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Germany

Germany's political response to the Paris attacks

Since the Paris attacks, politics and social life have also changed in Germany. The consequences are not yet clear, though many are calling for reinforced security measures. Merkel's coalition, however, is united.

Suddenly, Christmas markets have become a symbol of freedom. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has urged Germans to continue going to public events, to soccer stadiums and to stroll through Christmas markets as security authorities are "alert and well-positioned." Market operators have also announced their own security measures, like a ban on backpacks.

In Berlin, for example, police patrols have been boosted in response to the attacks. Times have changed: In recent years, authorities there announced with almost customary pride that they were deploying police officers to deal with pickpocket gangs during the Christmas season.

Gauck: 'A new kind of war'

Christmas markets boost tourism and they have become an industry worth billions but now, after last week's attacks in Paris and the fear of a potential attack at an international soccer friendly in Hannover on Tuesday, they have become a symbol of normality, freedom and a reminder of life before the age of fear. This also reflects the German government's policies, to a certain extent.

Joachim Gauck speaks in parliament

On Sunday, Gauck spoke of 'an age in which we will lament the victims of a new kind of war'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet members have been discussing many topics since the attacks - all but war. But less than 48 hours after the Paris attacks, German President Joachim Gauck used the word "war" at an annual event in the German parliament honoring those killed by war and violent oppression, speaking of "an age in which we will lament the victims of a new kind of war." Gauck also mentioned warfare. Given the short amount of time available to write the speech, it's hard to believe that it was officially approved by someone in the government.

Right from the start of the crisis, Merkel has focused on another aspect. On the morning after the attacks, which she called "one of the most horrible nights Europe has seen" in a long time, she spoke of "hunting down the perpetrators" and the joint "battle against terrorism."

"We know that our free life is stronger than any terror," she said, almost beseechingly.

Four days later, Merkel spoke again after she had met with her "security cabinet." The German-Dutch soccer friendly slated for Tuesday in Hannover had been canceled amid heightened anxieties, and special army operations against terrorists were ongoing in Paris.

The 20 lines in Merkel's statement that day highlighted the "conflict between freedom and safety," a phrase which all of her ministers have picked up on, be it de Maiziere, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen or Justice Minister Heiko Maas, a constant media presence in recent days.

In an interview with DW, he spoke of the attacks "on everyone, the way we live in a free society with freedom of expression, freedom of religion and with respect and tolerance for others." A statement that sounds like it has come direct from Merkel's model student.

Grand coalition united

Angela Merkel comments on the Paris attacks

Merkel: 'We know that our free life is stronger than any terror'

But Germany's path of "security, freedom - no war" has met with some resistance. Speaking on an official trip to Mozambique on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier swore to uphold Franco-German "solidarity" and warned that "words of solidarity are important, but not enough."

He said Germany could "in many ways move forward quickly at France's side," even bringing up the deployment of the German army, the Bundeswehr, in troubled Mali. He did not, however, refer to war or missions in Syria. That response will hardly appease France's critical view of Germany.

Yet Merkel's grand coalition, which just last week was arguing about the handling of the refugee issue, is now united. Even the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's ruling Christian Democrat Union (CDU), whose criticism zeroed in on Merkel's open-border policy, let the chancellor speak at its party congress in Munich on Friday.

A survey conducted for Germany's public broadcaster ARD this week showed that terrorism and the cancelation of the international soccer match in Hannover have barely affected voter support for Merkel. An overwhelming majority of Germans support reinforced security measures in the country. That's the voice of concern, maybe even fear. But you can bet that many government ministers will be visiting Christmas markets in the coming weeks.

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