile, the Wirtschaftstag, a yearly convention held and organised by the CDU’s Economic Council, has shown new cracks in the already strained relationship between the U.S. and Germany. Ms Merkel and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross presented quite divergent visions of how future trade exchange could look like with Mr Ross heavily lamenting Germany’s and Europe’s trade surplus, a topic more and more shaping up as a recurring pattern of criticism the Trump administration seeks to put emphasis on. On the other hand, Ms Merkel demanded a reform of European competition law to deal with the challenges mostly U.S.-based digital platform are providing for the local European markets. According to Merkel, digitisation will bring together different industry sectors in an unprecedented way but the current legal provision are not yet suited to handle the possible implications of such a developments. 

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