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Germany

Merkel and the press: Many questions, no answers

Each summer - before going on vacation - German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosts a press conference to address journalists' questions. This year's hot-button topic was 'Prism.' But the chancellor offered no answers.

Those who had hoped for answers from Chancellor Angela Merkel at the summer press conference left the event disappointed. Angela Merkel did not yield. Instead, she navigated the 30-minute long event with broad statements and vague responses. Regarding the NSA surveillance scandal, Merkel towed the party line: "It is being reviewed," or "There are discussions."

During the press conference Merkel reiterated 10 times that "on German soil, German law must apply." But when specifically asked if a new US surveillance center would be built in Wiesbaden, Germany, she did not reply. When asked why minister Ronald Pofalla, responsible for intelligence, had not been seen for six weeks - there was no reply. When asked if she were grateful that Edward Snowden had exposed the scandal? No reply. Instead, Merkel repeated that Germany is not an unconstitutional state. Germany is not a police state. Germany is the land of freedom.

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Prism questions dominate Merkel press conference

But declarations alone are not enough. It's time to see action; not words. The government has the responsibility to establish the constitution and ensure the rule of law. Citizens must be assured that their rights, embodied in the constitution, are protected. This includes privacy in post- and telecommunications, which includes data exchange on the internet.

At the moment, the German federal government doesn't seem up to the task - or willing to address it. There are even doubts as to whether the government is telling the truth. The revelations haven't been released in a timely manner; the contradictions too plentiful to know the true extent of the scandal.

Best government of all time?

The NSA-scandal has nevertheless put the German government in a sticky situation just two months before the federal election. It doesn't matter if Merkel repeats the same sentence 10 times, or says she's leading the most successful German government of all time - proven by a list of alleged progress in childrens' daycare, support of sciences, and in the fight against unemployment.

Upon closer inspection, holes remain in the childcare proposals. Scores of German universities are teetering on the brink of collapse as they face an explosion of student enrolments and chronic underfunding. More and more workers are struggling financially as they face unstable employment conditions. Even the financial crisis, five years in, is far from over. On the contrary -  the southern European countries have plunged into a deep recession; their citizens into poverty. The austerity measures pushed by Germany obviously do not work, and the EU is spinning its wheels in an existential crisis.

Despite these problems, Merkel can venture off on her summer vacation. Her approval ratings remain high, and in all likelihood, she'll be re-elected. But where does she want to lead Germany? What is her strategy? What does she stand for? Answers to those questions remained elusive at the press conference in Berlin.

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