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The German View On The Impeachment Inquiry

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The impeachment inquiry has been reverberating far beyond the United States and Ukraine. Germans are watching warily. They face their own uncertain future as the tenure of longtime Chancellor Angela Merkel nears its end. We have Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who lives in Berlin, in the studio with us to talk about the view from Europe on what is happening here. Welcome.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Thank you, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, so what is the thinking about what could seem to European eyes and ears like political instability here?

NELSON: Well, they are very shocked, and they're very nervous, especially in Germany, where they're already very rattled by a U.S. president who doesn't speak kindly of them. So they've been watching this. And they, in fact, had live streams in a lot of the main newspapers there. And it's something that's of great interest.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Something that's of great interest, I imagine, because so many of the key figures in this impeachment inquiry are actually involved in European policy - Gordon Sondland, the EU ambassador, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state. And Germans, I gather, already worry that a relationship with the U.S. that has endured since the end of World War II is somehow deteriorating. Do they see this as impacting relations with the United States?

NELSON: Well, they definitely don't think that President Trump is going to end up being ousted even if he is impeached. And they worry that that's going to make him even more belligerent, more angry and for him to have even worse relations, to tweet even worse things than he already has about the Germans because they already feel quite offended.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Who's saying that? I mean, who is expressing concern?

NELSON: Everyone from the public to the leading figures. I mean, even Chancellor Merkel says that after several meetings with President Trump, she declared that she just didn't feel that Germany could rely on its partners anymore - I mean, referring to the U.S. - and that it was time for Germany to sort of step back.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And, of course, you know, all this comes at a time when Chancellor Angela Merkel's time in office is winding down after, this point, 14 years of predictability, and with the rise of Donald Trump was seen of something as an antidote to those who don't subscribe to Trump's worldview.

NELSON: Exactly. And now she's leaving. And there is no clear successor. It was thought that she had handpicked somebody, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer - AKK as she's known in Germany and here. She's the defense minister currently, head of the party. But she doesn't appear to be doing very well in the polls, so it's not necessarily a given that she's going to come in. And the question is, who leads next?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And, of course, they're facing their own internal pressures with the rise of the right there.

NELSON: Exactly. And again, these tweets feed into that. The feeling is that President Trump, while he treats Germany as a flyover state, he hasn't visited there yet since he's been in office. He has gone to countries, like neighboring Poland, which have advocated for a weaker EU. And it seems that the perception in Germany is that President Trump is trying to weaken the EU, as well.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So a rattled Germany, a rattled European Union. And I just want to end this by saying that you are actually leaving NPR, hopefully not forever. You've had 13 years at this network. You've covered Afghanistan, the Middle East, Iraq, Europe, Egypt, North Africa for us, sometimes with me. And so I just was wondering, what's your most memorable assignment?

NELSON: Well, there've been several. As you mentioned, I've been in a number of countries and continents. One of my favorite certainly was with being with you in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring when...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In Cairo, yeah.

NELSON: Exactly. But I would say my most favorite moments at NPR have been in Afghanistan, just covering the young women there. Right now, in fact, I'm writing a book about some of these young women that I've covered who are climbing mountains, which is something that's sort of antithetical to the gender norms there.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, former NPR correspondent in Berlin and many other places. We will miss you on air, and we wish you all the best.

NELSON: Thank you, Lulu. I'll miss you too. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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