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Could G20 chaos split Germany's coalition?

July 12, 2017

Germany's foreign minister says Chancellor Angela Merkel bears responsibility for the violence last week at the G20 summit in Hamburg. Polls show Sigmar Gabriel's Social Democrats trailing Merkel's CDU by double digits.

Merkel addresses the G20
Image: Reuters/A. Schmidt

In an interview printed Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the Funke newspaper group that Chancellor Angela Merkel's G20 summit in Hamburg had proved a "total bust." Gabriel also defended Hamburg's mayor, a fellow Social Democrat.

"Olaf Scholz is not responsible for the staging of this summit," Gabriel said. "Whoever wants his resignation ... must also demand the resignation of Angela Merkel. She carries the political responsibility for the staging and direction of the G20 summit in Hamburg."

On Tuesday, Merkel - who looks set to win a fourth term in September's parliamentary elections - shook off the criticism. "Honestly, I was delighted that Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel accompanied me to Hamburg, that he met the foreign ministers from different countries and that he participated in various talks, among other things with the American president," she said. "This contributed to the success of this summit."

A Merkel ally in Bavaria's Christian Social Union, part of the ruling coalition in Berlin, had harsher words for the foreign minister: "Gabriel has blown a fuse," Andreas Scheuer, the CSU's general-secretary, told the daily Bild.

The fallout continues

Even before tens of thousands turned out to protest, politicians, pundits and residents criticized Merkel's choice to hold the summit of the leaders of the world's 20 richest countries in Hamburg. More than 20,000 officers failed to suppress a segment of protesters estimated in the hundreds.

Police reported 476 officers injured, while more than 200 protesters sought treatment in local hospitals and scores more received on-the-spot care from volunteer medics after inhaling tear gas and pepper spray. Though residents and city workers managed to clean up the streets by Sunday afternoon, Germans watched in shock as media broadcast images of property damage and ransacked shops.

German leaders say many of the people who committed the vandalism or violently resisted police came from abroad. Late Tuesday, a court ordered the release of more than a dozen protesters held since the weekend, deciding that no charges could be brought against them.

Restrictions on press, as well as police threats and violence against reporters, have drawn heavy criticism. On Tuesday, Michael Rediske, of the German branch of Reporters Without Borders, criticized the government's decision to distribute a blacklist of members of the press to several police officers as an "unbearable stigmatization of journalists."

mkg/rt (Reuters, AFP, dpa)