In Hamburg, long wooden benches have been arranged in the arena where Merkel is speaking, for there are two to three thousand people meeting here. It is more like they have come for a concert than a rally. At the beginning, it really is a concert: on stage two women and a man are playing pop music for the crowds.
The October 3 question
It is a rally that certainly doesn't resemble anything in Turkey. There is no noise, no yelling and screaming. Even the posters and banners are limited. And just try to look for anyone shouting out slogans! SO, I guess that's how political meetings happen in the EU.
The leader of the Christian Democrats, Angela Merkel, is the first woman in German history to run for the position of prime minister. While I walk around in the crowd, some become aware that I am a Turkish journalist, and the began to ask: "What will happen with the EU on October 3?....Why is the EU making so many problems for you?"
Clearly the subject has really sunk in in Germany. I get asked these same questions many times. The wide spread opinion seems to be that the EU has treated Turkey unfairly. No matter how much the woman on stage talks against us, I still take a deep breath of relief just hearing these views.
Flags banners and whistles
There are people carrying German flags which get unfurled at the Hamburg meeting. Merkel gives an unexceptional greeting to the audience. I see a few banners being held by the mostly middle aged participants. Most of them say uninspiring things, like "Choose Change" and "A New Start." The meeting heats up a bit when some people sitting in the back start to whistle and cat call during Merkel's speech. They are a group of youth, maybe 30 or 40 of them. They drown out much of what Merkel is trying to say, despite efforts by police to stop them. AAh, and one other thing that made this meeting different from ours: it is advertized that Merkel will arrive exactly at 17:00, and indeed she does.
Just a little polemic
Merkel reads some of her speech from cards in front of her. She devotes very little time to polemics, and spends about 45 minutes on the subject of joblessness. She hits on Schroeder's weak point: "In every EU country, joblessness has either stayed the same or gone down in the last 5 years. The only place it has increased is in Germany."
In truth, Germany is experiencing the highest rates of joblessness ever since World War II. And it's all under this administration. Also, while 20 people used to work to pay the pension of one retired, it's now more like 4 to one retired. Merkel has this to her advantage.
Merkel returns to Turkey subject
Merkel touches on the recent expansion of the EU, saying "It is a good thing that the EU has expanded. The road has been opened to the economic development of the formally socialist countries. But, there have got to be borders to Europe. And the EU is saddled with the respondibility of explaining to its members where those borders begin and end. On this note, Turkey comes to the agenda. As we see it, Turkey is not fit to enter Europe. The correct formula for Turkey is a privileged partnership. We are acting honestly when we say it, with the idea that it is better to say it now than 10 to 15 years down the line."
There is very little reaction to Merkel's words from the people sitting there listening to her. Just some applause from time to time. She is truly not very charismatic. But she is a candidate for prime minister.
The speech ends. The German National March plays, to signify the end of the meeting. But no one stands up. No one sings along with the march. No one stands in deference. Hamburg is the birthplace of Merkel, and her party is strengthening here.