Category Archives: Germany

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

(EUobserver)

  • 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

(EurActiv)

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

(EN)

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?

(EN)

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

(EUobserver)

  • 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.”

(BBG) Deutsche Bank Cuts Tech Spending as Digital Revolution Rages – Bloomberg

(BBG) At the heart of Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing’s turnaround plan for Deutsche Bank AG is a contrarian bet: that he can cut spending on technology while gaining ground on the competition.

Even with the digital revolution in finance accelerating, Deutsche Bank expects to trim its annual outlays on tech to 2.9 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in 2022 from a peak of 4.2 billion euros this year.

“Deutsche Bank would probably love to be spending more on technology, but they need money for other parts of their restructuring,” said Pierre Drach, managing director of Independent Research in Frankfurt. “It’s pretty much impossible for European banks to catch up with the Americans at this stage.”

Sewing’s team says it’s made progress in fixing information networks that his predecessor called “antiquated and inadequate.” Years of expansion left it with systems that couldn’t communicate with each other and didn’t adequately track its business. The bank, which has spent almost $18.5 billion on legal settlements and fines since 2008, has also suggested that the past breakdown in controls stemmed in part from weak systems.

Digital Costs

The 4.2 billion euros Deutsche Bank has budgeted this year to maintain and modernize its systems represents a fraction of the $11.5 billion JPMorgan Chase & Co. shells out. “You have to spend to win” with new technologies, Jamie Dimon, the bank’s CEO, said Tuesday.

The gap is set to widen as the German chief executive wants to cut technology costs by almost a quarter. European banks, meanwhile, are forecast to increase tech spending at a 4.8% annual rate through 2022, according to the consulting firm Celent.

“We continue to invest in IT to serve clients better, become safer, more efficient and better controlled,” Senthuran Shanmugasivam, a Deutsche Bank spokesman, said in response to questions from Bloomberg. “Despite our smaller footprint, our investment plans in 2019 are broadly unchanged as we reallocate resources to our core businesses.”

Deutsche Bank AG's Slump Deepens
Christian SewingPhotographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

It’s all part of a retrenchment Sewing announced last week to exit equities sales and trading and eliminate 18,000 jobs. Deutsche Bank aims to cut adjusted costs to 17 billion euros in 2022 from 22.8 billion euros last year; the share of technology expenses would remain stable over that time period.

The company can modernize systems while spending less, for example by moving most of its applications to the cloud, according to Frank Kuhnke, who oversees its technology. He said Deutsche Bank has already cut the cost of crunching data by more than 30% since 2016 even as it increased computing capacity by about 12% a year to meet regulatory demands.

Still, Deutsche Bank needs “to make a further step change in embracing technology,” Sewing told analysts last week.

New Hires

The CEO has brought in new talent to do that. Bernd Leukert, who left the management board of software company SAP SE earlier this year, will start in September. Neal Pawar will join as chief information officer from AQR Capital Management the same month.

SAP SE Announces Fourth Quarter Results As New Software Cycle Takes Hold
Bernd LeukertPhotographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

Hiring outsiders hasn’t been a panacea in the past. Kim Hammonds, a former Boeing Co. executive, spent about four and a half years rebuilding the bank’s systems only to be ousted in 2018 after reportedly calling the bank “the most dysfunctional company” she’d ever worked for.

Deutsche Bank expects its retrenchment from businesses to allow it to focus on its core operations. It will also save about 300 million euros by 2022 by shedding almost 5,000 external IT contractors and replacing them with internal staff at a lower cost. The integration of consumer lender Postbank will avoid duplication of expenses.

The digital revolution is upending all aspects of finance — from taking deposits to bond trading, a traditional Deutsche Bank strength. Citigroup Inc. has created a fintech division to invest in debt-market technologies while Spain’s Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA has created a unit to automate trade processes and generate intelligence from data. Dutch bank ING Groep NV has used artificial intelligence to win 20% more bond trades and cut costs.

Cutting tech costs is also notoriously difficult.

A three-year initiative announced in 2012 failed to stop technology spending from ballooning 44% by 2015. That was the year that then-CEO John Cryan said he would reduce the number of operating systems from 45 to four in 2020. Deutsche Bank still has 26, Sewing told investors in May. He kept the goal of eventually cutting them to four, but says the lender will need to run 10 to 15 systems for the foreseeable future.

“Everyone knows that Deutsche Bank’s systems are a mess and I think they will have to end up spending more,” said Drach. “The fact that their new technology head hasn’t come on board yet gives them a good narrative for increasing the ultimate amount.”

(EurActiv) German arms exports to Ankara continue despite escalating Greek-Turkish crisis

(EurActiv)

Only last year, deliveries to Turkey made up almost one-third of all German arms exports (€770.8 million) with €242.8 million. [Shutterstock]

Comments Print 

Tensions have escalated between Turkey and two EU member states – Greece and Cyprus. But that hasn’t stopped another EU country, Germany, to continue exporting arms to Ankara, according to official government data.

In response to a request of leftist MP Sevim Dagdelen (Die Linke), the German economy ministryrevealed that in the first four months of this year, Turkey has received armament supplies amounting €184.1 million from Germany.

Only last year, deliveries to Turkey made up almost one-third of all German arms exports (€770.8 million) with €242.8 million.

According to a government report, the weapons for Turkey are reported to be exclusively “maritime goods” meant for six class 214 submarines, which will be built in Turkey with significant involvement of the German arms concern ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS).

The German government had approved the delivery of the components already in 2009 and secured the export with a so-called Hermes guarantee amounting to €2.49 billion.

Such guarantees for arms exports to Turkey have not been re-issued since the 2016 failed military coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which marked its third anniversary on Monday (15 July). Nevertheless, arms exports already approved in the framework of NATO commitments are still carried out on regular terms.

EU foreign ministers decided on Monday (15 July) to postpone for a few hours the announcement of sanctions against Turkey over its drilling in the sea off Cyprus, following a request by Ankara not to interfere with the third anniversary of the coup, EU officials and diplomats told EURACTIV.com.

The measures include cutting €146 million in EU funds from the pre-accession envelope, freezing the European Investment Bank’s activities in the country, halting the cooperation under the EU-Turkey aviation agreement, and cancelling high-level EU-Turkey dialogues.

The EU foreign ministers even warned about “targeted measures”, against individuals and companies, if the Turkish aggression continues.

“The provocations of Turkey are unacceptable for all of us and we are here on the side of Cyprus,” said German Minister of European Affairs Michael Roth (SPD) in Brussels.

Asked whether the German arms exports to Turkey is still appropriate in view of the EU sanction, MEP Joachim Schuster (S&D), who sits on the Subcommittee for Security and Defence (SEDE), said that “at the moment, I believe that exports should be suspended” as this is a special situation and it should be assessed accordingly.

It would be a far-reaching step to be considered, but there is also need to be cautious as “we have the problem that Turkey is a NATO member, and within NATO, arms exports are common”, he said.

Contacted by EURACTIV, New Democracy MEP Manolis Kefalogiannis (EPP) said the EU foreign ministers’ decision to impose economic and political sanctions against Turkey should be respected by all member states and EU institutions.

According to Kefalogiannis, it was a “decision of solidarity” which makes it clear that the borders of Cyprus and Greece are also European, as well as their exclusive economic zones.

“Europe’s position on Turkey’s provocations and aggressiveness is clear and unequivocal. And it was expressed in the most absolute way,” the center-right MEP added.

European arms export policy

Germany recently announced that it considers banning exports of small side-arms to most countries outside the EU and NATO.

Earlier restrictions on exporting weapons systems to countries involved in the Yemen war have strained ties between Berlin and its allies in Paris and London since the presence of German components in many joint projects risked harming lucrative export deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

So far, the EU’s common position on arms exports is the only legally binding region-wide arrangement on conventional arms exports.

It technically bars sales to countries that don’t respect human rights and when “there is a clear risk that the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively against another country or assert by force a territorial claim”.

In reality, however, the scope to decide remains so far in the responsibility of member states and does not touch agreements with NATO partners.

With the increasing European cooperation on defence projects, the question of arms exports has become a pressing issue in the bloc, last surfacing during the recent inauguration of a new joint Franco-German-Spanish construction of Europe’s largest arms project.

The signed text accompanying the project referred to an agreement that Paris and Berlin are meant to finalise by the end of summer.

“I am firmly convinced that the future of exports needs to be European,” then German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen said when asked about changes in export policy.

“We will have to develop a common European attitude since we will harmonise our armed forces together in the European Defence Union, we will collectively procure systems, and here, using the combat aircraft system as an example, it becomes clear,” she told reporters at the time.

(PUB) Um elogio dos alemães – Miguel Esteves Cardoso

(PUB) Os espanhóis que cá vêm tratam-nos de igual para igual. Os americanos são infantis mas são bem-educados. Só os alemães nos tratam com sobranceria como se tivéssemos sido criados para servi-los.

Chega um alemão da minha idade à esplanada onde estou a almoçar. Aponta para uma mesa e diz “three!”, em inglês contrariado. Não diz “boa tarde” nem “se faz favor”, nem sequer “please”. Não diz “table for three”. Só “three!”. Na véspera tinha reparado como não há espanhol que não diga “muito obrigado” enquanto muitos estrangeiros conseguem chegar a Portugal pensando que “gracias” chega para as encomendas.

Os espanhóis que cá vêm tratam-nos de igual para igual. Os americanos são infantis mas são bem-educados. Só os alemães nos tratam com sobranceria como se tivéssemos sido criados para servi-los.

“Coitados”, pensei, “são selvagens, não sabem comportar-se. Tanto podiam estar na Grécia como na Tunísia”.

Explicaram ao homem — em inglês — que não havia mesas, que era sábado, era Verão, era preciso reservar.

O homem retirou-se com um grunhido. Fiquei chocado. Disse-o a um dos empregados, que calmamente largou a bomba H: aquela besta daquele homem já mora em Portugal há 30 anos.

Há outros alemães — e são sempre alemães — que cá moram há 30 anos e que têm atitudes e comportamentos insuportáveis. Mas, pelo menos, aprenderam a falar umas palavras de português. A superioridade imaginária deles é ridícula mas pode ser contestada — e eles dispõem-se a defender-se, permitindo a discussão e até a cordialidade.

Felizmente, são só os alemães com mais de 60 anos de idade. Sendo mais velhos, só se salvam os aristocratas. É como a própria Alemanha: melhorou imenso em pouco tempo.

De que outro país se pode dizer a mesma optimista coisa?

(OBS) Angela Merkel treme pela terceira vez em público, durante visita do primeiro-ministro finlandês

(OBS)

A chanceler alemã recebeu esta quarta-feira em Berlim o primeiro-ministro finlandês, Antti Rinne. Durante a parada militar, Merkel tremeu pela terceira vez em menos de um mês.Partilhe

Angela Merkel durante a receção ao primeiro-ministro finlandês, Antti Rinne, esta quarta-feira em Berlim

A chanceler alemã, Angela Merkel, voltou a tremer de forma descontrolada em público. Imagens da transmissão televisiva da receção ao primeiro-ministro finlandês, Antti Rinne, em Berlim, mostram Merkel a tremer durante a parada militar.

Trata-se da terceira vez que a chanceler alemã sofre um episódio de tremores em público. A primeira vez aconteceu em junho, durante a visita do presidente ucraniano a Berlim. Poucos dias depois, Merkel voltou a tremer, durante uma conferência de imprensa na capital alemã.

As causas para os tremores de Merkel têm levantado questões sobre o seu estado de saúde. Vários especialistas têm discutido várias possibilidades para a causa dos tremores, que vão do stress e ansiedade à possibilidade de uma doença degenerativa.

(JN) Trump ameaça sanções para travar gasoduto entre Rússia e Alemanha

(JN)

Donald Trump quer travar o projeto Nord Stream 2 e ameaça avançar com sanções, embora não especifique contra quem. Moscovo acusa-o de “chantagem” e concorrência “injusta”.

Donald Trump continua a disparar ameaças a vários dos principais parceiros mundiais dos Estados Unidos. Desta vez, os alvos foram a Alemanha e a Rússia. Em causa está o projeto do gasoduto Nord Stream 2, que irá ligar os dois países europeus e que também tem merecido resistência por parte da Comissão Europeia. O projeto irá aumentar o fluxo de gás da Rússia para a Alemanha, uma meta que Trump pretende travar.

Não é a primeira vez que o presidente norte-americano faz críticas a este projeto, mas fica por esclarecer quem seriam as empresas ou governos alvo de sanções por parte dos Estados Unidos. Na mais recente investida, limitou-se a dizer que está a “proteger” a Alemanha.

“Estamos a proteger a Alemanha da Rússia. A Rússia está a receber milhões e milhões de dólares da Alemanha pelo seu gás”, afirmou o presidente dos Estados Unidos, na Casa Branca, após uma reunião com o presidente polaco, Andrzej Duda. Para Trump, “a Alemanha está a cometer um erro tremendo ao confiar tanto no gasoduto”, já que “é uma tremenda quantidade da sua energia que será fornecida” por esse projeto.

Mesmo sem detalhes, as afirmações de Trump já mereceram resposta por parte de Moscovo. Estas declarações, afirmou o porta-voz do Kremlin, “não são nada se não chantagem e uma forma injusta de concorrência”.

O presidente russo Vladimir Putin foi mais longe e, em declarações ao canal de televisão Mir TV, afirmou que as relações entre os Estados Unidos e a Rússia estão a “deteriorar-se e a ficar cada vez piores”.

O Nord Stream 2 é um empreendimento conjunto entre a energética russa Gazprom e outras cinco empresas europeias. O objetivo é fornecer 55 mil milhões de metros cúbicos de gás natural russo, anualmente, à Alemanha e a outros países europeus, através de um gasoduto duplo colocado no fundo do Mar Báltico.

A própria Comissão Europeia tece críticas a este projeto e tem procurado mesmo chegar a acordo com a Alemanha para estabelecer regras que lhe permitam ter uma palavra a dizer sobre a gestão do gasoduto, uma opção que tem sido rejeitada por Angela Merkel. Já da parte dos Estados Unidos, os receios são de que a Rússia utilize o fornecimento de gás natural como forma de pressão sobre os restantes países europeus dependentes da sua energia.

(AJ) German SPD chief resigns in blow to Merkel’s coalition

(AJ) Andrea Nahles’ resignation follows worst European vote results and precedes three key state elections in Germany.19 hours ago

Andrea Nahles headed the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) [File: Michele Tantussi/Reuters]
Andrea Nahles headed the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) [File: Michele Tantussi/Reuters]

The leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the SPD, resigned on Sunday from her party’s top posts, raising the possibility that Germany’s embattled government could collapse.

Andrea Nahles, who heads the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), has come under intense pressure after voters handed the party its worst European election results a week ago.

With an eye on three key state elections in eastern Germany in September, the SPD had initially planned to re-examine its partnership with Merkel’s centre-right CDU-CSU alliance in the autumn.

But ahead of a planned leadership vote on Tuesday, Nahles said she would give up her jobs as both party chief and head of its parliamentary group.

“The discussions in the parliamentary group and the broad feedback from the party showed me that the support necessary for the exercise of my offices is no longer there,” said Nahles in a statement.

The 48-year-old said she hoped her resignation “would open the possibility that the succession can take place in an orderly manner”.

Merkel said on Sunday that Germany’s government would push on with its work despite the setback.

“What I want to say for the government is that we will continue with our work with all seriousness and with great responsibility,” she said in a statement to the press.

Stability lost

Harald Christ, deputy chief of the SPD’s economy forum, told the Bild daily that Nahles’s decision had put the future of the coalition in serious doubt.

“To all those who are happy today: it is a great loss for German politics. Nahles stands for the existence of the GroKo – whose stability is now in question,” he said, using the German short-form for grand coalition.

Anxiously watching as the SPD tumbled into disarray, CDU heavyweights urged their centre-left partner not to endanger the coalition.

“The voter mandate is valid for four years and political parties must ensure stability in difficult times,” the CDU’s Bundestag deputy president Hans-Peter Friedrich told Bild daily.

“An early end of the GroKo would only benefit the political fringes.”

Merkel’s CDU itself was scrambling to retain voters, after it too scored a record low in the European elections.

Her favoured successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was also struggling to put down a raging online youth revolt against the party, raising questions as to whether she is the best person for Germany’s top job when Merkel leaves the political stage in 2021.

‘Already disintegrating’

Following Nahles’ bombshell, the CDU said both Kramp-Karrenbauer and Merkel would address the press later on Sunday.

But the far-right AfD said the government was already disintegrating.

“Not only is the SPD dissolving, the GroKo too is walking the political stage only as one of the undead,” wrote the co-leader of the AfD’s group in parliament, Alice Weidel, on Twitter.

Some newspapers reached similar conclusions.

Bild daily noted that “the SPD is bleeding to death. The GroKo too”. And the Sueddeutsche daily predicted that “the coalition has come to an end.

“The Social Democrats have just defeated the woman who with great effort brought the alliance together. What’s the point now then of continuing to torment themselves with this?”

(ZH) Merkel Unretires: Chancellor Determined To Remain In Power Until 2021 As Succession Plan Implodes

(ZH)

The CDU’s abysmal showing in last week’s EU Parliamentary election marked the party’s worst result ever in a national election. And apparently, the the loss of the CDU/CSU’s position as the largest party in the bloc’s largest legislative body was the last straw for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who reportedly regrets her decision to step aside as party leader last year – a decision she made to clear the way for her chosen successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, or AKK.

Merkel

According to media reports, Merkel is so frustrated with AKK over a series of missteps by the new CDU party leader that the chancellor has decided to withdraw her political support, throwing her well-laid succession plans into disarray.

Merkel’s determination that AKK is not ‘up to the job’ of being chancellor comes as AKK and others within the CDU have pressured Merkel to step down early to give AKK a better shot at securing a full term in 2021.

Though her ability to influence the party is limited now that she has handed over control of the party’s machinery, Merkel can still throw a massive wrench in the works by deciding to spend no more political capital helping AKK, whose chances of winning the chancellorship are fading.

Merkel’s decision to withdraw support for her erstwhile protege is the latest sign that the longtime German leader is determined to stay on as Chancellor at least until her term ends in 2021, despite growing pressure from AKK and others within the party to step aside before the vote. The latest conflict between the two women erupted after AKK called an impromptu party conference next week to examine the CDU’s poor showing in the EU vote, a meeting that’ sure to produce some awkward encounters between Merkel and AKK.

And who knows? If the acrimony between the two female conservative leaders continues to intensify, Merkel may yet change her mind and decide to seek an unprecedented fifth term in office. She certainly has the popularity to make a credible go at it.

Even if she doesn’t actively campaign for AKK, Merkel has plenty of incentive to quit while she’s ahead. Not only was the CDU pummeled during the last two national elections, but AKK’s approval rating recently slipped three points to 36%, according to broadcaster ARD. That’s the lowest since she became CDU party leader, and almost 20 points behind Merkel. AKK’s standing has been hurt by a series of gaffes, including an off-color joke about transsexuals that alienated many moderates. Adding insult to injury, as the CDU’s popularity wanes, support for the progressive Greens has surged, with the party doubling its vote share to 20% last week compared with the 2014 EU Parliamentary elections.

If she presses ahead, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the chancellor draw comparisons to other infamous German authoritarians. Though conveniently, soon it will be time to distract from the possibility that Merkel will stay on as German emperor with speculation that Trump will ignore the results of the 2020 vote and refuse to give up the White House, or worse (for liberals), win in 2020 then decide to run for a third term.

But no matter what Merkel decides, for AKK, there might still be a way out.

zerohedge@zerohedge

Dear @akk any plans to declare Merkel a Stazi agent and stage a coup?5012:30 PM – May 28, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy

(GUA) Jews in Germany warned of risks of wearing kippah cap in public

(GUA)

Government commissioner says lifting of inhibitions and rise of uncouthness are factors behind rising incidence of antisemitism

A man wearing a Jewish kippah skullcap with the flags of Germany and Israel.
 A man wearing a Jewish kippah skullcap with the flags of Germany and Israel. Photograph: Frank Rumpenhorst/AFP/Getty Images

Germany’s government commissioner on antisemitism has suggested Jews should not always wear the traditional kippah cap in public, in the wake of a spike in anti-Jewish attacks.

“I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere, all the time, in Germany,” Felix Klein said in an interview published Saturday by the Funke regional press group. The remarks were criticised by the Israeli president as representing a “capitulation” to antisemitism.

In issuing the warning, Klein said he had “alas, changed my mind compared to previously”.

Antisemitic attacks are on the rise in a number of European countries, and a survey of Jewish people across the European Union carried out in December found 89% of Jews feel antisemitism has increased in their country over the past decade, while 85% believed it to be a serious problem.

Antisemitic hate crimes rose by 20% in Germany last year, according to interior ministry data, which blamed nine out of ten cases on the extreme right. There were 62 violent antisemitic attacks, compared to 37 in 2017. France has also seen a spike in violent incidents.

Klein, whose post was created last year, cited “the lifting of inhibitions and the uncouthness which is on the rise in society” as factors behind a rising incidence of antisemitism.

“The internet and social media have largely contributed to this, but so have constant attacks against our culture of remembrance.”

And he suggested police, teachers and lawyers should be better trained to recognise what constitutes “clearly defined” unacceptable behaviour and “what is authorised and what is not”.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said on Sunday that Klein’s remarks “shocked” him, and while appreciating the German government’s “commitment to the Jewish community,” accused it of bowing to those targeting Jews.

“Fears about the security of German Jews are a capitulation to antisemitism and an admittance that, again, Jews are not safe on German soil,” said Rivlin. “We will never submit, will never lower our gaze and will never react to antisemitism with defeatism – and expect and demand our allies act in the same way.”

The US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, also criticised Klein’s advice. He wrote on Twitter: “The opposite is true. Wear your kippa. Wear your friend’s kippa. Borrow a kippa and wear it for our Jewish neighbors. Educate people that we are a diverse society.”

Antisemitism rising sharply across Europe, latest figures show

 Read more

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomed the fact that government had recognised the seriousness of the situation. “It has for some time been the case that Jews in some cities potentially endanger themselves if they are visible as Jews”, Josef Schuster told news agency AFP.

The increased prominence of far-right parties in a number of European countries in the past few years has led to antisemitic and other extremist rhetoric that was previously confined to the fringes appearing more and more in the mainstream. In Germany, the arrival in parliament of the far-right AfD, whose leaders openly question the culture of atonement forsecond world war atrocities, has contributed to the change in atmosphere.

In Hungary, the nationalist government of Viktor Orbán has repeatedly been accused of anti-semitism, particularly in its campaigns against the financier and philanthropist George Soros, who is of Hungarian Jewish origin. Orbán has always denied the allegations and pointed out that, on the whole, Jews living in Hungary feel safe, unlike many living in western Europe. He has also criticised western Europe for accepting refugees and migrants from Muslim countries, claiming they bring antisemitism with them.

Klein acknowledged that the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers, many from Muslim countries such as Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq, has had an impact on the situation in Germany. Some were influenced by watching certain television channels “which transmit a dreadful image of Israel and Jews”, he said.

However, he emphasised that the far-right was to blame for the overwhelming majority of antisemitic crime.

“Antisemitism has always been here. But I think that recently, it has again become louder, more aggressive and flagrant,” Berlin’s top legal expert on antisemitism Claudia Vanoni said in a recent interview, adding the problem was “deeply rooted” in German society.

She also said the proliferation of online platforms that allow people to express extremist views without inhibition while hiding behind screens had fostered the rise in cases.

Justice minister Katarina Barley told the Handelsblatt newspaper the increase was “shameful for our country” but added that the police were “vigilant”.

Sabine Leutheuser-Scharrenberger, a former justice minister, said: “Everything has to be done to ensure that Jews can live their religion without facing danger and while relying on the rule of law”.

(BBC) Germany to return Portuguese Stone Cross to Namibia

(BBC)

The Stone Cross on display in a Berlin museum
Image captionThe Stone Cross was placed by the Portuguese in 1486 and features the country’s crest

The German Historical Museum has announced it will return a 15th century monument to Namibia after it was taken during the colonial era.

The Stone Cross is a Portuguese navigation landmark placed on the southwest African coastline in 1486.

But when the area was under German colonial control in the 1890s, the cross was taken and moved to Europe.

Namibia asked for its return in 2017 and on Friday, the Berlin museum formally agreed to the request.

Germany has pledged to return artefacts and human remains to its former colonies.

At a ceremony, German Culture Minister Monika Grütters said it was a “clear signal that we are committed to coming to terms with our colonial past”.

Namibia’s ambassador to Germany, Andreas Guibeb, called it “important as a step for us to reconcile with our colonial past and the trail of humiliation and systematic injustice that it left behind”.

A museum press release said the cross would be returned in August.

Namibia's Ambassador to Germany Andreas Guibeb posing with the Stone Cross
Image captionNamibia’s Ambassador to Germany Andreas Guibeb attended the event on Friday

Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão first placed the 3.5m (11ft) stone cross – featuring the country’s coat of arms – on Africa’s southwest coast during one of his expeditions.

It became so well known it featured on old maps of the area.

But a German naval commander took the cross in 1893, during the country’s control of what became Namibia between 1884 and 1915.

The German Historical Museum foundation’s president, Raphael Gross, wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the cross represented “the slow beginning of colonial rule in present-day Namibia”.

A number of African nations have in recent years called on European museums to return artefacts taken away during the period of colonial control.

Experts recommended that French museums return African treasures to their countries of origin last year. President Emmanuel Macron announced 26 thrones and statues taken from Benin would go home shortly afterwards.

UK museums have also decided to repatriate artefacts to African countries.

The National Army Museum announced it would return a lock of Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II’s hair in March, while the Victoria and Albert Museum offered to return Ethiopian treasures in November – albeit on loan.

P.O. (FT) Why Goldman Sachs should buy Deutsche Bank

P.O.

Personally i would love it to happen.
We would get rid of two evils:
The Vampires of Wall Street and the eternally broke Deutsche Bank.
DB problems, particularly the litigation problems,would eat the Vampires of Wall Street’s (Goldman Sachs) capital in no time.
As the French would say:
Bon debarras!
(Good riddance!)

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira



(FT) Why Goldman Sachs should buy Deutsche Bank

US group wants growth in transaction banking and a German deal could help achieve that

(GUA) Merkel: Europe must unite to stand up to China, Russia and US

(GUA) German chancellor also shares views on Brexit and climate crisis in interview

Angela Merkel
 ‘There is no doubt that Europe needs to reposition itself in a changed world,’ said Merkel. Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

Europe must reposition itself to stand up to the challenges posed by its three big global rivals, China, Russia and the US, Angela Merkel has said before her final European election as German chancellor.

Facing challenges that range from Russian interference in elections to China’s economic clout and the US’s monopoly over digital services, Europe needs to get better at putting up a united front, Merkel said in a wide-ranging interview shared with the Guardian.

“There is no doubt that Europe needs to reposition itself in a changed world,” Merkel said in a conversation in her office in Berlin. “The old certainties of the post-war order no longer apply.”

She added: “They [China, Russia and the US] are forcing us, time and again, to find common positions. That is often difficult given our different interests. But we do get this done – think, for example, of our policy regarding the conflict in Ukraine.

“Our policies on Africa, too, now follow a common strategy, which a few years ago would have been unthinkable. So we keep putting one foot in front of the other. However, our political power is not yet commensurate with our economic strength.”

Merkel with Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin at the G20 in Hamburg in 2017.
 Merkel with Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin at the G20 in Hamburg in 2017. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In the interview, conducted by journalists from the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the Guardian as part of the Europa newspaper alliance, Merkel also said:

  • Brexit was the biggest European turning point of recent years, but that the ball was now in the UK’s court: “In order for the UK to leave the EU, there needs to be a parliamentary majority in London for, rather than merely against, something.”
  •  Generating enough economic wealth to tackle the environmental crisis remained her “greatest worry”.
  • Germany was aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050, but this was “a tremendous challenge”.

Q&A

What is the Europa project?

Show

The interview comes at a pivotal moment in Merkel’s 14 years as chancellor. Her party, the Christian Democratic Union, faces the prospect of significant losses in the May 23-26 poll, though observers believe she remains popular enough to see out her fourth term through to 2021.

The elections are a chance for populists in Germany and across the continent to build on their mounting popularity, borne of greater inequality, growing precariousness and a disenchantment with politics in Brussels and in member states.

“Many people are concerned about Europe, including myself,” Merkel said. “This means I feel even more duty-bound to join others in making sure that Europe has a future.”

Why copying the populist right isn’t going to save the left

 Read more

She said her peers needed to stop toying with populist gestures, and categorically ruled out opening up her centre-right bloc of parties in the European parliament to far-right populists such as Matteo Salvini.

“This is indeed a time when we need to fight for our principles and fundamental values,” Merkel said. “The heads of state and government will decide how far to let populism go or if we are ultimately willing to take on joint responsibility.

“Simply stating that we’ve enjoyed seven decades of peace is no longer enough to justify the European project. Without forward-looking arguments to justify Europe, the European peace project would also be in greater jeopardy than one may think.”

Merkel also stressed the urgency of the global environmental crisis. A former environment minister in Helmut Kohl’s cabinet, Merkel recalled biodiversity conferences she attended in the mid-1990s, and said: “It is heartbreaking to see how the situation has worsened in so many ways.

Angela Merkel with Helmut Kohl
 Angela Merkel with the then chancellor, Helmut Kohl, in whose cabinet she served as environment minister. Photograph: AP

“There clearly is a lack of consistent political action, on a global scale. What is key for being able to act in all spheres, including environmental protection, is for us to be economically successful. That is my greatest worry.”

She reiterated her aim for Germany to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, but said that for European countries to meet the net-zero carbon emissions target set by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and eight other leaders last week, they would need to reopen a fraught debate about carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

“Nine countries intend to attain climate neutrality by 2050, whereby they would on average no longer emit any CO2,” Merkel said of Macron’s initiative. “I am firmly convinced that this can only be done if one is willing to capture and store CO2. The countries in question do not deny this. The method is called CCS – and for many in Germany it is a highly charged term.”

Empty North Sea gas fields to be used to bury 10m tonnes of C02

 Read more

CCS is controversial because critics see it as an expensive subsidy that would ultimately perpetuate rather than reduce reliance on fossil fuels. “There are two possibilities – you can either store carbon, or you can reforest on a large scale,” she said. “In the Netherlands, for example, the latter is not an option. There, CO2 could be pumped into empty gas fields. We could do the same in Germany – but if I wanted to implement this policy here with the stroke of a pen, then people would be right to ask me how realistic that is.”

Merkel would not say whether the EU would grant Britain another extension if Theresa May’s government failed to pass her withdrawal agreement by the end of October deadline.

And, asked whether by the autumn Brexit might be being discussed by new leaders in both London and Berlin, she again refused to be drawn, answering: “Should there be anything to negotiate, the European commission will do so on behalf of the 27 member states, as it has done so far.”

(Reuters) Exclusive: UniCredit advances toward bid for Germany’s Commerzbank – sources

(Reuters)

FRANKFURT/LONDON (Reuters) – UniCredit has stepped up preparations for a potential bid for Germany’s Commerzbank by drafting in investment bankers including a former top German official, three people familiar with the matter said.FILE PHOTO: A sign for an ATM of Commerzbank is seen next to the headquarters of Deutsche Bank (R) in Frankfurt, Germany, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

The Italian bank had engaged Lazard and its banker Joerg Asmussen, the former German deputy finance minister, along with JP Morgan for a possible takeover, the sources said, raising the prospect of a deal that could allow UniCredit to pivot away from its struggling domestic market.

UniCredit said in statement responding to the Reuters report that it wanted to clarify that no banking mandate had been signed in relation to any potential market operation.

The bank reiterated that its current business plan is based on organic growth and a new plan will be unveiled on Dec. 3.

Although it is unclear whether and when a bid could be made, UniCredit has long been interested in expanding in Germany, said several sources familiar with management’s thinking. It already owns HVB, a large German lender based in Munich.

But the Italian bank, which has been concentrating on its own turnaround plan, had been waiting on the outcome of merger talks between Commerzbank and its larger Frankfurt neighbor, Deutsche Bank.

Those talks unraveled in recent weeks, placing Commerzbank back on the agenda for UniCredit Chief Executive Jean Pierre Mustier, who will be running the rule over a target worth about 9.3 billion euros ($10.4 billion) compared with UniCredit’s market capitalization of 24.4 billion euros.

Commerzbank shares rose on the news, climbing 4.7% by 1400 GMT, with UniCredit shares down 2.4%.

UniCredit’s advances come as Dutch bank ING Groep has also shown interest in Commerzbank, sources familiar with the matter said. One person with knowledge of those informal talks described them as “intensive”.

Mustier has hired Lazard in the hope that Asmussen can lobby for the deal with finance minister Olaf Scholz. Both have roots in the German Social Democrat Party.

Asmussen, who studied business administration at Milan’s Bocconi University, has previously served on the executive board of the European Central Bank (ECB) and as state secretary at the Federal Ministry of labor and social affairs.

UniCredit, JPMorgan, Lazard, Commerzbank and Germany’s finance ministry declined to comment while Asmussen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ING also declined to comment.

JOB FEARS

The success of any approach will hinge in part on the German government, which owns a 15 percent stake in Commerzbank, stemming from a bailout during the financial crisis. Some officials had hoped to keep Commerzbank in German hands, which is why they pushed for a deal with Deutsche Bank.

One German official said the government would be open to a merger between Commerzbank and a foreign European rival, such as UniCredit.Slideshow (2 Images)

But a deal that would tie one of Germany’s biggest banks to debt-laden Italy could ultimately prove hard to sell in Berlin.

If a takeover does emerge, it would be one of the largest deals involving banks across European borders since the financial crisis. Such mergers are still hard to pull off because laws and regulations still vary from country to country despite the single market, bankers say.

However, any initiation of talks is sure to ruffle feathers at Commerzbank, where employees – fearful for their jobs – had overwhelmingly opposed a tie-up with Deutsche Bank. Unions had forecast as many as 30,000 lost jobs.

Analysts at Citi said that any tie up with UniCredit could make it cheaper for the bank to refinance its operations and trigger other cost savings.

UniCredit last week announced that it was reducing its exposure to Italy to boost its financial strength, with measures including cuts to its portfolio of Italian government bonds.

That move could strengthen prospects for an acquisition in Germany, where UniCredit’s high exposure to Italy is seen as a barrier to a deal, several bankers said.

UniCredit had 54 billion euros of Italian government bonds at the end of March.

Italian UniCredit shareholders are in favor of any deal that can boost its market value, but some want the bank to retain its Italian identity, a person close to the matter said.

Mustier last week said that the bank was very proud of being listed and headquartered in the euro-zone’s third-biggest economy.

(GUA) German police shut down one of world’s biggest dark web sites

(GUA) Arrests in Germany, Brazil and US relate to sale of drugs, stolen data and malicious software

Bits of computer hardware
 Evidence presented at the press conference announcing the closure of the ‘Wall Street Market’ darknet platform. Photograph: Silas Stein/AP

German police have shut down one of the world’s largest illegal online markets in the so-called dark web and arrested the three men allegedly running it, prosecutors said on Friday.

The “Wall Street Market” (WSM) site enabled trade in cocaine, heroin, cannabis and amphetamines as well as stolen data, fake documents and malicious software.

The encrypted platform had more than 1m customer accounts, over 5,000 registered sellers and more than 60,000 sales offers, according to Frankfurt prosecutors and affidavits filed by US prosecutors in a federal court in Los Angeles.

“WSM operated like a conventional e-commerce website, such as eBay and Amazon. However, its sole existence was geared to the trafficking of contraband,” US prosecutors said.

Three German men alleged to be administrators of the site were arrested, while a fourth man – a Brazilian who, prosecutors said, acted as an online mediator for the website – was arrested in Brazil.

Klaus-Martin Frost, Jonathan Kalla and Tibo Lousee are accused of running Wall Street Market for nearly three years, providing a darknet platform for the sale of narcotics, counterfeit goods and hacking software to 1.1 million customers.

The Germans, known to investigators by the monikers “coder420”, “Kronos” and “TheOne”, also face charges in Germany.

“While they lurk in the deepest corners of the internet, this case shows that we can hunt down these criminals wherever they hide,” US attorney Nick Hanna said in a written statement announcing the charges.

Among the site’s top vendors were two people based in Los Angeles: “Ladyskywalker”, who sold opiates such as fentanyl, hydrocodone and oxycodone, and “Platinum45”, who dealt in methamphetamine, oxycodone and a combined amphetamine prescription drug marketed as Adderall.

The people operating those accounts have also been arrested, according to the criminal complaint. Their names have not been made public.

Launched in 2016, WSM grew over the past three years to be the largest darknet site after the 2017 shutdown of the notorious AlphaBay and Hansa marketplaces.

The site was accessed through the encrypted Tor network to shield customers from detection and transactions were made with the cryptocurrencies bitcoin and Monero.

It offered interfaces in six languages – English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish – and numerous separate categories for merchandise, including drugs, jewellery, equipment and support for credit card fraud, software and malware, among others. One vendor category, according to the court filings, was simply named “fraud”.

Like legal online marketplaces, buyers could search by product, product popularity, vendor ratings, payment type and price. The operators allegedly received commissions of between 2% and 6% of the sales value.

The police operation started after Finnish authorities shut down the illegal Tor trade site Silkkitie (Valhalla) earlier this year, said Europol. This led some Finnish narcotics traders to move to WSM.

In April, the WSM administrators were apparently alarmed at the sudden surge of customers and, the court documents said, enacted an exit plan that involved freezing the escrow accounts and customer wallets and taking out all the virtual currency held in them at the time – estimated at $11m (£8.3m).

That spurred investigators to act, and on 23 and 24 April they arrested the three German suspects, aged 22 to 31, in the states of Baden-Württemberg, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia.

They also seized servers, more than €550,000 (£470,000) in cash, and hundreds of bitcoin and Monero, as well as several vehicles and a gun.