Aydan Özoğuz’s big future
Frustration, anger and big ideas
This is the scenario: Angela Merkel continues to struggle in her efforts to tame the Eurozone financial crisis. Germany’s 2013 national election comes along and either she’s forced into a so-called grand coalition with the Social Democrats or she’s ousted altogether and her government is replaced by a Social Democrat-Green coalition. In each instance it’s not inconceivable that Aydan Özoğuz could emerge as a cabinet minister. She’s certainly on an upward curve. And she’s my latest guest on Talking Germany.
The daughter of Turkish parents, born in Hamburg, Aydan Özoğuz was only elected to the Bundestag in 2009. But her SPD has already made her a member of its influential executive committee. She’s very professional and very eloquent, although clearly somewhat overwhelmed by the expectations that people have of politicians as the financial crisis rumbles on. “It never stops,” she says: “People say to me, the sixties were a troubled time, or the seventies, with terrorism and all that.” But this is a really tough time. And I have to explain it to people everyday.”
As a journalist, I’m always being asked about the mood inside Germany as the crisis worsens. What’s clear, says Aydan Özoğuz, is that, “people simply want to have the feeling that they grasp what’s going on. And they want to stay in Europe. But they want to believe that the ship isn’t going to go under.” I put it to her that her party might not do as well as it hopes in next year’s election until and unless it gives the impression that it has a ‘big idea’. “Ah,” she says, “there’s a problem there, because every time we have a good idea, Frau Merkel’s government steals it. Which is very flattering, but frustrating, too!” It’s an interesting insight, perhaps, into what you might call the Merkel Method.
If the Eurozone crisis is one hot topic in German politics theses days, another is integration. Aydan Özoğuz is surely well placed to become a future government spokeswomen on the issue. She maps out the challenges that Germany faces with cool-minded clarity. But, just below the surface, there’s great passion too. “You know,” she says, “when I travel around Germany, I’m often shocked about how spiteful people are when they talk about others.” She’s not talking about Franz and Hans, but Franz and Hasan. And she’s clearly angry that when it comes to integration, “the pace of change is so slow.” Let’s hope she can get something done about it. If, that is, she goes as far as I think she might.
DateAugust 19, 2012