Stuttgart 21: Good Business for Some

Stuttgart 21


In news from Stuttgart, protests over the Stuttgart 21 rail project have grown progressively more heated an violent. The most recent clash between opponents and police resulted in some 100 civilian injuries including school age children. Meanwhile, the official stance and PR of government officials has taken on a grim face. Questions over German government’s sensitivity to the people loom large at this stage.

For those unfamiliar with this German rail project, and the subsequent standoff between detractors and officials, Stuttgart’s place at the center of the planned Wendlingen-Ulm high-speed line which will connect most of Europe (even Russia and Asia) by high speed rail. The multi-billion euro project is the most ambitious rail project in European history, but many opponents feel its costs will skyrocket and environmental impacts to Stuttgart will be irreversible. Regardless, it seems crystal clear now that the majority of people in Stuttgart want nothing of this project – and then there is the most recent official view.

What was yet another political fencing match between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, and the Greens, has turned into an apparent war between the working class and what amounts to big business interests. Though this is not too often suggested, just the images from the latest demonstrations reveal the human side as blood soaked. As for the environmental aspects? Ancient trees like those being carved up at left, these are just in the way of progress.

On the one side stand those in power like Merkel, Ulrich Goll (state justice minister), and Rüdiger Grube (CEO of Deutsche Bahn) – and on the other Stuffgart’s people basically. Greens or no Greens, bloody citizens (especially children) equals the worst PR there is – and then there is the “attitude.”

Sticks and Stones – They Can Hurt

Calling Stuttgart’s opposing citizenry “spoiled” is not what the PR doctor ordered, even if you are Justice Minister Ulrich Goll. Speaking with Financial Times Deutschland, Goll painted himself and other officials as far sighted altruists and the opposition as precocious children. And then water cannons were turned on some real children! As for the real power behind this massive rail project, Deutsche Bahn’s Rüdiger Grube, his comments were no less arrogant and disturbing. Grube denied the people’s right to protest, and commented:

“In our country, parliaments decide, no one else.”

At least perceptually, some people just have to be wondering who Grube and the others think (or know) elects the Parliament? Clearly the balance of business interests and the will of people has shifted for some. From a PR and publicity standpoint, Grube and the others must be listening to serpents hanging from fruit trees. Just looking at the “who, what, and where” involved in this rail project – that information justifies questions too.

Deutsche Bahn has many huge efforts underway, not the least of which is to link Europe to China via the Russian connections the company has already leveraged. Trans-Eurasia Logistics is a joint venture between Deusche Bahn and Russian Railways to connect freight services – those interests in China obviously weighing heavy for some (think EU jobs gone East here).

Factor in that Grube is an instrumental player for Daimler, especially where China is concerned, it is no small wonder his view of Parliament is skewed. As for Merkel, joint news from Daimler has its own implications. The end of this tale will no doubt lead to better Hyundai prices across Europe, Grube is a Senior Vice President for them too.

Business As Usual

Differentiating politics these days from business, this is about as easy as naming who is in charge of government. The problem here is the degree to which those in charge minimize and even underestimate their constituents. Without a doubt world leadership considers poplar opinion, even the will of the people, secondary considerations. This is particularly true after elections, as well as when there is little hope of retaining seats.
The case for  Ulrich Goll (pictured right, whom you have to admire for at least having guts), says he is unafraid where his candidacy next year is concerned – the eventuality of his losing now being a rather “freeing” experience. Politicians clearly are emboldened when shipping out is at hand.

The real specter of evil PR here is not so much the contrivances of the special and vested interests, but the arrogance and near inhuman face those in control put on the situation. In the end it becomes clearer still, no matter what the people do, these interests will be served. This is not only sad, but dangerous if you think about it. The people’s mindset in Germany is likely being evaluated minute by minute – this only makes sense.

Whenever the overall public countenance is undisturbed by kids being blasted with water cannons? It is business as usual. But this is actually normal, the problem arises when the people have no recourse but to abide by even terrible decisions. In Germany today there seems to be a race to get as much old political business done as possible – maybe before the next regime takes over?

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Comments

  1. rainer apel says

    There is, naturally, a real problem in the German society that the policy-making elites believe that it is sufficient to let citizens raise their voice only on election days. Many citizens, including myself, disagree with that profoundly: democracy is a daily job, also for the citizens, therefore it is fully justified to give politicians a bit of hell. However: I am still puzzled why citizens have not taken to the streets when the government and parliament decided to have giant banking bailouts at the expense of the taxpayer. Compared to those hundred of billions of euros, the 10 billion invested in the Stuttgart railway project are almost “peanuts.”

    In any case: as You wrote, the Stuttgart 21 project does have relevance for transcontinental transport between Europe and Asia, and Germany with its strong exporting industry is, I think, well-advised not to decouple itself from the new railway routes that are in the making right now. I would just like projects like this one in Stuttgart not to focus mostly on fancy passenger trains, but also on freight transports to relieve the roads from the millions of trucks. And I believe that latter aspect would also find the support of most citizens.

  2. says

    Thank you, Mr. Butler, for your very fair report about the Stuttgart 21 issue in Germany. I’m shocked that most of the world knows nothing about what is going on. American and British newspapers, television and websites make practically no mention of it. When I tell my friends that Stuttgart’s citizens have been demonstrating since January they just stare at me with blank faces like I’m making it up. Thank you again for your report.

    • Phil Butler says

      Thank you Michael, I have been watching this from the onset actually. All the best.

      Always,
      Phil

  3. Trew Vosburg says

    It doesn’t sound like Mr. Butler has spent much time at the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof, or observed the “dissenters”, or the police.
    Come on over for a few weeks, and you might be surprised at what you see.

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