Category Archives: Germany

(EUobserver) Germany fires spy chief over far-right sympathies

(EUobserver) Germany’s government has fired its domestic spy chief, Hans-Georg Maassen, after he claimed chancellor Angela Merkel’s views on recent anti-migrant riots in Chemnitz may have been based on a fake video clip and amid allegations of improper ties to the far-right AfD party. Maassen will become an official in the interior ministry instead, enjoying a higher pay grade than he does now, despite his defenestration.

(Politico) EU probes BMW, Daimler and VW over possible cartel activities

(Politico) Collusion may have denied consumers opportunity to buy less polluting cars, anti-trust chief Margrethe Vestager says.

German carmakers BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen are under investigation for colluding to limit the development of technology that would clean petrol and diesel emissions from their cars, the European Commission announced today.

The case is a big move from European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, who has long been criticized for prioritizing cases against big U.S. companies such as Google, rather than tackling the hallowed German car industry.

The Commission said it is assessing whether the companies specifically discussed emissions control systems called selective catalytic reduction, which reduces nitrogen oxides and “Otto” particulate filters, which reduce particle emissions.

If the charges are proven, “this collusion may have denied consumers the opportunity to buy less polluting cars, despite
the technology being available to the manufacturers,” Vestager said in a statement.

The Commission said that the companies may have discussed other issues, but it is limiting the scope of the investigation to emissions devices. “At this stage the Commission has no indications that the parties coordinated with each other in relation to the use of illegal defeat devices to regulatory testing,” the Commission said, referring to Volkswagen’s cheating in the Dieselgate scandal.

(Reuters) Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank increasingly open to merger: Spiegel

(Reuters) Executives of Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) and Commerzbank (CBKG.DE) are increasingly open to the idea of a merger of Germany’s two largest banks, magazine Der Spiegel reported on Tuesday.

It cited one person as saying that Commerzbank Chief Executive Martin Zielke “would rather do it today than tomorrow”, but that new Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing had said internally a merger was not on the agenda in the next 18 months.

It added that Finance Minister Olaf Scholz could also imagine a deal to combine the two lenders.

“We do not comment on banks’ strategic decisions,” a spokeswoman for the German Finance Ministry said. The German government still owns a 15 percent stake in Commerzbank after bailing it out during the financial crisis.

Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank both declined to comment.

The news sent shares in Commerzbank as much as 4 percent higher to a four-week high at 8.74 euros.

Shares in Deutsche Bank were 0.8 percent higher at 9.66 euros by 1418 GMT, outperforming a 0.5 percent slide by Germany’s blue-chip DAX index .GDAXI.

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Deutsche Bank, which has bought German peers Postbank and Sal. Oppenheim over the last decade, also held talks with Commerzbank over a potential merger in 2016.

At the time, the two lenders shelved the project as they wanted to complete their restructuring efforts before taking any steps in the direction of a merger.

(BBC) Volkswagen investors start €9bn emissions court case

(BBC)

Markus Pfueller, head lawyer for Volkswagen, speaks to the pressImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionVolkswagen’s head lawyer, Markus Pfueller, speaks to the press at the conference centre where the case is being held

Volkswagen has gone on trial in Germany in what is the first court case against the carmaker over the diesel scandal.

Investors are pursuing VW for about €9.2bn (£8.2bn) in damages, claiming the company should have come clean sooner about falsifying emissions data.

VW shares crashed after disclosure in 2015 that its diesel technology emitted illegal levels of pollution.

“VW should have told the market that they cheated,” Andreas Tilp, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the court.

“We believe that VW should have told the market no later than June 2008 that they could not make the technology that they needed in the United States,” he told the Braunschweig higher regional court.

Shareholders representing 1,670 claims are seeking compensation for the near 40% slide in Volkswagen’s share price triggered by the scandal, which broke in September 2015 and has cost the firm €27.4bn in penalties and fines so far.

Criminal probe

The legal action has been brought by the Deka investment fund, which is being used a template for a further 1,600 lawsuits.

The case involves about 50 lawyers, and interest in the hearing is so great that it had to be moved from the court house to a nearby conference centre.

In a short statement to the BBC, VW pointed out that the “lawsuit is solely and exclusively about whether Volkswagen complied with its disclosure obligations toward shareholders and the capital markets”.

The company said it was “confident” it had carried out its obligations correctly.

The court case is expected to take at least until next year to be fully decided.

Former executives from VW, Porsche and their sister company Audi are under criminal investigation in Germany.

The company itself has already been fined €1bn by German prosecutors over its diesel emissions scandal. It has also paid a fine of $4.3bn in the US to resolve criminal and civil penalties.

VW has admitted its responsibility for the diesel crisis.

(Reuters) Hans-Georg Maassen- the spy who went out into the heat

(Reuters) Spies usually operate in the shadows. Hans-Georg Maassen, chief of Germany’s domestic spy agency, has done just the opposite and taken centre-stage in a heated debate about the far-right that is shaking Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to its core.

BERLIN: Spies usually operate in the shadows. Hans-Georg Maassen, chief of Germany’s domestic spy agency, has done just the opposite and taken centre-stage in a heated debate about the far-right that is shaking Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to its core.

In comments to Friday’s edition of mass-selling daily Bild, Maassen said he was sceptical about reports that migrants had been hounded in the city of Chemnitz after the fatal stabbing of a German man there, for which two asylum seekers were arrested.

The violence in the eastern city has shaken Germany deeply. But Maassen said his BfV domestic intelligence agency had “no reliable information about such hunts taking place”, and that a video circulating showing that happening could have been faked.

Those comments put him at odds with Merkel, who said images from Chemnitz “very clearly” showed hate. She has also accused the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party of using violent protests over the stabbing to stir up ethnic tension.

The upshot is that senior politicians are calling for 55-year-old Maassen to go. He will likely have to explain himself to a parliamentary committee this week. His own stance towards the far-right is also being questioned.

“Will the AfD soon have a new hero?” the Bild am Sonntag newspaper asked in a headline next to a picture of Maassen, whose face was plastered across German weekend newspapers and television bulletins.

Questions have been raised before about how aggressively Maassen has taken on the far-right, including the AfD, which he has resisted putting under surveillance.

A former leader of the AfD’s youth wing, Franziska Schreiber, wrote in her book published this year – “Inside AFD: The report of a drop-out” – that Maassen had advised ex-AfD leader Frauke Petry on how the party could avoid being put under surveillance by his office. He has denied giving such counsel.

POLITICAL FALLOUT

A trained lawyer who forged his career in the Interior Ministry, Maassen has generally stayed out of the spotlight during his six years in charge of the BfV, though he has clashed with other more circumspect government officials for calling out Russia as the likely culprit behind cyber attacks on Germany.

In a 2016 interview with Reuters, Maassen said far-right extremists in Germany were increasingly ready to commit violent acts – a risk he has since flagged again.

On Friday, Maassen’s BfV intelligence agency said it would make further checks on information available about the Chemnitz protests as “there are always fake news and attempts at disinformation” on social media.

“Checks, in particular with regard to possible ‘hounding’ of migrants by right-wing extremists, will continue,” it added.

Maassen’s Chemnitz comments have aggravated tensions about whether politicians and the authorities are being too complacent in the face of rising xenophobia in Germany, where many thought the lessons of its Nazi history had long been learned.

The remarks have also split Berlin’s political class and re-opened fissures over immigration in Merkel’s ‘grand coalition’, only two months after she closed a painful row with her Bavarian sister party on the same issue.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), has backed Maassen. Alexander Gauland, co-leader of the anti-immigrant AfD, told the Bild am Sonntag: “All accusations against him are politically motivated.”

But Malu Dreyer, a senior figure in the Social Democrats, junior partner in Merkel’s coalition, said he had created uncertainty and “destroyed” trust in the state. “So I do not think he is still the right man for this position,” she added.

(Reuters) After demos, far-right AfD overtakes German Social Democrats

(Reuters) Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has overtaken the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), a poll showed on Tuesday, days after some of the most violent protests by radical right-wingers the country has seen in decades.

Some 6,000 supporters of the AfD and anti-Islam PEGIDA joined protests in the eastern city of Chemnitz on Saturday, following other demonstrations last week, after a fatal stabbing on Aug. 26. Two immigrants were arrested for the killing.

An INSA opinion poll on Tuesday put the AfD up half a percentage point at 17 percent, with the SPD, who share power with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, slipping by the same amount to 16 percent. Merkel’s conservative bloc was on 28.5 percent.

Germany’s next electoral test comes on Oct. 14 when Merkel’s Bavarian allies face a major challenge from the AfD for state government.

The AfD, the third-biggest party in last year’s election and the main opposition, seized on the killing of a 35-year old German in Chemnitz and the subsequent arrests of a Syrian and Iraqi to ramp up criticism of Merkel’s open-door asylum policy.

Prosecutors said on Tuesday they were looking for a third suspect and Der Spiegel reported there was some doubt about the identity of the two already under arrest.

Merkel, who has been criticized for remaining largely silent during days of protests, plans to visit the city, a spokesman said. No date for the visit has been set.

Images showed skinheads at last week’s protests chasing migrants through the streets, hurling bottles and fireworks, and making Nazi salutes, illegal in Germany.

Calls have mounted for the domestic intelligence agency to place the AfD under surveillance.

Bjoern Hoecke, an AfD leader from the state of Thuringia who has criticized Germany’s main memorial to the victims of the Holocaust as a “monument of shame” and wants Germany to re-write its history books, took part in Saturday’s march in Chemnitz.

In a show of resistance, some 65,000 people attended a rock concert “against xenophobia” on Monday night in Chemnitz, given by mostly left-leaning groups.

(EUobserver) Migration is ‘mother of all problems’, says German interior minister

(EUobserver) 

  • The Bavarian christian-democrat of Horst Seehofer (c) distants itself from chancellor Merkel (Photo: Blu News)

Migration is “the mother of all problems”, German interior minister Horst Seehofer is reported to have said on Wednesday (5 September).

According to Die Welt and Bild newspapers, Seehofer made the statement at a closed-doors meeting with members of his Christian-Social Union (CSU) party, the Bavarian branch of chancellor Angela Merkel CDU party.

(EUobserver) Merkel backs Weber to replace Juncker

(EUobserver) Bavarian MEP Manfred Weber has been backed by German chancellor Angela Merkel as “spitzenkandidat” for Europe’s centre-right EPP parties in next year’s European Parliament elections. German media reports that Merkel’s decision was reached after consultations with French EPP leader Joseph Daul in Berlin. If he wins the European elections in May, Weber could replace Jean-Claude Juncker and become the first German heading the European Commission in more than 50 years.

(ZH) Germany Calls For Global Payment System Independent Of The US

(ZH) In a stunning vote of “no confidence” in the US monopoly over global payment infrastructure, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US that would allow Brussels to be independent in its financial operations from Washington and as a means of rescuing the nuclear deal between Iran and the west.

Writing in the German daily Handelsblatt, Maas said “Europe should not allow the US to act over our heads and at our expense. For that reason it’s essential that we strengthen European autonomy by establishing payment channels that are independent of the US, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent Swift system,” he wrote, cited by the FT.

Maas said it was vital for Europe to stick with the Iran deal. “Every day the agreement continues to exist is better than the highly explosive crisis that otherwise threatens the Middle East,” he said, with the unspoken message was even clearer: Europe no longer wants to be a vassal state to US monopoly over global payments, and will now aggressively pursue its own “Swift” network that is not subservient to Washington’s every whim.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas

Swift, a Belgium-based global payment network, enables financial institutions worldwide to send and receive information about financial transactions. The system’s management claims Swift is politically neutral and independent, although it has previously been used to block transactions and enforce US sanctions against various countries, most notably Iran.  In 2012, the Danish newspaper Berlingske wrote that US authorities managed to seize money being transferred from a Danish businessman to a German bank for a batch of US-sanctioned Cuban cigars. The transaction was made in US dollars, which allowed Washington to block it.

According to Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute, a Berlin-based think-tank, Maas’s intervention was the “strongest call yet for EU financial and monetary autonomy vis-à-vis US.”

The German foreign minister’s article highlights the depth of the dilemma facing European politicians as they struggle to keep the Iran deal alive while coping with the fallout of US sanctions imposed by Mr Trump against companies doing business with Tehran.

Maas also called for the creation of a “balanced partnership” with the US in which the Europeans filled the gaps left where the US withdrew from the world. Europe must, he said, “form a counterweight when the US crosses red lines”.

As the FT adds, the EU has vowed to protect European businesses from punitive measures adopted by Washington, but that has failed to convince EU companies, who are more concerned about maintaining their access to the lucrative US market than in the more modest opportunities presented by Iran.

Last month Washington rebuffed a high-level European plea to exempt crucial industries from sanctions. Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, and Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, formally rejected an appeal for carve-outs in finance, energy and healthcare made by ministers from Germany, France, the UK and the EU.

Swift is also affected: unless it wins an exemption from sanctions, it will be required by the US to cut off targeted Iranian banks from its network by early November or face possible countermeasures against both its board members and the financial institutions that employ them. These could include asset freezes and US travel bans for the individuals, and restrictions on banks’ ability to do business in the US.

Maas’s stark warning against US domination of global payments comes with relations between Germany and the US in their worst state for decades. Mr Trump has chastised Berlin over its large trade surplus, its relatively low military spending and its support for Nord Stream 2, a new gas pipeline that will bring Russian gas directly to Germany.

Meanwhile, Berlin has looked on in dismay as Mr Trump has withdrawn the US from the Iran deal and the Paris climate treaty, imposed import tariffs on EU steel and aluminium and appeared to question America’s commitment to Nato.

In short: Europe has finally had enough and it plans on hitting back at Trump where it truly hurts: the money.

(Reuters) VW’s CEO was told about emissions software months before scandal: Der Spiegel

(Reuters) Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) Chief Executive Herbert Diess was told about the existence of cheating software in cars two months before regulators blew the whistle on a multi-billion exhaust emissions scandal, German magazine Der Spiegel said.

Der Spiegel’s story, based on recently unsealed documents from the Braunschweig prosecutor’s office, raises questions about whether VW informed investors in a timely manner about the scope of a scandal which it said has cost it more than $27 billion in penalties and fines.

The Braunschweig prosecutor’s office was not reachable for comment on Saturday.

Volkswagen’s senior management, which has denied wrongdoing, is being investigated by prosecutors in Braunschweig, near where Volkswagen is headquartered, to see whether the company violated disclosure rules.

U.S. regulators exposed VW’s cheating on Sept. 18, 2015.

Responding to the magazine report, the carmaker reiterated on Saturday that the management board had not violated its disclosure duties, and had decided to not inform investors earlier because they had failed to grasp the scope of the potential fines and penalties.

Citing documents unsealed by the Braunschweig prosecutor’s office, Der Spiegel said Diess was present at a meeting on July 27, 2015 when senior engineers and executives discussed how to deal with U.S. regulators, who were threatening to ban VW cars because of excessive pollution levels.

Diess, who was VW’s brand chief at the time, became chief executive of Volkswagen Group in April this year. Volkswagen also owns the Scania, Skoda, Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Ducati brands.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had found unusually high pollution levels in VW’s vehicles and was threatening to withhold road certification for new cars until VW explained why pollution levels were too high.

Diess, who had defected from BMW to become head of the VW brand on July 1, 2015, joined the July 27 meeting with Volkswagen’s then Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn to discuss how to convince regulators that VW’s cars could be sold, a VW defense document filed with a court in Braunschweig in February, shows.

Volkswagen on Saturday said both Winterkorn and Diess declined to comment given the ongoing proceedings. A spokesman for Martin Winterkorn declined to comment on Saturday. Winterkorn’s lawyer Felix Doerr, could not be reached for comment.

Following this meeting, Winterkorn asked Diess whether BMW too had installed “defeat devices” in its cars, Der Spiegel said.

In the United States, legal engine management software is described as an “auxiliary emissions device” while the term “defeat device” is used to describe only illegal software.

Diess is said to have answered that BMW had not made use of such software, Der Spiegel said.

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EVALUATE

Volkswagen said on Saturday: “The contents of the discussion, where Martin Winterkorn and Herbert Diess were present, cannot be fully reconstructed, because the recollections of the people who were present partially deviate.”

Volkswagen further said it was the task of authorities and courts to evaluate the conflicting statements and to assess whether individual witnesses were credible.

Diess and Winterkorn left the July 27 meeting taking a presentation with them, Der Spiegel further said.

A VW employee intervened and cautioned the managers that it would be better if they were not in possession of the presentation, Der Spiegel said.

Volkswagen said on Saturday the purpose of the July 27 meeting was not to discuss whether Volkswagen had broken U.S. law, but how to resolve the issue of whether new models would be given regulatory clearance.

Volkswagen argued that it had struggled to understand whether its software was in fact illegal, the defense document filed with the Braunschweig court shows.

On July 31, 2015 Volkswagen hired a law firm to help the company understand its regulatory troubles, and lawyers were unsure whether the software would be deemed an illegal “defeat device” in the United States, VW said in the court filing.

The court filing further said that Hans Dieter Poetsch, Volkswagen’s finance chief at the time, on Sept. 14, 2015 believed the potential financial risk from regulatory penalties tied to emissions would be around 150 million euros ($172 million).

Hans Dieter Poetsch is now Volkswagen’s chairman.

Volkswagen on Saturday reiterated that it had not violated disclosure rules and had informed investors in a timely manner about the financial scope of the scandal when it published an “ad hoc” disclosure notice on Sept. 22, 2015.

Volkswagen said that although it had admitted to using defeat devices to regulators on Sept. 3, 2015 it had assumed that penalties would not exceed 200 million euros, based on the size of fines imposed against rival carmakers who had committed similar regulatory breaches.

Because the company had already accrued sufficient provisions for vehicle recalls to cover this amount, there was no need to inform investors that profits could take a further hit before September 2015, Volkswagen’s court filing said.

(Express) EU’S SCHENGEN CRISIS: Germany ‘considering proposal to impose border controls’ with FRANCE

(Express)

Germany

Germany has sent shockwaves to the rest of the Europe by threatening its fellow EU powerhouse France (Image: GETTY)

GERMAN interior ministers are considering imposing border controls with France it has been claimed, in what would be an unprecedented move in the era of the EU between the two powers.

Germany will send shockwaves to the rest of the Europe by proposing fellow EU powerhouse France with border controls, according to reports.

An interior minister official in Germany has told national media that they are considering reintroducing border controls on their shared frontiers with both Switzerland and France.

The official blamed the unprecedented measure on Spain’s recent rise in migration and warned that Germany would not repeat what they did in 2015.

At the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has succesfully struck deals with Greece and Spain to return people to those countries if they applied for aslyum there.

Mrs Merkel has confirmed Germany is also in “very advanced” negotiations on a similar deal with the Italian Government.

The German Chancellor is under pressure to avoid a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis, when the country welcomed over a million people.

According to Al Jazeera, the German government is mulling over replicating the police controls they have already imposed on the Austrian border with France as well.

Helmut Teichmann, junior minister for migration at the Interior Ministry, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the German cabinet is alarmed by developments in Spain.

He said: “We fear that many migrants could make their way to France, the Benelux countries and Germany.”

Following her deals with Greece and Spain, Mrs Merkel is now focused on striking an agreement with Italy.

A pact with Italy would represent the biggest breakthrough yet and relieve the pressure on the under-fire German leader.

However, Italy has so far been combative in talks with its European allies.

Last week, Italy warned Britain it would not offer safe harbour to 141 people rescued by the humanitarian ship Aquarius off the coast of Libya, demanding that Britain take them in.

(EUobserver) Merkel confronts far-right critics: ‘2015 will not be repeated’

(EUobserver) “The year 2015 should not be repeated and will not be repeated,” German chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday after meeting her CDU party in Dresden. In 2015 she spoke the famous words “Wir schaffen das” (‘We can manage this’) about migrants and refugees coming to Germany in the hundred thousands for shelter and better opportunities. Anti-migrant AfD party and Pediga movement supporters demonstrated at her arrival in Dresden.

(BBG) Deutsche Bank Has Some Debt Cut by Moody’s to a Step Above Junk

(BBG) Deutsche Bank AG had the credit rating of one type of debt cut by Moody’s Investors Service after a change in German law last month paved the way for a more senior kind of borrowing.

In a move that was widely anticipated, Moody’s downgraded the bank’s senior non-preferred debt to Baa3 — the lowest investment grade — from Baa2 and reclassified the bonds as “junior senior” debt. The government is now less likely to support what are currently senior notes, the ratings firm said in a statement Friday.

Deutsche Bank Chief Financial Officer James von Moltke, in a call with analysts on July 25, called the expected downgrade a “technical adjustment” as a result of the legislative change. “The good news” is that Deutsche Bank can now issue senior preferred debt, Moltke said. It will start doing so “in the near term,” Group Treasurer Dixit Joshi said two days later on a separate call, adding that he expects funding costs to decline as a result.

Elevated funding costs have emerged as a particular problem for Deutsche Bank as they put it at a disadvantage to its competitors. Spreads on the bank’s five-year senior credit default swaps — a common proxy indicator for those costs — have almost doubled since the beginning of the year as credit investors have taken a dim view of the bank’s ability to return to healthy profitability soon.

Change of Direction

A rating downgrade of the bank by S&P Global Ratings two months ago contributed to the rise in CDS spreads. Deutsche Bank is “absolutely focused on changing the direction of our ratings,” von Moltke said on the July 25 call.

The new German law, which came into effect on July 21, allows banks to issue a class of senior debt that will be practically immune from losses in the case of a bank failure. That will give investors a safer asset to buy, likely eliminating at least some of the disadvantage in funding costs. The legislative change comes after a 2015 law modified existing senior bank bonds so that they could absorb losses in a resolution process.

France chose a different approach. It kept existing notes unchanged and instead created a new type of debt that can more readily be ‘bailed-in.’ The European Union ultimately favored the French option, leaving Germany — and the country’s banks — out of line with the rest of the bloc.

“The legal hierarchy of bank claims in Germany is now consistent with most other European Union countries,” Moody’s said in the statement Friday. The new preferred debt securities will be assigned an A3 credit rating by Moody’s, according to a Deutsche Bank presentation. That would place them three notches above the rating on its non-preferred debt.

In a separate statement, Moody’s said it downgraded long-term senior unsecured debt of 14 German banks.

(MW) German manufacturing orders plunge on trade spat

(MW) FRANKFURT–German manufacturing orders plunged in June, led by a sharp drop in demand from outside the eurozone–a sign that mounting trade tensions between the U.S. and the EU is weighing on corporate investments.

The economics ministry said Monday that total manufacturing orders dropped 4.0% compared with May. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.5% decline.

“Uncertainties from the trade policy should have played a role,” the ministry said.

Foreign orders declined 4.7% in June compared with May, with a 5.9% drop in demand from outside the eurozone. Domestic orders fell 2.8% on the month.

“Today’s new orders data do not bode well for German industry going into the second half of the year,” Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING, said.

German manufacturing orders were also down 0.8% from June last year, taking account of calendar effects.

“Apart from a marked increase in May, orders in the manufacturing sector have been weak this year,” the ministry said.

(EurActiv) Arms exports: Germany, the armoury of the world?

(EurActiv

Germany’s arms exports do not necessarily contribute to the emergence, escalation, and prolongation of wars and arms races, an expert suggests. [EPA-EFE/JOEL CARRETT]

It’s a widespread opinion that German arms exports are to blame for the world’s instability. Expert now have cross-checked numbers and causalities. EURACTIV Germany’s media partner “Der Tagesspiegel” reports.

There are only a few topics that trigger such widespread public outrage as reports of German arms exports. Hardly any politician defends this practice. Experts view business with rifles or tanks of German production with countries outside NATO as a crucial cause for the fact that hundreds of thousands must die and whole regions sink into chaos.

Also in the debate on what causes people in third worlds countries to flee, many actors name German arms exports as an important reason why people have to leave their homeland – and recommend an arms trade embargo as a means to make the world more peaceful.

But this is often a named, but nevertheless non-existent connection, political scientist Joachim Krause now tries to prove.

The director of the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel has enjoyed a reputation in science for a long time as a critic of publicly traded figures and allegations of German arms exports. Now, however, he has summarised his arguments and evidence in a recently published essay in the “Sirius” magazine so clearly that even non-scientists can understand.

Britain unveiled a model of a sleek proposed fighter jet named Tempest yesterday (16 July), raising questions about the future of European defence cooperation, given that Germany and France launched their own fighter jet programme a year ago.

“Are we the ‘armoury of the world’?” the author provocatively asks and tries to deal with three allegations: that Germany is the third largest exporter of weapons and armaments; that it is also the world’s second largest exporter of small arms, and that German arms exports contribute to the emergence, escalation, and prolongation of wars and arms races.

First, Krause researched the sources of the figures on arms exports in Germany and other countries. Many institutions rely on publicly available evidence of contracts and deliveries, which distorts the outcome as many autocratic regimes publish few or no figures, while in a transparent society such as the German one, much material is available and the German government provides “very detailed” reports on arms transfers.

The expert’s conclusion: The claim that Germany is more or less permanently the third largest arms exporter in the world does not stand up to a “critical examination of the data” and is therefore “deceptive”. Krause sees Germany in fifth place, or in sixth place, when China’s exports are counted.

Belgium is being offered a possible role in future European combat jet developments if it picks the Eurofighter Typhoon over the US-built F-35, in a fierce contest to rearm the country’s air force, a senior official with Britain’s BAE Systems said.

Also, according to Krause’s data, more than 60 countries worldwide produce small arms and light weapons. The data moreover shows that “German transfers of small arms are for the most part new sports, hunting and police weapons”.

This is one of the reasons why Germany plays “no role” in supplying the many conflict zones and civil wars in Africa, the Middle East, South, Central and East Asia and Latin America with rifles, assault rifles and machine guns.

According to him, the much-discussed case studies – Sudan, Libya, Syria and Mexico, which the author examines – do not refute his thesis.

Even with the exports of large-scale weapon systems, which include mainly warships and armoured vehicles, the investigation found no evidence that they had contributed “to an escalation” in wars or civil wars.

(City AM) Deutsche Bank shifts half its clearing from London to Frankfurt

(City AM)

Deutsche Bank Announces 2012 Financial Results

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Deutsche Bank has moved almost half of its euro-clearing business from London to Frankfurt in one of the clearest signs of the impact Brexit is having on the City yet.

The Financial Times reports that the bank – one of the five largest clearers of interest derivatives – has shifted around half its operation to the German city over the last six months. At the start of the year, the activity was almost entirely carried out in London.

The City has feared businesses may shift clearing away to European hubs since the EU referendum result came in, with repeated warnings about how fragmentation may lead to increased risks. Until now London’s LCH has been the king of clearing euro-denominated interest rate swaps, processing up to €1tn of notional deals per day.

Last month Germany’s finance minister Olaf Scholz said it was “indepensable” that clearing was carried out “in full conformity with EU standards,” suggesting Frankfurt would be the natural place.

LCH parent company London Stock Exchange Group has warned that as many as 100,000 jobs could leave the City if London loses its status as the euro clearing hub.

However, Deutsche Bank‘s global co-head of institutional and treasury coverage told the FT the move had not led to a wholesale relocation of jobs.

“It’s the same London-based person who clears a transaction. We’re just using a different clearing house,” he said.

Neither Deutsche Bank nor LCH replied to requests for comment this morning.

(GUA) Mesut Özil reminds us why minorities have more than one identity

(GUA)The Germany footballer has been criticised for showing pride in his Turkish roots. But why should people of colour have to ditch their national heritage?

It’s often said that black people do so well in sport in countries where they are in a minority because it offers the only opportunity they have to compete on a genuinely level playing field. That’s a simplification, of course: the playing field is not completely level there, either; the ongoing and countless stories of overt racism, from football to athletics and tennis, are testament to that. And if there’s one thing recent events have revealed, it’s that while sport may be more meritocratic than other workplaces, for people of colour the rewards are still conditional.

The footballer Mesut Özil feels he is being penalised for his pride in Turkey, the nation of his heritage, by Germany, the nation of his citizenship. This episode has opened an emotive window into just how precarious national status can be. “I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Özil said, announcing his retirement from the national team after criticism of his recent performances.

Özil, a key member of the German team that won the World Cup in 2014, had faced a backlash before this year’s tournament after posing for a photo with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – a hardliner widely condemned for human rights abuses. But the problem Germans have with Özil seems to be more about his statement of cultural allegiance with the Turkish nation.

You don’t actually need to pose with a problematic president to experience this disowning. I will never forget the way in which Mo Farah – the British long-distance runner who was propelled to national treasure status after his two 2012 Olympic gold medals – immediately became “Somali-born Farah” when the integrity of his coach’s techniques came into question.

Ben Johnson races to the 100m gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics
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 Ben Johnson races to the 100m gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. ‘He was Canadian until he was banned for doping, at which point he became widely referred to as Jamaican-born.’ Photograph: Joe Patronite/Allsport

There are many other examples. Ben Johnson, the 100m world record holder, was Canadian – until he was banned for doping, at which point he became widely referred to as “Jamaican-born”. Yannick Noah, the French Open tennis champion who at one point seemed set for world domination, became camerounais when the dream expired.

The French experience is rather specific, as the row over the South African comedian Trevor Noah’s description of France’s World Cup triumph as a victory for the African continent – since that’s where so many players are descended from – reminds us. France has mastered the art of hypocrisy with its official “we don’t see race” stance. Instead, people of minority heritage are stigmatised as les issus de l’immigration – simply another way of othering them.

This prejudice is hard-baked into terminology across Europe. Visible minorities in Britain are labelled “immigrants” or, if they’re born here, “second generation immigrants”. Yet “indigenous” is a nonsensical term for a nation formed by millennia of immigration. Meanwhile, Brits abroad are seen as “expatriates”.

In the Netherlands, visible minority Dutch people were, until recently, allochtoon, a word many of them hate because – while it may initially have been well intentioned – it was always perceived as a way of distinguishing between white “indigenous” Dutch and non-white descendants of immigrants.

In Germany there were Gastarbeiter – who were invited from Turkey to compensate for German labour shortages, but whose long-term presence in the country was not fully accepted. Not surprisingly, some of their children feel an emotional attachment to Turkey (“I have two hearts”, Özil has said), yet Germany has decided that dual allegiances are no longer convenient.

Germany doesn’t get to decide what the children of those it has treated as second-class citizens for so long get to do with the rights they have now acquired. Nor do France and Britain. Nor do the leaders of European countries that invented racial categories – necessary for the purposes of their own plans for enslavement and colonisation – get to unilaterally decide that these are no longer relevant, now that it’s become inconvenient for them to face up to the legacy of their own creation.

We get to define our identities, our allegiances and our relationship to our heritage. Özil’s identity as both Turkish and German – quite apart from being perfectly logical – is his by right to express. French people of African heritage have earned the right to their unconditional Frenchness, whether or not they play football, and no French person can stop them celebrating being part of the African diaspora.

This matters. In Britain, for example, many black people benefit from the struggle our parents and grandparents faced to secure citizenship and economic security – although the recent Windrush scandal reminds us that battle is still not over – and now have the luxury of choosing how we want to self-identify. And many of us are actually growing closer to our countries of heritage, despite having never lived there.

There is nothing particularly unusual about this. Similar connections can be found in the Irish and Italian diasporas in America, and in Jewish people everywhere. But for some reason it’s deemed more problematic when people of colour wish to organise around shared cultural or national heritage. It’s part of a belief that somehow Britain did us a favour by letting us come to this country, with our brown faces and strange faiths and all, for which we should be uniquely grateful.

The problem is, European countries didn’t “let” their migrants in; they needed people to rebuild their countries, offering in return low wages and poor living conditions. The descendants of those workers are still processing the racism, prejudice and disadvantage that resulted. But the one thing no one can take away is what we decide about who we are.

(EUobserver) Ozil’s resignation highlights Europe’s identity debate

(EUobserver)

  • Off the pitch migration debate is brewing across the EU (Photo: FIFA)

The resignation of star player of Turkish origin, Mesut Ozil from the German national team on Sunday evening and the following intense debate in Germany reflects the deep uncertainty around Europe over identity, migration and integration.

The Arsenal player Ozil, born in Germany to Turkish parents, announced in a statement that he would no longer play for Germany after what he said were feelings of “racism and disrespect”.

The 29-year-old Ozil, who won the World Cup in 2014 as part of the German squad, said he would quit after he was heavily criticised for posing for a photo with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May in London. Erdogan has been cracking down on opposition and the press at home.

The two have met before, but the May meeting took place during Erdogan’s campaign for June’s general election in Turkey, and following a deep row between Berlin and Ankara over Germany’s refusal to allow Erdogan to campaign among Germany’s over three million Turkish minority.

“I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish,” Ozil wrote, adding: “For me, having a picture with president Erdogan wasn’t about politics or elections. It was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country.”

Ozil said he faced months of racist comments from politicians, fans and the German football association, which seemed to have hold him responsible for the German team’s poor performance in this year’s World Cup tournament.

“In the eyes of [German football association president Reinhard] Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Ozil wrote.

Ozil’s resignation exposed a deeply-divisive debate in Europe about identity and migration during the World Cup and who can be considered ‘European’.

The German-Turkish player’s feelings of never really being accepted in his native Germany were echoed earlier by Belgian striker Rumalu Lukaku who wrote that went things were going well for his team, he was “the Belgian striker”, and when things were not going so well, he was labelled, “the Belgian striker of Congolese descent”.

A row also erupted around the French team that eventually won the Word Cup, and whose players are mostly from immigrant origins. South African comedian Trevor Noah was criticised by the French ambassador to the US for describing the French national team’s victory as “Africa won the World Cup”.

In a letter Gerard Araud – pointing to the French concept of citizenship – wrote that it is wrong to refer to the players’ African identity.

“France is indeed a cosmopolitan country, but every citizen is part of the French identity and together they belong to the nation of France,” the ambassador wrote. Noah responded saying both African and French identities should be celebrated.

French Embassy U.S.

@franceintheus

On @TheDailyShow , @Trevornoah called the @FrenchTeam ‘s World Cup win an “African victory.” Read Ambassador @GerardAraud ‘s response:

The World Cup, where several European national teams have reflected their society’s multiculturalism, also highlighted how the debate about identity fuels increasingly stronger anti-migration and anti-Islam populist parties across the continent.

While France’s win was celebrated partly because of the players’ mixed origin, it also enraged politicians such as Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini, who – according to media reports – left the Moscow stadium early because of his tense relationship with France’s president Emmanuel Macron over migration.

The finalist Croatian team’s homogeneity was taken advantage of by politicians who oppose migration and boast about a homogenous, ‘Christian’ culture in Europe.

“The World Cup finals could be an important message for the future of Europe as an immigrant country plays a Christian country proud of its national identity. That’s why go Croatia!,” a Hungarian MP, Istvan Hollik from a Christian democratic party aligned with premier Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz posted on Facebook before the final.

Turkey is a controversial ally to Europe.

The EU in 2016 signed a statement with Erdogan, who pledged to stem the flow of migration towards the continent.

Deep divide

The response on Monday to Ozil’s resignation was divided in Germany.

“With all respect for the family roots, national players must be ready to accept criticism when they allow themselves to be used for election campaigning,” tweeted the German government’s integration commissioner Annette Widmann-Mauz.

Foreign minister Heiko Maas, a Social Democrat, dismissed the idea that Ozil was sending a message to minorities across Germany that integration is impossible.

“I don’t believe the case of a multimillionaire living and working in England gives much insight into the success or failure of integration in Germany,” he said.

Hard-right AfD leader Alice Weidel turned that around and said: “The integration dream doesn’t work even with football millionaires.” She described Ozil’s “tirade” as a “typical example of failed integration”.

Cem Ozdemir, the most prominent ethnic Turkish politician and former leader of the Green Party said that Ozil’s photo remains “wrong and his explanation is unconvincing”.

A spokeswoman for chancellor Angela Merkel, whose decision to allow hundreds of thousands of migrations into Germany in 2015 sparked a fierce debate in Europe about migration – said Monday that most of the roughly three million people with Turkish roots living in Germany were well-integrated.

Turkish justice minister Abdulhamit Gul on the other hand congratulated Ozil on his decision, which he deemed “the most beautiful goal against the fascist virus.”

(Reuters) Spain drops arrest warrant for former Catalan leader

(Reuters)

  • Germany had refused to extradite Carles Puidgemont to face a charge of rebellion for declaring Catalonia an independent state last year
Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont attends a regional government meeting at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona on October 10, 2017.

Pau Barrena | AFP | Getty Images
Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont attends a regional government meeting at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona on October 10, 2017.

Spain’s Supreme Court dropped a European arrest warrant for former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Thursday after Germany refused to extradite him to face a charge of rebellion for declaring Catalonia an independent state last year.

The Spanish court also dropped European arrest warrants for five other Catalan pro-independence leaders living abroad.

The move demonstrates the difficulty Spain has faced in trying to persuade its European Union partners to help it bring former members of Catalonia’s regional government to trial for holding a referendum on a split from Spain.

Puigdemont’s regional government held the vote last year in defiance of a Spanish court that had ruled it illegal. After the vote, the Catalan regional authorities declared independence, prompting Madrid to impose direct rule, fire the region’s government and hold new elections there.

Several members of Puigdemont’s former cabinet are now in jail in Madrid facing rebellion charges, while he and several others are scattered across Europe, where they so far have successfully avoided Spanish efforts to have them sent home.

A German court ruled a week ago that Puigdemont, 55, could be extradited to Spain to face a separate charge for misuse of public funds, but not for the rebellion charge. Under European law, that means Spain would have been barred from trying him on the more serious charge if the extradition were to proceed.

The Spanish court rejected that proposal, lifting the arrest warrant altogether.

“Withdrawing the European arrest warrants demonstrates the immense weakness of this case,” Puigdemont tweeted.

‘We tread cautiously’

The charges against Puigdemont and the five others remain in place despite the lifting of the European warrants, meaning they would be arrested if they return to Spain.

Aamer Anwar, a lawyer for one of the other figures whose warrant was lifted, former Catalan Education Minister Clara Ponsati who is now a university professor in Scotland, said: “It’s excellent news, with regards to my client Clara Ponsati, and obviously for Puigdemont… but we tread cautiously.”

“The question that arises is whether the Spanish government are willing to allow Mr Puigdemont to simply return back to Catalonia and declare independence… I suspect not.”

The Spanish judge overseeing the case, Pablo Llanera, chided the German court for rejecting extradition for rebellion, saying it had shown a lack of commitment to the case and undermined the Spanish Supreme Court’s powers.

It is the second time Spain has revoked the arrest warrant for Puigdemont since he went into self-exile when his independence bid for Catalonia collapsed last year.

Puigdemont initially traveled to Belgium where the prospect of charges being restricted led Spain to drop an arrest warrant in December. The judge reissued it later, causing Germany to arrest Puigdemont when he traveled there in April.

Six other Catalan politicians are being held in custody on rebellion charges that carry a potential 30 year sentence. Madrid would consider it unacceptable for Puigdemont to face only the lesser charges of misuse of public funds, which carry a maximum eight year jail term.

Since the Catalonia crisis of last year, Spain’s Conservative government which took a hard line has been replaced by a Socialist government. New Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has met Puigdemont’s successor – fervent separatist Quim Torra – in a thawing of relations between Madrid and Barcelona. However, Sanchez has reiterated that any referendum on independence by Catalonia is illegal and against the Spanish constitution.

The Spanish government has no influence over judicial decisions in the ongoing criminal cases.

(DW) Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg slammed by Germany over Holocaust comments

(DW) Mark Zuckerberg has backtracked on comments he made about allowing Holocaust deniers to post their beliefs on his social media platform. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas condemned Zuckerberg’s comments.

    
Mark Zuckerberg (picture-alliance/dpa/AP Photo/J. Sanchez)

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has criticized Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for saying that while he finds Holocaust deniers abhorrent, they should still be allowed to post their beliefs on Facebook.

Maas said in a tweet that “Nobody should defend anyone who denies the Holocaust. On the contrary, worldwide, everything must be done to protect Jewish life.”

Heiko Maas

@HeikoMaas

darf nirgendwo einen Raum haben.
Wer den Holocaust leugnet, den sollte niemand verteidigen. Im Gegenteil: Weltweit muss alles getan werden, um jüdisches Leben zu schützen.

FAZ.NET

@faznet

Guten Morgen, liebe Leser. Mark #Zuckerberg will Posts von Holocaust-Leugnern auf @facebook nicht entfernen und hat dafür eine sehr eigenwillige Erklärung: https://buff.ly/2mrkqUd 

In Berlin, the Justice Ministry also chimed in and said that Zuckerberg caused outrage by saying his platform should not delete such comments.

“There must be no place for anti-Semitism. This includes verbal and physical attacks on Jews as well as the denial of Holocaust,” said Justice Minister Katarina Barley on Thursday.

“The latter is also punishable by us and will be strictly prosecuted,” Barley said.

Heiko Maas in Yad Vashem (picture-alliance/dpa/I. Yefimovich)Heiko Maas recently visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial site

Zuckerberg made the comments during a recent interview with tech website Recode. He said that while Facebook was dedicated to stopping the spread of fake news, certain beliefs that were sincerely held would not be taken down.

The controversy began when Zuckerberg gave an unprompted example of Holocaust deniers to Recode host Kara Swisher to make a point about allowing hoaxes to be published on the site.

Zuckerberg was forced to backtrack after the remarks caused a backlash on social media. He said that if any post advocated violence or hate against a group, it would be removed.

Online Holocaust deniers a problem

There are laws in Germany that impose fines of up to 50 million euros ($58 million) on social media sites that fail to remove hateful messages promptly. Officials made it clear that Holocaust denial was a punishable crime and it was Maas who, in his previous job as justice minister, introduced the Facebook law.

Earlier this month, a study from the Technical University in Berlin showed that online anti-Semitism has become a “worrying phenomenon” in Germany. The study analyzed more than 300,000 entries from Facebook and other online forums.

The study demonstrated that the proportion of anti-Semitic content in German social media rose from 7.5 percent in 2007 to more than 30 percent in 2017.

The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, said the study empirically proved that online anti-Semitism was increasing and becoming more aggressive.

Josef Schuster in a file photo at Augsburg Synagoge (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Puchner)Central Council of Jews in Germany head Josef Schuster in a file photo

Zuckerberg later sent an email to Recode to clarify his comments, saying that if something is spreading and rated as false by the site’s fact checkers, “it would lose the vast majority of its distribution in News Feed.” And added, “…of course if a post crossed (the) line into advocating for violence or hate against a particular group, it would be removed.”

Kara Swisher

@karaswisher

I got an email today from Mark Zuckerberg in which he clarifies some stuff we discussed: https://www.recode.net/2018/7/18/17588116/mark-zuckerberg-clarifies-holocaust-denial-offensive?utm_campaign=www.recode.net&utm_content=entry&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter  via @Recode

Mark Zuckerberg clarifies: ‘I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely…

The Facebook founder has attracted controversy for how the social network deals with content that is offensive to many, such as Holocaust deniers

recode.net

The episode was an unwelcome distraction for Facebook after it held a briefing on the company’s new policy to remove bogus posts likely to spark violence.

The new strategy being rolled out across the global social network was tested in Sri Lanka, which was recently rocked by inter-religious violence over false information posted on the platform.

A Facebook spokesman announced that the platform may remove inaccurate or misleading content, such as doctored photos, created or shared to stir up or ignite volatile situations in the real world.

Hate speech and threats deemed credible are violations of Facebook rules and are removed.