Category Archives: Germany

(EUobserver) Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December

(EUobserver) German finance minister Olaf Scholz said at a press conference in Berlin that the idea of a banking union is moving forward and that an agreement might be possible in December, Bloomberg reports. “The time of the new presidency and the new commission of the European Union is the time to get all the necessary agreements and to start with the work on that question,” Scholz said.

(DieZeit) Don’t Be Naive, Germany

(DieZeit) Don’t Be Naive, Germany

Huawei shouldn’t be allowed to help build Germany’s 5G network. The government in Berlin needs to see that China exploits the weaknesses of liberal democracies.

Huawei 5G Breitband Netzausbau
The Global Mobile Broadband Forum in Zurich © Stefan Wermuth/​AFP/​Getty Images

Germany granted me protection as a political refugee. That is I why believe I have a duty to warn the federal government against making a mistake that will have far-reaching consequences. Angela Merkel’s Chancellery hasn’t ruled out the possibility of working together with Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei to build Germany’s 5G mobile technology infrastructure. But Huawei is not a company like any other. It has close ties with the Chinese government and its military. Should Germany decide to allow Huawei to build one of the most critical infrastructure technologies, it would potentially be opening the backdoor for China to access and disrupt key national assets like electric power grids, the banking and financial system and telecommunications. It would also send a signal to those fighting for democracy and freedom in Hong Kong and beyond that Berlin puts economic interests above the consistent defense of Western values.


26, a freedom activist from Hong Kong, received political asylum in Germany. In 2014, he founded a pro-democracy party in the city. Officials subsequently charged him with instigating riots and incitement of unlawful assembly. He managed to flee to Europe and today lives in Göttingen, Germany, where he studies political science at the local university.

Ray Wong © Norman Hoppenheit für Die Zeit

If you believe such warnings to be alarmist, then my answer is this: Don’t be naive, Germany. You can’t allow yourselves to be deceived into thinking that Huawei’s motives are purely commercial.

The 5G network is part of the foundations of the digital future. If the federal government compromises on the network’s security, in the long run it will compromise not only this country’s working environment, but also the privacy of its citizens. In the United Kingdom, government security experts concluded last year that the use of Huawei components in telecommunications infrastructure could pose risks to UK national security. Australia has already banned Huawei from providing 5G equipment out of fear the Chinese regime might one day shut down power grids and other networks.

I grew up in Hong Kong, so I know how naive it would be to trust the Chinese state to keep its word when it promises not to abuse 5G as a political tool. Hong Kong is the West Berlin in the new cold war, a small bastion of freedom in the grip of a totalitarian regime.

We know the reality behind the facade of the Chinese state. When China signed the agreement with Britain in 1984 regulating the handover of its former colony, it was agreed that the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong would be upheld for 50 years. This didn’t happen. On the contrary, in the last 10 years, the people of Hong Kong have seen our rights systematically undermined. Why, Dear Germans, do you still believe you can trust Beijing?

(Express) Germany told to double payments to Brussels as EU scrambles to replace British billions

(Express) GERMANY could be forced to double its payments to the next European Union budget as Brussels scrambles to replace Britain’s billions after Brexit.

Berlin faces having to hand over as much £28.5 billion, according to the latest government estimates. The Brussels’ plan has sparked fury in the German capital and four other rich governments who also face massive hikes in their budget contributions. Germany could be hit by a steep 100 percent rise – from £13 billion in 2020 to £28.5 billion by 2027 – whereas the Netherlands only faces a 50 percent increase.

Under the plan the Dutch government’s contributions to the EU’s multi-billion euro coffers would rise from just under £4.5 billion to almost £6.5 billion by 2027.PUBLICIDADE

Angela Merkel last week told EU27 leaders at a summit in Brussels that the European Commission’s plan would mean Germany would become the biggest per capital contributor to the bloc’s budget.Berlin is already the EU’s biggest contributor on a gross basis.

The German finance ministry said: “Due to Brexit and the Commission’s proposal to abolish permanent rebate, the financing burden on German would disproportionately rise, in comparison to other member states.”

Angela Merkel

Germany faces its EU budget contributions being doubled by 2027 to replace UK funds (Image: GETTY)

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel warned she would block the budget if German loses its rebate (Image: GETTY)

Eurocrats want to increase the size of the bloc’s long-term budget to 1.11 percent of the EU’s gross national income to help fill the void left by the UK.

Work on the next budget, which runs from 2021 to 2027, is set to go into overdrive as diplomats and officials attempt to sign off the package in the coming months.

Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden are all set to rebel against the proposals and demand that contributions of just one percent of gross national income and permanent rebates must continue after Brexit.

The so-called “frugal five” are all net contributors to the bloc’s budgets, meaning they pay more in than they receive back.


Mark Rutte

The Netherlands also faces a significant hike in its budget contributions (Image: REUTERS)

Britain is the second biggest net contributor to the EU budget and Brexit will leave a £10 billion blackhole in the bloc’s finances.

Senior eurocrats have previously warned that Brussels has no “plan B” to plug the extraordinary gap left by the UK.

The European Commission has yet to officially calculate the rise in net contributions of member states, according to a spokeswoman.

She added that the five rebate countries were “paying a lower share of their income to the EU budget than the other member states, despite being among the top eight EU countries in terms of relative prosperity”.

MUST READ: EU poised to agree three-month Brexit delay – UK could leave on Dec 1

Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron has ordered EU to increase its budget (Image: GETTY)

European Union budget

European Union budget contributions LISTED (Image: EXPRESS)

Under the plans, France faces a less steep increase in its net contributions – rising from around £6.4 in 2020 billion to £8.6 billion in 2027.

France would also benefit from Brussels scrapping rebates because Paris is largely forced to foot the bill through a so-called “correction mechanism’, which was established by Margaret Thatcher to limit UK farming subsidies to the EU 35 years ago.

In a sign of further power struggle between Paris and Berlin, Mrs Merkel said Germany would block any budget deal that does not contain the rebate.

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France’s Emmanuel Macron at last week’s summit said a one percent contribution could not fulfil the EU’s ambitious goals to act as a “geopolitical” power.

Talks on the bloc’s next budget must be finalised before the end of 2020 and EU leaders are expected to hold a series of fiery negotiations once Britain has finally left.

(Politico) German MPs urge Merkel to keep Huawei out of 5G network

(Politico) Lawmakers argue that parliament, not the chancellor, should decide on telecoms contracts.

BERLIN — A group of MPs from Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is pressing the German chancellor to keep Chinese telecom company Huawei out of the country’s 5G network, citing national security reasons.

The push comes after Berlin last week released a new “security catalogue” for telecoms networks, which critics say lacks teeth because it only obliges Huawei to sign a “no spy” clause while generally opening 5G tenders to the Chinese telecoms giant.

Merkel has come under fire for her decision from allies like the U.S., which warned last week the move could have serious implications for future intelligence-sharing between Berlin and Washington.

Critics say Germany is bowing to pressure from China because it fears trade retaliation from the Asian powerhouse, which is Germany’s biggest trading partner and an important export destination at a time when the German economy risks sliding into a recession.

Senior CDU lawmaker Norbert Röttgen told POLITICO that he wants Merkel not to decide alone on the 5G issue, but submit the decision to the German parliament, which should debate and vote on the case.

Critics say Germany is bowing to pressure from China because it fears trade retaliation from the Asian powerhouse.

“The last word is far from spoken and I’m also cautiously optimistic that this matter can be decided in the Bundestag in the coming weeks or months,” said Röttgen, who is chair of the parliament’s committee for foreign affairs.

He described the 5G network as a “digital neural system” for Germany’s economy, society and political system, which meant the decision was “a first-rank question of national security.”

“In reality, this is not about Huawei but the trust in the Chinese leadership: This is a company that is at the mercy of state interests and can, in doubt, not refuse government-led interference,” he said, adding: “Significant state influence is something that we cannot tolerate because it would mean that we don’t have that company but the state in our networks.”

“I’m … cautiously optimistic that this matter can be decided in the Bundestag in the coming weeks or months” — senior CDU lawmaker Norbert Röttgen

Röttgen’s criticism was backed by his party colleague Mark Hauptmann, who said the 5G decision was about “critical infrastructure for the next 20 years.”

“I can only warn against relying on Huawei because we would enter a technological dependency relationship and there are massive security concerns, such as the outflow of information, a possible kill-switch scenario, but also a possible dependency in a trade war in which, for example, certain important accessories for a particular area could suddenly no longer be made available.”

Huawei and other Chinese telecommunication companies reject suggestions that their equipment is vulnerable to backdoors or spying by the Chinese state and says European countries should make their own decisions about 5G security.

The chancellor’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hauptmann and Röttgen also expressed their concerns in an op-ed, co-signed by fellow CDU lawmakers Christoph Bernstiel, Peter Beyer, Stefan Rouenhoff and Roderich Kiesewetter, which was published by German newspaper Handelsblatt on Tuesday.

Hauptmann, in his interview with POLITICO, criticized that Huawei was partly offering prices for the installation of 5G networks that are below the purchase price for the required components. “This is not a market price, but a political price to push competitors out of the market,” he said.

He also asserted that China had largely shut European telecom providers Nokia and Ericsson out of its own tenders for 5G networks, and said that Germany should offer markets for those companies if it was serious about creating “European champions.”

“This is not a market price, but a political price to push competitors out of the market” — CDU lawmaker Mark Hauptmann

However, Hauptmann warned that Germany should brace for consequences if it decided to reject Huawei’s applications for 5G tenders: “It’s perfectly clear that excluding Huawei will lead to a response from the Chinese.”

His party colleague Röttgen said that Germany should coordinate its decision with European partners to cushion such retaliation.

“China prefers to pick and sanction individual countries and is betting on the premise that there is no solidarity [among EU countries],” he said. “I am firmly convinced that if we stand together here, there is no way to sanction Europe.”

(NHK) Germany rejects Greek request for war reparations

(NHK) The German government has rejected a request by Greece to hold negotiations on reparations for damages caused by the Nazis during World War Two.

In June, Greece’s left-wing Syriza party, which was in power at the time, asked the German government to start talks on the issue.

The Greek parliament estimates damages caused by the loss of lives due to Nazis oppression and the military expenses the country was forced to bear amount to 289 billion euros or about 324 billion dollars.

German media say the country’s foreign ministry rejected Greece’s request for negotiations on Friday.

A spokesperson for the ministry was quoted as saying the German government’s stance on the legal interpretation of the issue remains unchanged.

Germany maintains that the issue was settled when it paid reparations to Greece in 1960.

(Reuters) Merkel wants to discuss EU budget discount for Germany after Brexit


BERLIN (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday said the European Union needed to discuss a possible discount for Germany as part of budget negotiations because Germany would be “disproportionately burdened” by an increase in the bloc’s budget.

Raising the European Union’s budget to 1% of the bloc’s economic strength without contributions from Britain in future would overly burden Germany, Merkel told lawmakers in Berlin’s lower house of parliament ahead of a EU summit on Thursday.

“That’s why we need to have a discussion about a fair distribution of burdens on the funding side and also about a discount for Germany,” she said.

(TC) Germany says it won’t ban Huawei or any 5G supplier up front


Day 2 - GSMA Mobile World Congress 2019

Image Credits: Miquel Benitez / Getty Images

Germany is resisting US pressure to shut out Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G networks — saying it will not ban any supplier for the next-gen mobile networks on an up front basis, per Reuters.

“Essentially our approach is as follows: We are not taking a pre-emptive decision to ban any actor, or any company,” government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told a news conference in Berlin yesterday.

The country’s Federal Network Agency is slated to be publishing detailed security guidance on the technical and governance criteria for 5G networks in the next few days.

The next-gen mobile technology delivers faster speeds and lower latency than current-gen cellular technologies, as well as supporting many more connections per cell site. So it’s being viewed as the enabling foundation for a raft of futuristic technologies — from connected and autonomous vehicles to real-time telesurgery.

But increased network capabilities that support many more critical functions means rising security risk. The complexity of 5G networks — marketed by operators as “intelligent connectivity” — also increases the surface area for attacks. So future network security is now a major geopolitical concern.

German business newspaper Handelsblatt, which says it has reviewed a draft of the incoming 5G security requirements, reports that chancellor Angela Merkel stepped in to intervene to exclude a clause which would have blocked Huawei’s market access — fearing a rift with China if the tech giant is shut out.

Earlier this year it says the federal government pledged the highest possible security standards for regulating next-gen mobile networks, saying also that systems should only be sourced from “trusted suppliers”. But those commitments have now been watered down by economic considerations at the top of the German government.

The decision not to block Huawei’s access has attracted criticism within Germany, and flies in the face of continued US pressure on allies to ban the Chinese tech giant over security and espionage risks.

The US imposed its own export controls on Huawei in May.

A key concern attached to Huawei is that back in 2017 China’s Communist Party passed a national intelligence law which gives the state swingeing powers to compel assistance from companies and individuals to gather foreign and domestic intelligence.

For network operators outside China the problem is Huawei has the lead as a global 5G supplier — meaning any ban on it as a supplier would translate into delays to network rollouts. Years of delay and billions of dollars of cost to 5G launches, according to warnings by German operators.

Another issue is that Huawei’s 5G technology has also been criticized on security grounds.

report this spring by a UK oversight body set up to assess the company’s approach to security was damning — finding “serious and systematic defects” in its software engineering and cyber security competence.

Though a leak shortly afterwards from the UK government suggested it would allow Huawei partial access — to supply non-core elements of networks.

An official UK government decision on Huawei has been delayed, causing ongoing uncertainty for local carriers. In the meanwhile a government review of the telecoms supply chain this summer called for tougher security standards and updated regulations — with major fines for failure. So it’s possible that stringent UK regulations might sum to a de facto ban if Huawei’s approach to security isn’t seen to take major steps forward soon.

According to Handelsblatt’s report, Germany’s incoming guidance for 5G network operators will require carriers identify critical areas of network architecture and apply an increased level of security. (Although it’s worth pointing out there’s ongoing debate about how to define critical/core network areas in 5G networks.)

The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) will be responsible for carrying out security inspections of networks.

Last week a pan-EU security threat assessment of 5G technology highlighted risks from “non-EU state or state-backed actors” — in a coded jab at Huawei.

The report also flagged increased security challenges attached to 5G vs current gen networks on account of the expanded role of software in the networks and apps running on 5G. And warned of too much dependence on individual 5G suppliers, and of operators relying overly on a single supplier.

Shortly afterwards the WSJ obtained a private risk assessment by EU governments — which appears to dial up regional concerns over Huawei, focusing on threats linked to 5G providers in countries with “no democratic and legal restrictions in place”.

Among the discussed risks in this non-public report are the insertion of concealed hardware, software or flaws into 5G networks; and the risk of uncontrolled software updates, backdoors or undocumented testing features left in the production version of networking products.

“These vulnerabilities are not ones which can be remedied by making small technical changes, but are strategic and lasting in nature,” a source familiar with the discussions told the WSJ — which implies that short term economic considerations risk translating into major strategic vulnerabilities down the line.

5G alternatives are in short supply, though.

US Senator Mark Warner recently floated the idea of creating a consortium of ‘Five Eyes’ allies — aka the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK — to finance and build “a Western open-democracy type equivalent” to Huawei.

But any such move would clearly take time, even as Huawei continues selling services around the world and embedding its 5G kit into next-gen networks.

(EUobserver) European Jews call for ‘united front’ after German attack

(EUobserver) Jewish leaders have raised alarm on the climate of hate in Europe after an antisemitic attack in Germany killed two people on Wednesday (9 October).

“Unfortunately the time has come when all Jewish places of worship and Jewish communal sites [in Germany] need to have enhanced round-the-clock security provided by state security services,” Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress in Geneva, said.

(OBS) Tiroteio em sinagoga na Alemanha faz dois mortos. Um suspeito detido

(OBS) Duas pessoas morreram em tiroteio junto a uma Sinagoga em Halle, na Alemanha. De acordo com o jornal Bild, uma das vítimas é uma mulher e há vários feridos. Um dos suspeitos já foi detido.

Getty Images

Duas pessoas foram mortas a tiro nesta quarta-feira, em Halle, na Alemanha, na sequência de um tiroteio que terá ocorrido junto a uma sinagoga, avança o jornal alemão Bild.

A polícia alemã confirmou a existência de duas vítimas mortais na sequência de um tiroteio. Um dos suspeitos já foi detido, o outro suspeito permanece em fuga. As autoridades apelam a que a população permaneça em casa.

Polizei Halle (Saale)@Polizei_HAL

Nach ersten Erkenntnissen wurden zwei Personen in #Halle getötet.

Es fielen mehrere Schüsse. Die mutmaßlichen Täter sind mit einem Fahrzeug flüchtig. Wir fahnden mit Hochdruck und bitten die Bevölkerung in ihren Wohnungen zu bleiben. #hal091062612:10 – 9 de out de 2019Informações e privacidade no Twitter Ads1.083 pessoas estão falando sobre isso

A operação policial para captura do outro suspeito em fuga está ainda a decorrer e as autoridade pedem à população para se manter em alerta até que a situação seja estabilizada.

Polizei Halle (Saale)@Polizei_HAL

Unsere Kräfte haben eine Person festgenommen.

Bleiben Sie trotzdem weiterhin wachsam.

Wir sind mit starken Kräften in und um #Halle präsent und stabilisieren die Lage, bis alle Informationen gesichert vorliegen.#hal09101.33112:44 – 9 de out de 2019Informações e privacidade no Twitter Ads744 pessoas estão falando sobre isso

O jornal alemão noticia ainda que uma granada de mão foi lançada no cemitério judeu e que um dos agressores teria disparado vários tiros com uma metralhadora, baleando uma mulher e ferindo várias pessoas.

(DW) Romania to open first national Holocaust museum

(DW) Romania had long swept under the rug its role in the Holocaust. The museum is meant to educate and raise questions about the country’s role in the deaths of Jews and Roma during the time it was allied with Nazi Germany.

Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis on Tuesday approved the creation of the country’s first Holocaust museum in Bucharest aimed at informing the public and shedding light on the Nazi-allied regime’s role during World War II.

“The history of Jewish Romanians, their contribution to the country’s development and the tragedy experienced during the war… represent a legacy which was hidden from us for decades,” Iohannis said Tuesday at a ceremony attended by Holocaust survivors.

“This museum will not so much bring answers as raise more questions,” he added.

“The Romanian state demonstrates consistency in meeting the goal aimed at recovering the memory of the Holocaust, strengthening the education about the Holocaust and combating anti-Semitism,” Iohannis said.

  • Remembering Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma Serving the fatherland Many German Sinti fought for Germany not only in the First World War but also in the Wehrmacht from 1939 on. In 1941 the German high command ordered all “Gypsies and Gypsy half-breeds” to be dismissed from active military service for “racial-political reasons.” Alfons Lampert and his wife Elsa were then deported to Auschwitz, where they were killed.

Elie Wiesel’s role

The country had long downplayed any role in the Holocaust, but in 2004 an international panel led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel estimated that between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews perished from territories under Romanian administration.  It also found 11,000 Roma were killed.

Only 3,200 Jews still live in Romania, according to the last census in 2011.

The new museum, coordinated by the Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, will be located in an eight-storey building in central Bucharest.

Romania switched sides in the war in 1944. The communist regime that later followed did little to uncover crimes committed during the Holocaust.

(BBC) Brexit: Deal ‘essentially impossible’ after PM-Merkel call – No 10


Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson
Image captionAngela Merkel and Boris Johnson spoke on the phone on Tuesday morning

A No 10 source says a Brexit deal is “essentially impossible” after a call between the PM and Angela Merkel.

Boris Johnson spoke to the German chancellor earlier about the proposals he put forward to the EU – but the source said she made clear a deal based on them was “overwhelmingly unlikely”.

They also claimed she said a deal would never be possible unless Northern Ireland stayed in a customs union.

Mrs Merkel’s spokesman said they did not reveal confidential conversations.

The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, sent a public tweet to Mr Johnson, writing: “What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people.”Skip Twitter post by @eucopresident

Donald Tusk@eucopresident

.@BorisJohnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?20.3K11:39 AM – Oct 8, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy11.4K people are talking about thisReport

End of Twitter post by @eucopresident

Scotland’s First Minister and leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon, said Downing Street’s response to the phone call was an “attempt to shift the blame for the Brexit fiasco”, while Labour called it a “cynical attempt to sabotage the negotiations”.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson “will never take responsibility for his own failure to put forward a credible deal”, and called on Parliament to “unite prevent this reckless government crashing us out of the EU”.

An EU official close to the negotiations told BBC Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming Mrs Merkel’s reported comments did not reflect the EU’s agreed position, adding: “This is not our language.”

The PM has insisted the UK will leave the EU on the Brexit deadline of 31 October, with or without a deal.

That is despite legislation passed by MPs last month, known as the Benn Act, which requires Mr Johnson to write to the EU requesting a further delay if no deal is signed off by Parliament by 19 October – unless MPs agree to a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Johnson sent new proposals for a deal to Brussels last week, with the key focus being on replacing the so-called backstop – the policy negotiated by Theresa May and the EU to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland – which has long been a sticking point.

Media captionConfused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics

After presenting the new proposals to Brussels, government sources hoped the UK might be able to enter an intense 10-day period of negotiations almost immediately, with the aim of coming to a final agreement at an EU summit on 17 October.

The EU pledged to examine them carefully, but a number of senior figures, including Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, warned the proposals did not form the basis for deeper negotiations – even if they believed a deal could still be done.

French President Emanuel Macron said the EU would decide at the end of the week whether a new deal was possible.

But after the phone call on Tuesday morning, the No 10 source said it had been a “clarifying moment”, adding: “Talks in Brussels are close to breaking down, despite the fact that the UK has moved a long way.”

Under Mr Johnson’s proposals, which he calls a “broad landing zone” for a new deal with the EU:

  • Northern Ireland would leave the EU’s customs union alongside the rest of the UK, at the start of 2021
  • But Northern Ireland would continue to apply EU legislation relating to agricultural and other products, if the Northern Ireland Assembly approves
  • This arrangement could, in theory, continue indefinitely, but the consent of Northern Ireland’s politicians would have to be sought every four years
  • Customs checks on goods traded between the UK and EU would be “decentralised”, with paperwork submitted electronically and only a “very small number” of physical checks
  • These checks should take place away from the border itself, at business premises or at “other points in the supply chain”

The source said the UK was not willing to move away from the principle of providing a consent mechanism for Northern Ireland or the plan for leaving the customs union, and if the EU did not accept those principles, “that will be that” and the plan moving forward would be an “obstructive” strategy towards Brussels.

They also accused the EU of being “willing to torpedo the Good Friday agreement” – the peace process agreed in Northern Ireland in the 1990s – by refusing to accept Mr Johnson’s proposals, arguing the plan is key to respecting the so-called “principle of consent”.

But Mr Varadkar has warned the Johnson plan could actually undermine that principle by giving one party in Northern Ireland a veto over what happens to the country as a whole.

Presentational grey line
Analysis box by Laura Kuenssberg, political editor

It’s not the official policy of the government yet…

But in government and EU circles it is becoming more likely by the hour that there will not be an agreement at next week’s EU council.

There is no intention in Downing Street to move away from the broad concepts of what they are suggesting regarding either customs or the so-called principle of consent for gaining approval for the PM’s plans from Northern Irish politicians.

So short of a political escape worthy of Houdini, this prime minister is moving towards making the case for leaving without a deal.

To their opponents, that might appear petulant and counter productive, but be in no doubt, if there is no deal this month, Boris Johnson’s government would not suddenly play nice.

And in the likely event that there is an extension, for political reasons No 10 wants to give the impression it was forced into that position.

Read more from Laura here.

Presentational grey line

EU diplomats have told Adam Fleming there has been “zero progress” in the talks and in some areas they believe things are going backwards.

A leaked presentation to diplomats on Monday revealed the EU would not accept the UK’s plans committing to no checks on either side of the Irish border if the Northern Ireland Assembly was granted a veto and if there was no guarantee of checks on the UK side.

Adam Fleming said EU negotiators were “so nonplussed by the proposal they asked if it was a mistake”.

It is understood the UK also wants continuing access to several EU trade databases, even if Stormont withholds its consent for the new arrangements.

The UK’s chief negotiator, David Frost, is still due to meet EU counterparts in Brussels on Tuesday, but another European official said he had so little room for manoeuvre, it called into question whether the UK was serious about getting a deal.

On Monday night, the Spectator published texts from a Downing Street source, who claimed if the deal “dies in the next few days, then it won’t be revived”.

The government has not denied the briefing, which also said Mr Johnson “will do all sorts of things to scupper a delay” to leaving the EU.

Presentational grey line

Timeline: What’s happening ahead of Brexit deadline?


Tuesday 8 October – Last working day in the House of Commons before it is due to be prorogued – suspended – ahead of a Queen’s Speech to begin a new parliamentary session.

Monday 14 October – The Commons is due to return, and the government will use the Queen’s Speech to set out its legislative agenda. The speech will then be debated by MPs throughout the week.

Thursday 17 October – Crucial two-day summit of EU leaders begins in Brussels. This is the last such meeting currently scheduled before the Brexit deadline.

Saturday 19 October – Date by which the PM must ask the EU for another delay to Brexit under the Benn Act, if no Brexit deal has been approved by Parliament and they have not agreed to the UK leaving with no-deal.

Thursday 31 October – Date by which the UK is due to leave the EU, with or without a withdrawal agreement.

Presentational grey line

(OBS) Der Spiegel chama “socialista confiável” ao “simpático Senhor Costa” e compara Portugal à aldeia de Astérix

(OBS) A revista alemã Der Sipegel avaliou o mandato do “simpático Senhor Costa”, e a receita da governação do “socialista confiável” e não esquece Rio, que “prefere apresentar-se em salas fechadas”.Partilhe

A revista alemã Der Spiegel” dedica um artigo à avaliação do mandato do executivo do “simpático Senhor Costa” e à “receita” da governação do “socialista confiável”, como lhe chama no título, comparando a estabilidade portuguesa à aldeia de Astérix.

“Parece estar sempre de bom humor, com uma visão ligeiramente irónica, através dos seus olhos castanhos escuros, atrás dos seus óculos sem armação”, começa o texto publicado na última edição da revista.

“O simpático ‘Senhor Costa’, com o seu governo de minoria socialista, tolerado pelos comunistas e pelos bloquistas, resistiu durante quatro anos – um feito que dificilmente alguém esperaria que ele atingisse”, pode ler-se no texto publicado a duas semanas das eleições legislativas em Portugal.

Enquanto em Espanha, o país já foi a votos mais vezes do que aquelas que foi governado, Costa concretizou um mandato bem-sucedido e quer ser reeleito a 6 de outubro. As suas hipóteses de ser escolhido são altas, com sondagens a indicarem 38% dos votos, mais do que os conseguidos há quatro anos”, refere, acrescentando que a única questão é perceber se chegará à maioria absoluta.

O artigo recorda que quando António Costa chegou ao poder, em 2015, o clima social do país era marcado pelas exigências da troika, formada pelo Banco Central Europeu, o Fundo Monetário Internacional e a Comissão Europeia, em troca de um empréstimo de 78 mil milhões de euros.

“Desde então, Costa provou ser um dos poucos socialistas na União Europeia que conseguiu mitigar a austeridade, gerar crescimento e ainda atender às condições do Pacto de Estabilidade e Crescimento”, pode ler-se na “Der Spiegel”, publicada no fim-de-semana.

Das origens de António Costa, à entrada na Juventude Socialista, aos 14 anos, os estudos em direito, o trabalho ao lado de Jorge Sampaio, passando pelos cargos ministeriais que ocupou, o mais recente como responsável da pasta da Administração Interna no governo de José Sócrates, o texto de duas páginas percorre os momentos mais marcantes da vida do atual primeiro ministro.

Apesar de comparar o país à “aldeia de Astérix” na península ibérica, no que respeita a estabilidade, o texto descreve também as contestações sociais que o país tem sido alvo.

Desde o início do ano, professores, enfermeiros e médicos têm estado em greve por salários mais altos e melhores condições. Quando os condutores de pesados pararam, no verão, o primeiro-ministro usou a força policial e militar para garantir combustíveis nas estações de serviço. A oposição acusou a atitude de ilegítima, mas milhões de turistas ficaram agradecidos”, descreve o texto.

A “Der Spiegel” compara as ações de pré-campanha que foram levadas a cabo por António Costa e pelo seu “principal concorrente” Rui Rio.

Durante o périplo do candidato do Partido Socialista pela Estrada Nacional 2, durante a qual António Costa passou por várias localidades ao longo de 700 quilómetros, “as pessoas tiveram oportunidade de expressar as suas preocupações diretamente: escolas superlotadas, tribunais sobrecarregados e elevados tempos de espera na saúde.”

“Rui Rio prefere apresentar-se em salas fechadas diante de um público selecionado. Embora o PSD tenha recebido o maior número de votos há quatro anos, não conseguiu formar governo, perdendo agora eleitorado”, destaca o artigo.

O primeiro-ministro que “conseguiu recuperar a confiança dos portugueses” assiste ao crescimento da economia, desde 2016, a 2%, acima da média, também graças a um “boom” no turismo, explica o texto, atribuindo mérito ao ministro das Finanças, Mário Centeno, formado em Harvard e que já trabalhou no Banco de Portugal.

Ele manteve o curso das políticas económicas do governo anterior, cedendo à esquerda em alguns aspetos: salário mínimo, reformas e ordenados dos funcionários públicos para transmitir que a era da austeridade tinha terminado. Ao mesmo tempo, reduziu a despesa pública”, salienta o artigo, sublinhando que a “recuperação económica se deve sobretudo ao clima económico favorável”.

É também com a ajuda de Centeno, segundo a publicação, que António Costa, que arriscou ao formar um pacto com as esquerdas, consegue aumentar o número de eleitores.

Até Wolfgand Schäuble (ministro das finanças alemão entre 2009 e 2017), que “inicialmente desconfiava do colega” considerou Centeno o “Ronaldo” do Eurogrupo.

Costa garante que “se uma crise internacional acontecer, o país está preparado”, realça o texto, prometendo “dez mil milhões de euros em investimentos em ferrovias, estradas, escolas e hospitais. Apesar disso, sem aumentar o défice.”

(EUobserver) Merkel’s China challenge – distance but engagement


  • German chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in China on Thursday. ‘Moderate disengagement from China also needs to be among the cards for European governments to play.’ (Photo: Nordic Council of Ministers)

With the US and China locked in a destructive spiral of muscle-flexing over trade and technology, German chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to China, which starts Thursday (5 September), will be a litmus test for whether the European Union stands any hope of tackling the West’s differences with China in a more goals-oriented way.

Any sign during Merkel’s two-day trip that Beijing can be better persuaded than bullied into dealing with its lack of economic reciprocity and discrimination of foreign companies would be good for the EU and the world economy.

One win would be movement in the tough talks about an EU-China investment agreement, which Merkel would like to have signed next year when Germany hosts a summit between all 27 EU member states and China.

Since announcing she would not run again for chancellor, Merkel has variously been suspected of having lost her touch or even of being a lame-duck head of government.

But the complexities and dangers the EU faces in triangulating the positions of the US and China demand the kind of canny operator Merkel has often proved herself to be – one that can engage one side without prompting the other to disengage, and vice versa.

The EU and the US might be at odds over how to deal with China’s economic and other policies, but not over the need to get Beijing to change them.

This spring, the EU commission used its new strategic outlook for EU-China relations to describe Beijing as a strategic competitor and systemic rival for the first time.

In this spirit, the French government is pushing the EU to set conditions for Chinese companies bidding for public contracts, a demand Berlin might yet support, if only to create leverage in ongoing EU-China negotiations.

But the EU is no geopolitical superpower like the US.

No European leader would risk the kind of confrontation Washington is seeking with Beijing – and Germany would not want to fully back Washington for the reasonable fear of being isolated in the event of an about-face by the Trump administration. Merkel knows Europe’s weakness demands a smarter play.

Playing it smart can’t mean business-as-usual for Merkel – even with a massive German business delegation accompanying her to China.

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong protests and Beijing’s strong-arming of multinational companies bring into focus the myriad ways in which Beijing exerts pressure on its citizens and businesses.

The increasing systemic tensions between China and liberal democracies demand that Merkel reinforce Europe’s coordinated stance that Beijing’s approach to Hong Kong’s fundamental freedoms and autonomy is a test case for the EU’s willingness to treat China as a partner.

Berlin has been central to shaping the EU’s new, less naive China policy – and Merkel needs to show that even economic expediency will not see Germany backsliding.

For now, Merkel’s government is pursuing a wobbly policy on the role of Huawei in the 5G telecoms rollout and shying away from the clear political decision that would be necessary to align European forces.

Berlin kicking the can down the road on 5G threatens Europe’s late awakening to the importance of technological sovereignty and consensus-building on infrastructure security.

The ongoing European debate about how to better deal with China’s state-led economy and unfair competition needs to be underpinned by concrete and speedy steps by the EU at home – together with loud and clear demands for equal treatment of state and private (foreign) firms or “competitive neutrality” in China.

Merkel needs to counter vague rhetorical commitments by China’s leaders to multilateralism with specific requests to reform the World Trade Organization to tackle distortions caused by China’s industrial subsidies.

Constructively delineating the differences between the EU and China should serve Merkel as a foundation to pursue clear-eyed engagement in a few, well-defined areas if they are aligned with long-term pan-European interests.

With the backing of of EU member states, these might include research and innovation cooperation in smart manufacturing, standard-setting for the industrial internet and autonomous driving, and what could be called a strategic sustainability agenda focusing on climate and environmental technologies.

It’s time for Germany to match its rhetoric about the need to ‘Europeanise’ approaches to China with concrete actions.

The EU’s ambition of forging a forceful, coordinated and competitive China policy can only be fulfilled if Berlin demonstrates its willingness to act as its guarantor while continuing to test China-policy alignment with more reliable partners in the US.

Moderate disengagement from China also needs to be among the cards for European governments to play.

A realist, nuanced and incremental European approach to China would then have the chance of proving itself a credible alternative to Donald Trump’s gunboat economic diplomacy.

(Express) Germany panic: No deal Brexit terrifies recession-threatened economy – ‘Pain in neck!’

(Express) GERMANY has heaped blame on Brexit as the European Union’s largest economy hurtles towards a deep recession – industry bosses fear a no deal wipeout.

Boris Johnson: MPs should vote with government on Brexit

The export-dependent economy is suffering from a Brexit shock as shipments to Britain dropped 21 percent quarter on quarter. And the possibility of a no-deal Brexit has leading industry figures cowering as they fear their businesses could be decimated. In the last three months to June, Germany witnessed the biggest slump in exports in over a decade since the financial crisis.

Global trade tensions between the United States and China and structural changes in the car industry were also blamed for the country’s misfortunes.

Brexit was branded a “pain in the neck” by Klaus Winkler, the chief of executive of Heller, who manufacture crankshafts that produce mill engine parts.The company is preparing to be hit with severe delays and higher trade tariffs if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.PROMOTED STORY

Mr Winkler told the Financial Times: “We can’t wait so long.

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel’s Germany faces Brexit-fuelled recession (Image: GETTY)

“Our customers customers need reliable days for delivery – these machines cost a lot and are very expensive if they are not available.”

Heller products were delayed for about five days when extra checks were introduced at French ports in March, a taste of what is potentially to come.

He added: “Our biggest worry is the short-term impact.

“We will need far longer to deliver parts to our UK factory and even longer to get final products back to our end customers.”

Mr Winkler suggested that Heller may be forced to relocate its UK factory, which employs 165 people in Redditch.

“If we knew it would be a long-term border-check situation, we could move production from the UK to Nurtingen.

“This is not something we want to do, because we have built a very qualified workforce in the UK that is competitive compared to our German workforce.”

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel timeline (Image: EXPRESS)

Andrew Kenningham, economist at Capital Economics, said: “Along with the threat of US tariffs on German autos, Brexit is a significant downside risk against an already very weak backdrop.”

Hadrien Camatte, a macroeconomist at think-tank BSI Economics, added: “German growth is hurt by the slowing of global demand and Brexit.”

Germany’s exports account for 47 percent of its Gross Domestic Product.

The figure dwarfs that of the French and British economies, which equates to just 30 percent, whereas the US GDP is made up of 12 percent exports.

The UK is the largest source of goods import and Germany’s fifth-largest export market after the US, China, France, and the Netherlands.

Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg in London, said: “German exports to the UK are already 12 per cent lower than they would have been if the trend that prevailed before the June 2016 Brexit vote had continued.”

He added: “Bad news on trade or Brexit would probably push Germany into a genuine mild recession.”

(Politico) 5 takeaways from Germany’s regional elections

(Politico) The far-right Alternative for Germany scored second place in two state elections Sunday.

AfD’s anti-foreigner, anti-establishment message resonates with a large swath of the German electorate | Carsten Koall/Getty Images

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) posted the strongest electoral results since its founding in 2013, finishing second in two regional elections in the eastern states of Brandenburg and Saxony on Sunday.

The results, coming on the heels of the party’s strong showing in both the last German general election in 2017 and May’s European Parliament ballot, suggest the party’s anti-foreigner, anti-establishment message continues to resonate with a large swath of the German electorate, especially in the east.

Support for the far-left Linke party, which has been a fixture of eastern Germany’s political system, collapsed in both states to about 10 percent, reflecting in part a migration of some voters from the populist left to the far right.

While Germany’s establishment parties are likely to retain control of both states, the AfD’s surge illustrates the difficulty centrist parties face in combatting the rise of populism in Europe’s largest country.

Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s results and what they mean for Germany’s political future.

1. The GroKo is down, but not out (yet)

Even if the incumbent parties managed to hold on to first place in both Brandenburg, where the Social Democrats (SPD) have reigned supreme since German reunification, and in Saxony, where the Christian Democrats (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel have long been dominant, the writing is on the wall.

While Sunday’s results are unlikely to trigger the immediate collapse of Germany’s so-called grand coalition — or “GroKo” — between the CDU and the SPD, its future is no more certain after this weekend.

The same is true for the question of whether CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who has had rough start in the role, will become the party’s next chancellor candidate. (Merkel has said she will not seek another term after 2021.) At most, the CDU’s defense of Saxony granted her a reprieve.

Despite their victories, the two establishment parties suffered significant losses. The SPD finish in Saxony, where it won just 7.7 percent, is the party’s worst-ever score in a state election in its nearly 130-year history. Martin Dulig, the SPD’s lead candidate in Saxony, had little more than gallows humor left after the results rolled in. “We may have the worst result, but we’re the coolest [SPD] regional branch,” he told supporters in Dresden in an attempt to let the tension out of the room.

Michael Kretschmer, Governor of Saxony and member of the CDU speaks to the media as he reacts to initial exit poll results | Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Few in Berlin were laughing. Even though the SPD managed to hang on to first place in Brandenburg and the CDU did so in Saxony, the incumbent ruling coalitions in both — SPD/Linke in Brandenburg and CDU/SPD in Saxony — were voted out.

2. The AfD is closer than ever to gaining real power

For now, all of the parties represented in Germany’s federal parliament maintain their steadfast refusal to govern together with the AfD. The question is how long that pledge will last if the far-right party continues to score results like Sunday’s. A look around Europe suggests not long.

With the AfD controlling about one quarter of the vote in both Brandenburg and Saxony, the coalition-building process promises to be complicated. Above all, it will force together strange bedfellows.

In Saxony, for example, the Christian Democrats’ will most likely have to partner with the SPD and the Greens to form a government after Sunday’s results, even though the CDU’s local leader has said his own group has nothing in common with the environmental party.

In Brandenburg, the Greens are likely to join an SPD-led left-leaning coalition with the Linke, parties with which it has deep ideological differences when it comes to the question of coal mining, a pillar of the local economy.

The ideological gyrations necessary to justify such coalitions to the public will likely fuel the AfD’s argument that it is a victim of the political establishment.

Meanwhile, some conservative politicians have begun to adopt some AfD positions in an effort to outmaneuver the far-right party. The CDU’s lead candidate in Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, opted to campaign against his own party — opposing Western sanctions on Russia, for example, and even traveling to St. Petersburg to meet with Vladimir Putin. Despite his protestations, it would seem that at some point, a coalition with the AfD would not be a bridge too far.

3. Germany remains a land divided

If there’s one thing Sunday’s results confirm, it’s that 30 years after reunification, Germany’s two halves are growing apart, not together.

Despite a steep drop in unemployment and years of economic growth in the region as a whole, many east Germans feel they’ve been left behind. The region’s loss of about 3.5 million mostly young people, the majority of whom relocated to western Germany in search of better jobs, is particularly bitter for eastern residents, who fear they’ve been robbed of their future.

Andreas Kalbitz, lead candidate of AfD in Brandenburg celebrates the initial exit poll results. His party posted the strongest electoral results since its founding | Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

Most of that population decline has occurred outside urban centers in rural communities, the same areas where the AfD is strongest. Moreover, worries about immigration, triggered by the refugee influx in 2015, have made them easy prey for the AfD’s populist rhetoric.

While the AfD has built a strong following in a number of western states, it typically wins no more than 10 percent of the vote there, a far cry from the nearly 28 percent the party won in Saxony.

While turnout was up considerably in both state elections Sunday, the AfD was the main beneficiary, as people who didn’t vote in the previous election turned out in large numbers to support the populists.

4. All that glitters isn’t Green

The sharp increase in support for Germany’s Greens over the past year has captured the imagination of political pundits far beyond the country’s borders. The party, which won less than 10 percent in 2017’s federal election, has been steadily polling in the mid-20s nationwide, neck-and-neck with the Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

They were also projected to post considerable gains in Sunday’s regional elections. And while the party did well, its showing was below what pollsters anticipated.

A woman casts the ballot in a polling station in Saxony | Carsten Koall/Getty Images

POLITICO’s Poll of Polls put the Greens at 14.4 percent in Brandenburg and 10.9 percent in Saxony, but the party finished with 10.8 in Brandenburg and 8.6 percent in Saxony. Though the results mark major gains for the Greens in both states, they also signal the “Green wave” is unlikely to become a tsunami in the east anytime soon.

5. Welcome to Germany’s new normal

The one thing that Germany’s west and east do have in common is that their political landscapes are fracturing.

Postwar Germany implemented a 5-percent threshold that parties have to cross in order to win seats in parliament. The idea was to prevent a return to the political fragmentation seen in the pre-war Weimar Republic, where the presence of 10 or more parties in parliament led to political paralysis which in turn contributed to the rise of the Nazis. 

Much of Germany’s postwar era was therefore dominated by two parties — the CDU and the SPD, dubbed Volksparteien (or people’s parties) for their broad appeal.

Despite the AfD’s rise, Germany does not appear to be in danger of falling back into authoritarianism. But its political system has become more divided, less predictable and — some argue — more democratic, with the inclusion of a greater diversity of views.

Sunday’s results signal that the decline of Germany’s once dominant Volksparteien and the fragmentation of its political landscape is set to continue.

(EurActiv) At WWII anniversary, Germany asks forgiveness while Poland demands compensations


German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II in Wielun, Poland, 1 September 2019. [Roman Zawistowski/EPA/EFE]

Germany’s president asked for forgiveness for his country on Sunday (1 September) for the suffering of the Polish people during World War Two as Poland marked 80 years since the Nazi German invasion that unleashed the deadliest conflict in human history.

The ceremonies began at 4:30 a.m. in the small town of Wielun, site of one of the first bombings of the war on 1 September 1939, with speeches by Polish President Andrzej Duda and his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Few places saw death and destruction on the scale of Poland. It lost about a fifth of its population, including the vast majority of its 3 million Jewish citizens.

“I am here to express my feelings for the country, my patriotism, and to remind myself of these terrible times,” said 68-year-old Warsaw resident Krzysztof Wojciechowski.

After the war, the shattered capital of Warsaw had to rise again from ruins and Poland remained under Soviet domination until 1989.

“As a German guest I walk before you here barefoot. I look back in gratitude to the Polish people’s fight for freedom. I bow sorrowfully before the suffering of the victim,” Steinmeier said at an event later in Warsaw.

“I ask for forgiveness for Germany’s historical guilt. I profess to our lasting responsibility.”

US Vice President Mike Pence paid tribute to the courage of the Polish people.

“None fought with more valour, determination, and righteous fury than the Poles,” Pence told the gathering of leaders in Warsaw that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

Pence attended the ceremony instead of US President Donald Trump who cancelled his trip due to the arrival of Hurricane Dorian, a disappointment to Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which is seen as one of Washington’s biggest allies in Europe.

Trump skips trip to Poland as hurricane approaches Florida

US President Donald Trump abruptly called off a weekend trip to Poland on Thursday (29 August), saying he wanted to stay home and make sure the federal government is prepared for a looming hurricane headed for Florida.

“America and Poland will continue to call on our allies to live up to the promises we have made to one another,” Pence said. He will hold bilateral talks in Warsaw on Monday.

Trump and the PiS government share views on issues such as migration, energy and abortion, but the Warsaw government faces mounting isolation in Europe over accusations that it subverts democratic norms.

“We love our Polish friends, and I will be there soon,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Sunday, confirming a visit was still in the offing.

For some in Poland, World War Two and its commemorations are still a live political issue, just weeks before a national vote.

For the PiS, the memory of the war is a major plank of its “historical politics”, aiming to counteract what it calls the West’s lack of appreciation for Polish suffering and bravery under Nazi occupation.

PiS politicians have repeatedly called for war reparations from Germany, one of Poland’s biggest trade partners and a fellow member of the European Union and NATO, and several onlookers yelled “reparations” after Steinmeier spoke.

Berlin says all financial claims linked to World War Two have been settled, but Steinmeier continued with his theme of responsibility. “Because Germany – despite its history – was allowed to grow to new strength in Europe, we Germans must do more for Europe,” he said.

Underscoring the Warsaw conservatives’ distrust of its European allies, President Duda said World War Two may have been prevented had Western nations shown more opposition to the “manic visions” of Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler. “It’s a big lesson for us,” Duda said in a speech in Warsaw.

Despite the theme of the day looking back 80 years, present day politics was, as ever, to the fore.

“We know that Europe needs to become stronger and more self-confident,” Steinmeier said. “But we also know: Europe should not be strong without America – or even against America. Rather, Europe needs partners. And I’m sure America needs partners in this world too … So let’s take care of this partnership!”

Conspicuously absent was Russian President Vladimir Putin who attended the 1 September events in Poland 10 years ago, but wasn’t invited this time, reflecting a change in relations following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

“There could be different assessments of the Soviet policy at the early stage of the Second World War. But one cannot deny the fact that it was the Soviet Union, which defeated Nazism, liberated Europe and saved European democracy from the annihilation,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Election looming

Poland was holding a series of commemorations during the day. Parallel events, attended by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and European Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans, were held in the coastal city of Gdansk, site of one of the first battles of the war.

Morawiecki spoke of the huge material, spiritual, economic and financial losses Poland suffered in the war.

Although it has been 80 years since the war started, there are still unresolved matters according to Poland, which says Germany owes it war reparations.

A parliamentary commission is currently working on a new analysis of the extent of Poland’s wartime human and material losses.

“We have to talk about, remember and demand the truth regarding those losses. We have to demand compensation,” Morawiecki said on Sunday at the Westerplatte ceremony.

When it comes to reparations, however, Berlin believes the case is closed.

Critics say PiS’s ambition is to fan nationalism among voters at a time when populists around the world are tapping into historical revisionism. PiS says the country’s standing on the global stage and national security are at stake.

Wartime remembrance has become a campaign theme ahead of the national election due on 13 October with PiS – expected to win – accusing the opposition of failing to protect Poland’s image.

“Often, we are faced with substantial ignorance when it comes to historical policy … or simply ill will,” Jaroslaw Sellin, deputy culture minister, told Reuters.

Poland commemorates the outbreak of World War Two rather than its end because it fell under Soviet domination shortly afterwards.

(EN) Berlin moves to greatly reduce ‘solidarity tax’ for eastern Germany


Finance minister Olaf Scholz wants to get rid of the Soli tax

Finance minister Olaf Scholz wants to get rid of the Soli tax

Germany’s solidarity surcharge, which raises money from taxpayers to boost the economy in the east, is to be abolished for 90% of Germans.

Finance minister Olaf Scholz sent the proposal to government departments for approval last week, and if accepted, it will become law in 2021.

The extra tax, known as the “Soli tax” amounts to 5.5% of income tax and corporation tax.

The law would take 90% of taxpayers completely out of the “Soli tax” and would reduce the tax bill for another 6-7% of the population.

The bill, proposed by the finance minister from Angela Merkel’s CDU party, has been encouraged with support from the CDU’s coalition partner the SPD.

The Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil, said: “It is absolutely time to noticeably reduce the burden on small and medium incomes by abolishing the solidarity surcharge.”

Weil also thinks it’s good that 10% of Germans should continue to pay the solidarity surcharge.

“Nobody would understand, however, if the highest incomes in Germany were now to be rewarded with tax gifts totalling around eleven billion euros. We’d better invest this money in education and climate protection.”

Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, parliamentary party and state leader of the SPD in Hesse, also supports Scholz.

What is the Soli tax?

The solidarity surcharge was introduced in 1991, to help reconstruction of the east following the reunification of Germany in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The tax was originally supposed to be in place only for a limited time but became permanent in 1995.

Initially, the solidarity rate was 7.5%, but since 1995 it has been 5.5%. In addition, the surcharge has been unlimited since 1995.

Contrary to some assumptions, taxpayers in the west and east have to pay the tax.

According to the Ministry of Finance, in 2018 the German state received €18.9 billion as a result.

Criticism of the bill

According to the Ministry of Finance, single people with an annual gross income of up to €73,874 would not have to pay anything. From €109,451 gross annual wages, the full supplement would have to be paid.

Accordingly, a family with two children and an annual income of €221,375 or more would have to pay the full solidarity surcharge. Families earning less than €151,990 gross would be exempt from the solidarity surcharge.

If the draft is adopted, German citizens would then have to pay around €10 billion less in tax.

Criticism comes from parties outside the coalition. Katja Kipping of Die Linke said that the CDU/CSU and SPD were making politics for the rich with their proposal.

FDP General Secretary Linda Teuteberg wrote on Twitter: “The Soli is unconstitutional for everyone from 2020. So it must also be abolished for everyone. Our constitution also applies to those who in reality want tax increases, and there you have to choose the normal procedures and not the back door.”

Many citizens on social networks are also outraged by the fact that they still have to pay the solidarity surcharge. “The solidarity surcharge was introduced in 1991 for a limited period of one year. I believed that,” wrote a user on Twitter.

(EN) Germany’s meat tax: Step forward, or wurst idea?


Germany's meat tax: Step forward, or wurst idea?

Germany, famous for its love of sausage, is debating a special tax on meat. The aim? To improve the welfare and conditions of livestock.

But would it work? Has it been considered elsewhere in Europe? And could there be other reasons to change consumer behaviour when it comes to meat?

It’s a big deal in a country where meat matters. The average German eats 80 kilograms of meat per year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) — twice the global average. (The U.S. is highest.)

Who proposed a higher meat tax in Germany?

The idea originally came from the German Animal Protection Association, which suggested a levy in order to pay for better animal husbandry.

“Meat and other animal products are too cheap and sometimes sold at low prices, so animal welfare is not possible, and price pressures are forcing farmers to keep more animals in ever smaller spaces,” the association’s president, Thomas Schröder, told Euronews.

He said animals are forced into are spaces too small for their welfare. “They are castrated without anaesthetisation, cattle have their horns cut off just so that the animals can be kept in a small space.”

A small levy on the price of meat, he said, could be used specifically for improving farming standards, whereas a higher tax would simply generate more revenue for the government.

“Unlike a tax that is not earmarked and simply flows into the federal budget, a levy could be used directly for more animal welfare in farm animal husbandry, such as more space for the animals,” Schröder said.

However, politicians — including some with the centre-left SPD and Greens — have advocated raising VAT instead. Meat in Germany benefits from a reduced rate of 7%, and it has been suggested that this could be raised to the standard VAT rate of 19%.

Friedrich Ostendorff, agricultural policy spokesman for the Green Party, said he is in favour of ending the reduced rate for meat “and earmarking it for more animal welfare.”

German Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner said that, whatever the method, it was necessary for consumers to bear some of the higher costs involved in better facilities for livestock.

What do Germans think?

The immediate concern with the VAT proposal is that extra revenue would not be earmarked for animal welfare — a fear confirmed by the Ministry of Finance, which said it did not have a mechanism for separating VAT revenues based on meat sales from revenue on other transactions.

Many politicians in Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU, as well as the FDP and AfD parties, are also opposed to the change.

Secretary General of the German Farmers’ Association, Bernhard Krüsken, said a meat tax was in any case not enough to compensate for the changes that farms would need to make.

Besides, Krüsken said, German government policy is currently to limit the construction of new agricultural facilities.”We need a binding strategy for livestock, which is thought through to the end,” he said.

Forcing shoppers onto cheaper meat

Critics say a side-effect of higher meat prices would be that consumers would switch to cheaper meat likely to be less healthy or have lower production standards. This effect would be magnified when it comes to already-expensive organic meat.

Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein, chairman of the Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft, Germany’s organic food association, also sees this as a problem.

“With a flat-rate meat tax, one achieves the opposite of what one intends,” he said. “The demand is directed precisely to products made under the lowest standards.”

Instead, he suggested, organic or less environmentally-harmful products of all kinds should be given the reduced VAT rate.

However, Schröder of the German Animal Protection Federation said the cost to consumers of its original proposal had been estimated at no more than 60 euros per household per year.

Other meat tax plans

The idea of raising meat prices has been considered before, but in the context of dampening consumer demand because of the environmental impact of intensive livestock farming.

There are also health considerations.

In 2015 the World Health Organisation said that processed meat, such as sausage and bacon, and unprocessed red meat was putting consumers at higher risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

study by Mike Rayner, professor of population health at Oxford University, suggested a red meat tax of about 20% and a processed meat tax of 100% to offset healthcare costs. Under those conditions, he said, the consumption of processed meat would drop by an average of 16%.

While higher tax is never popular, measures to change consumer behaviour have proven successful in Britain.

In Scotland, the introduction of minimum alcohol pricing has seen a drop in alcohol consumption, while the use of plastic carrier bags from supermarkets has been significantly reduced by the introduction of mandatory charges.

(EUobserver) Audi ex-CEO on fraud charge, as diesels remain on road


  • Rupert Stadler, then CEO of Audi, at a car show in Frankfurt, 15 September 2015 – mere days before Audi’s parent company Volkswagen Group admitted to having cheating on emissions tests.

German prosecutors have accused Rupert Stadler, former CEO of carmaker Audi, of fraud for his role in the diesel emissions scandal, Munich prosecutors announced on Wednesday (31 July).

Stadler had led the German company, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group (VW), from 2010, including in the period leading up to VW’s confession of having cheated on the emissions test in the US.

  • The technology VW used to equip 11m cars worldwide with emissions cheating software was developed at Audi (Photo: Colin Harris  ADE)

He remained in his post until October 2018 – four months after he had been temporarily held as a suspect.

VW had rigged some 11 million diesel cars worldwide with illegal emissions cheating software, eight million of which in the EU. They included the brands Volkswagen, Audi, Seat, and Skoda.

The cheat technique had been developed from Audi engineers.

The news comes almost four years after VW’s cheating came to the limelight, and 15 weeks after former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn was charged with fraud by the public prosecutor in Braunschweig.

Last year, the then Audi CEO was arrested out of fear he would interfere with the investigation into the diesel emissions fraud.

The company received a €800m fine over the scandal in Germany.

Meanwhile, the German car companies have not dealt with all of the cars equipped with the illegal software.

One in five cars has still not received the software update, despite promises to the EU that it would be done by the autumn of 2017.

The situation varies greatly between EU member states, because recalls are not mandatory everywhere.

Germany vs eastern Europe

While Germany has a recall and update percentage of 99 percent, less than half of the affected vehicles have been updated in Croatia (46 percent), Poland (45 percent), and Romania (37 percent).

Another thirteen EU member states have recall percentages below 75 percent. Of those, France (74 percent) is the only country where the recall is mandatory.

EU-wide there are still around 1.5m VW cars driving around with the cheat software.

Even then, the ones that have been treated do not perform much better in terms of pollution.

VW was also not unique: other carmakers also sold diesel cars that were much dirtier in actual use than during the official laboratory test.

According to campaign group Transport & Environment, there are some 43m dirty diesel cars and vans still on the road.

“The current snail’s pace to clean up diesel cars across Europe is unacceptable,” the group said in a statement last May.

“The industry has had almost four years since the diesel scandal broke but has failed to deliver even on its own commitments to fix manipulated cars. It’s time for governments to get tough and order mandatory recalls across the EU. This does not require any new laws but just political will.”

(DW) House of Hohenzollern struggles to make restitution claims


Since the last German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, unceremoniously abdicated in 1918, the heirs of the Prussian royals have been trying to regain properties and riches expropriated after both wars. But it’s complicated.

Mondfinsternis 2018 | Deutschland (Getty Images/M. Hangst)

When a court in June dismissed the Prince of Prussia’s claim on the former Hohenzollern family-owned Rheinfels Castle — a vast medieval bulwark on the Rhine river that has belonged to the Rhineland-Palatinate town of St. Goar since World War Two — it was the latest in a series of failed restitution attempts. 

As revealed last week, Rheinfels Castle is only one of numerous objects that the heirs to the House of Hohenzollern headed by Georg Friedrich Ferdinand — the Prince of Prussia and great-great-grandchild of last German monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm II — is trying to reclaim. Since 2013, negotiations have been ongoing between the aristocratic dynasty, the federal government and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg concerning the restitution of tens of thousands of art objects, unpaid housing rights in Potsdam’s Cecilienhof Palace, and compensation payments for expropriations following World War Two.

All parties are striving for a legally binding, out-of-court settlement. Whether this will be achieved, however, is unclear. According to the weekly Der Spiegel magazine, the state presented a draft contract months ago, but the Hohenzollern family apparently reacted with a counter-proposal of several hundred pages. The Ministry of Culture, headed by Monika Grütter, said the latter was not “a suitable basis for promising negotiations.”

Read moreColonial art restitution: ‘The desire is not to wipe museums clean’

Treasure trove of claims

The list of claims is long and diverse. Among other things, Georg Friederich demanded a “permanent, unpaid and land register-protected housing right” in Potsdam’s Cecilienhof Palace, owned by the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation in Berlin-Brandenburg. The historically important palace building was recently renovated with taxpayers’ money.

Der Spiegel also reported that the Lindstedt Palace in Potsdam, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, could be an alternative restitution target for the prince, in addition to the Liegnitz Villa on the outskirts of Sanssouci Palace. But the elaborate restoration of the latter property is currently underway with public funding of almost 8 million euros (nearly $9 million).

Then there’s the demand for the return of tens of thousands of paintings, graphic prints, sculptures, porcelain objects, medals, furniture, books and photographs — objects of great value and historical significance. These include the ornate Neuwieder Kabinett by David Roentgen, one of the grandest pieces of furniture ever made in Europe; works by artists such as the painter Friedrich Tischbein and by Lucas Cranach the Elder and the Younger; clothing worn by Emperor Wilhelm I; and the armchair in which Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, died.

Rechtsstreit um Burg Rheinfels (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Hirschberger)

Georg Friedrich Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia, is deep in a restitution struggle

Museums fear closure

Most of the objects are located at the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and the German Historical Museum. More than a dozen museums, archives and libraries fear that parts of their collections could be compromised.

Samuel Wittwer, director of the of Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, told Der Spiegel that Berlin’s Grunewald Hunting Lodge and the New Pavilion in Charlottenburg Palace’s gardens would have to close if the Hohenzollern family got everything they are demanding.

DW contacted Hohenzollern lawyer Markus Hennig in regard to Wittwer’s assertion, however he declined to comment  about this and other questions regarding the Prussian Prince’s extensive restitution claims.

On Monday, however, Hennig told the German Press Agency that, contrary to various reports, his client wanted to keep the items that are being claimed in public museums. “From the point of view of the House [Editor’s note: of Hohenzollern], the primary goal is to preserve the collections in the existing museums and continue to make them accessible to the public,” he said.

On Wednesday, he also warned against a “scandalization” of the matter and appealed for respect for his client.

  • PRUSSIA’S GLAMOUR AND GLORY — THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PALACES IN BRANDENBURGSanssouci PalaceSmall but fine: Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam was only Frederick the Great’s summer residence, but today it is the world star among the palaces of the Prussian royal family. Sanssouci Palace — translated “without a care” — enchants hundreds of thousands of tourists every year with its picturesque location and architectural sophistication.


Interpreting history

Henning further added that the Hohenzollerns are interested in the establishment of a “Hohenzollern Museum” in which the works in question could be exhibited. But any such museum could be highly contentious as the Hohenzollern family would have a say in all the museum’s exhibitions, publications and events that present their own history.

This could compromise the independence of state institutions, says historian Stephan Malinowski. He believes the family should leave the interpretation of its history “up to the institutions and places where public funding are concerned and to the democratic rules that govern them.”

“Prudently put, I think the desire to have the historical narrative and the interpretation of the House of Hohenzollern left up to them, but be publicly financed, seems adventurous,” Malinowski told DW.

A century after the abdication of the last German emperor, King Wilhelm II, one would think the question of the ownership of the Hohenzollern legacy would have been clarified long ago. Yet the origin of today’s dispute remains intertwined with the moment the Prussian constitutional monarchy ended and parliamentary democracy began in Germany.

The imperial property of Wilhelm II was confiscated by the young Weimar Republic in 1918. But while the Hohenzollern descendants regained a large number of castles and estates — including Cecilienhof Palace, where the young prince would now like to live — in 1926, they lost them again in 1945 after the end of World War Two.

Since the majority of the Hohenzollern estates were located in the territory of the Soviet occupiers, this time the Hohenzollern family was ousted by the communist state that ruled East Germany until 1989.

Read moreWeimar, 1919: Birth of Germany’s first democracy

Kaiser Wilhelm II with regalier (picture-alliance/dpa)

Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor who ceded his royal properties when he abdicated and moved to the Netherlands in 1918

Finding a lasting solution

The Unification Treaty of 1990 recognized the expropriation of land and buildings as unlawful, but not the expropriation of inventory. In principle, the Hohenzollern family is entitled to the objects encompassed by the treaty, as well as to compensation for the expropriation.

The one exception: a court decides that the Hohenzollern family “considerably abetted” the National Socialist regime. Germany’s 1994 Indemnification and Compensation Act, which compensates post-1945 land expropriations, excludes compensation in this instance.

But the jury is still out on the level of Hohenzollern collaboration with the Nazis, despite the fact that Prussian Crown Prince supported Hitler in the 1930s.

Some have further rejected the basis for compensation claims due to the Hohenzollern’s complicity in World War One, with Kaiser Wilhelm II signing the order for German mobilization. Writing on the news website of public radio station, RBB24, journalist Tomas Fitzel penned an article titled “Nobility is evil,” and which argued that the royal descendants deserved little after the Kaiser “plunged Europe into the abyss and suffered complete defeat.” 

Such opinion, in addition to legal and historical ambiguity and debate over the implication of the Hohenzollern restitution claims for public museums, seems to indicate that the issue is unlikely to be fully resolved any time soon.

Nonetheless, the parties involved — the House of Hohenzollern, the Ministry of Culture and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg — have emphasized their desire to try to reach an amicable solution. 

The parties are scheduled to begin renegotiations on July 24.