Category Archives: Germany

(ZH) Under Pressure From Trump, Germany Boosts Military Spending 

(ZHGermany has given its military a 5.7 billion Euro ($6.5 billion USD) boost after Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen refused to sign off on the previous draft, reports Reuters.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz on Monday proposed adding 5.7 billion euros (£5 billion) to the planned military budget from 2020, to buy more ships, fighter jets and other weaponry over several years, on top of a more modest 323 million euro boost in 2019. –Reuters

Eurofighter Typhoon​​​​​

The boost in spending comes amid pressure from US President Donald Trump, who has encouraged Germany to increase its military budget to 2% of its 3.67 trillion (USD) GDP from its current 1.2% – a proposal which has sparked great debate within the country’s ruling coalition. The United States spends approximately 3.1% of its much larger 19.39 trillion GDP on the military.

Experts say the military budget – now slated to reach around 43 billion euros in 2019 – would have to increase by 2 billion euros a year through 2021 and 3 billion euros a year after that even to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel’s promise to hit 1.5 percent of GDP by 2024.

It was not immediately clear how the extra funding, set out in a 290-page list of proposed budget revisions seen by Reuters, would affect the military budget’s share of GDP. –Reuters

Coalition split

Von der Leyen of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party would like to satisfy long-standing shortfalls in the German military’s personnel and equipment.

Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats, however, have been hesitant to increase military spending out of fear of alienating German voters as their polling numbers “are collapsing,” according to Reuters.

The new revisions first reported in part by the Handelsblatt newspaper will be a topic of debate during this week’s parliament meeting, and is subject to changes by the budget committee.

The document called for 5.6 billion euros to be spent on a new heavy-lift helicopter whose funding had been called into question, a sign that a formal competition will likely proceed next year between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. –Reuters

The budget also envisions additional spending on the new MKS180 multi-role warship, along with brand new Eurofighter Typhoon jets and the TLVS missile defense program which will be built by European munitions maker MBDA in conjunction with Lockheed.

MKS-180 warship illustration

 

(PUB) O pogrom da chamada “Noite de Cristal”, 9 e 10 de Novembro de 1938 – Irene Flunser Pimentel

(PUB) Há 80 anos, o pogrom de Novembro de 1938 acelerou a chegada de uma nova etapa na política anti-semita nazi.

Há 80 anos, na noite de 9 para 10 de Novembro de 1938, teve lugar em diversas cidades da Alemanha e da Áustria um enorme pogrom contra os judeus, incentivado por uma parte dos dirigentes nazis. Esse terrível acontecimento representou um ponto de viragem na política anti-semita nazi, que passou das discriminações e da definição dos judeus à “emigração”/expulsão dos territórios do Reich, bem como o sequestro e “arianização” da sua propriedade. Já existente na Europa, a vaga de refugiados judeus saídos dos territórios da Alemanha nazi aumentou de forma avassaladora.

É hoje em geral aceite entre os historiadores o facto de o caminho para o Holocausto – ou a Shoah – ter procedido por etapas cada vez mais radicalizadas, sem caminho de recuo. A política anti-semita teve, assim, um carácter cumulativo, progredindo desde a discriminação profissional até ao extermínio dos judeus europeus. Nos anos 60 do século XX, o historiador Raul Hilberg enumerou essas diversas etapas, referindo que, após as primeiras discriminações, a definição dos judeus e a sua expropriação, ocorreriam a deportação, a concentração em guetos e o extermínio.

Ao colocar o anti-semitismo no centro da sua ideologia e prática, o regime hitleriano apelou ao boicote ao comércio judaico, em 1 de Abril de 1933, prosseguindo com a exclusão dos judeus das profissões liberais e da função pública. Em 1935, as Leis de Nuremberga atribuíram um estatuto de cidadania e de “sangue” diferente aos judeus. A partir de 1938, a política anti-semita nazi consistiu na expulsão da função pública, na espoliação/arianização dos bens e na emigração forçada dos judeus dos territórios alemães. Esse ano de 1938 foi particularmente doloroso para os judeus alemães, austríacos, polacos, checos e italianos.

Com o chamado Anschluss (“integração” ou “reunificação”, para os nazis, “anexação”, para outros) da Áustria no Terceiro Reich, em 12 de Março de 1938, 190.000 judeus austríacos passaram a estar sob o domínio alemão e, até Setembro de 1938, cerca de 50.000 “emigraram”. Em 16 de Abril, Göring emitiu um decreto obrigando os judeus a registarem os seus bens e anunciou o objectivo de expulsar todos os judeus da vida económica. A procura de países de refúgio na Europa e noutros continentes levou o Presidente norte-americano Roosevelt a convocar a conferência de Évian, cidade termal francesa, realizada entre 6 e 15 de Julho, para “gerir” a “inundação” de judeus.

Com a presença de países europeus e da América Latina, a conferência foi reveladora de que aqueles iriam enveredar por uma política restritiva de entrada de refugiados judeus, e ter-se-á tornado então claro também para Hitler que ninguém iria “mexer uma palha” para recebê-los. Portugal, no seu isolacionismo, não participou em Évian, mas Salazar, não por acaso também ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros, informou-se sobre a introdução dessa legislação restritiva, junto das suas representações diplomáticas. De Oslo veio a informação da introdução de vistos para a entrada na Noruega, excepto para os escandinavos. Também na Suécia, os alemães e austríacos “de religião judaica” ou que não pudessem regressar aos “seus países por motivos políticos ou em virtude das leis de raça” só poderiam entrar com visto.

Inspirando-se nessas leis, o Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros (MNE) português estipulou, através da circular n.º 10, de 28 de Outubro de 1938, que os “emigrantes judeus” passavam a necessitar de vistos “de turismo” com a validade de 30 dias, para entrar em Portugal. Essa ordem abrangia pela primeira vez um vasto grupo específico de candidatos à entrada no país que se tornara visível a partir do momento em que a Alemanha começara a carimbar com a letra “J” os passaportes dos judeus, passando assim a especificar quais eram os “emigrantes”, impossibilitados de regressar ao país de origem.

Mas o ano de 1938 continuou a ser trágico em termos de acontecimentos que dificultaram a vida aos refugiados. Na conferência de Munique, realizada em 29 de Setembro de 1938, na qual a França e a Grã-Bretanha, através dos appeasers Daladier e Chamberlain, cederam a Hitler e a Mussolini, foi dada luz verde aos projectos expansionistas do governo nazi na zona dos Sudetas, na Checoslováquia. Por seu lado, o governo polaco estipulou que os compatriotas judeus a viverem no estrangeiro havia mais de cinco anos tinham de renovar o seu passaporte para entrarem no país; caso contrário perdiam a nacionalidade.

Encarando este diploma polaco como uma tentativa para retirar ao Terceiro Reich e à Áustria possibilidade de reenviar para a Polónia os cerca de 50.000 judeus polacos residentes em território alemão, a Gestapo ordenou a prisão de 17.000 daqueles. Conduzidos à fronteira germano-polaca, foram expulsos, mas a Polónia aceitou apenas cerca de 10.000. Foi então que um jovem judeu polaco, de uma família judia-polaca expulsa da Alemanha nessas condições, Herzel Grynzspan, feriu mortalmente a tiro um diplomata alemão, da Embaixada em Paris, Ernst von Rath, que acabou por morrer.

Na sequência deste atentado, uma onda anti-semita varreu a Alemanha. Numa procura de ganhar influência junto de Hitler, que permaneceu numa sombra de concordância, o ministro da Propaganda Joseph Goebbels aproveitou para incitar a SS e os membros do partido nazi a atacarem os judeus no espaço público. De 9 para 10 de Novembro de 1938, na “Noite de Cristal”, nomenclatura dada pelos próprios nazis devido aos vidros partidos das 7500 lojas judaicas, destruídas em todo o Reich, foram ainda destruídas 267 sinagogas e incendiadas outras 1919, queimados 11 centros comunitários, bem como atacadas 171 casas e 20 grandes armazéns de judeus.

Os actos de violência prolongaram-se por vários dias, percorrendo todo o país, perante o silêncio da maioria da população e até das próprias Igrejas que se abstiveram de criticar publicamente os ataques. Cerca de 91 judeus foram assassinados, centenas suicidaram-se e 800 morreram em campos de concentração, onde foram encarcerados enquanto reféns mais de 26.000, na Alemanha, e 6500, na Áustria. Dado que estas detenções eram destinadas a forçar os judeus a “emigrar” dos territórios alemães, aqueles que asseguraram a partida acabaram por ser libertados.

Para forçar a “emigração” dos judeus, foram também postas em prática diversas outras medidas que se juntaram às já existentes discriminações. A 12 de Novembro, um decreto de Göring excluiu os judeus da vida económica alemã, proibindo-os de administrarem lojas e de colocarem bens e serviços nos mercados. Os judeus deixaram de poder possuir terrenos, edifícios, meios de transporte, bens preciosos e artísticos ou acções, além de deixarem de ter acesso à assistência social e à habitação, bem como ficarem impedidos de frequentar teatros, cinemas ou universidades.

Os nazis ordenaram, entre outras medidas iníquas, que as indemnizações pagas pelas seguradoras alemãs aos proprietários do património destruído na “Noite de Cristal” revertessem para o governo alemão, decidindo que seriam as próprias vítimas a pagar os danos sofridos. Um decreto de Göring sobre as reparações dos judeus de nacionalidade alemã determinou que estes deveriam pagar uma contribuição de um bilião de RM ao Reich. Em Fevereiro de 1939, todos os judeus residentes na Alemanha e na Áustria que “quisessem” partir teriam de contribuir com 0,5% a 10% do valor das suas posses e com um “imposto de fuga”. O pogrom de Novembro de 1938 acelerou assim a chegada de uma nova etapa na política anti-semita nazi: a da “emigração”/expulsão dos judeus dos territórios alemães e, no final desse ano, 30% dos judeus alemães, austríacos, checos, polacos e dos Sudetas já haviam “escolhido” o caminho da “emigração”.

O processo de radicalização anti-semita acelerar-se-ia depois, com a invasão da Polónia. Em 21 de Setembro de 1939, o dirigente SS Reinhard Heydrich, da Gestapo/SD, estabeleceu, relativamente aos judeus polacos, uma distinção entre “medidas de conjunto” e “medidas preliminares” de reagrupamento provisório nas grandes cidades, para “transferência ulterior”. Por seu turno, o chefe SS e de todas as polícias nazis, Heinrich Himmler, ordenou, em 30 de Outubro, a deportação dos judeus da Polónia para o Governo-Geral, sob a autoridade de Hans Frank. Essa política levou à criação de guetos, sendo o de Lodz o primeiro, em Dezembro de 1939.

É também em geral aceite a ideia de que o Holocausto está relacionado com a operação Barbarossa, de guerra total na URSS, iniciada em 22 de Junho de 1941, sobretudo devido à ordem de execução dos comissários soviéticos (Komissarbefehl) e à criação dos Einsatzgruppen, que seguiam os exércitos alemães no leste, responsáveis pelo assassinato de dois milhões de pessoas, na sua maioria judeus. Em 14 de Outubro, foi ordenada pelos nazis a deportação dos judeus do território do Reich para os guetos de leste e, no dia 23, Himmler proibiu a emigração dos judeus dos territórios ocupados pela Alemanha, impedindo assim a fuga dos judeus dos territórios ocupados pela Alemanha. No final de 1941, a “solução final do problema judaico” já não passava pela “emigração”, fecho em guetos e deportações, mas pelo extermínio dos judeus europeus, levado a cabo a céu aberto ou em camiões ou nos centros e campos de extermínio de Chelmno, Belzec, Treblinka, Sobibor, Maidanek e Auschwitz-Birkenau.

(DW) German police raid BlackRock offices

(DW) BlackRock controls trillions of dollars of assets and has now been caught up in the monumental cum-ex tax scandal. The investment funds involvement has particular significance for the German government.

    
Blackrock logo

German investigators raided the offices of finance giant BlackRock on Tuesday, several media outlets reported.

The raid is part of the country’s biggest post-war fraud investigation, known as the cum-ex scandal.

BlackRock said it was cooperating fully with investigators. Its chairman for Germany, Friedrich Merz, told he had ordered management to “investigate all instances and make documents available to authorities.”

What is the cum-ex scandal? The scandal came to light in 2016 when it emerged that several German banks had exploited a legal loophole which allowed two parties simultaneously to claim ownership of the same shares. This contrived “dual ownership” allowed both parties to then claim tax rebates even though both were not entitled to it. The scandal cost taxpayers billions of euros.

The Day – Tax Scam

What is BlackRock? It is a vast investment management organization that oversees more than $6.4 trillion (€5.6 trillion) in assets — putting it on par with the world’s third biggest GDP. BlackRock is also the biggest stockholder on the German DAX blue chip market index. On top of asset management, it also advises central banks, financial ministries, big investors like state funds, pension funds, insurance companies and foundations.

What is the significance for German politics? The raids could make things tricky for chairman Merz. The Christian Democrat politician is a leading candidate to succeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel as party leader when she steps down. The scandal predates Merz’s time at the company, however, the Greens have seized upon the raids to question the government’s commitment to prosecuting those involved.

(WSJ) How Angela Merkel Foiled a Backroom Coup in One Late Display of Clout

(WSJBy taking herself out of the running to lead the ruling party, the German chancellor dragged its succession process into the light for the first time in decades

BERLIN—The era of Angela Merkel was clearly coming to an end a week ago, and Wolfgang Schäuble was prepared to jump in. An elder statesman and veteran of German political battles, he had been secretly developing a succession plan, typical of changes-of-guard in the ruling party.

Then last Monday, Ms. Merkel dragged the party’s succession process into the light for the first time in decades.

By taking herself out of the running for her post as party chairwoman, she pulled the rug out from under the small group of men engineering the post-Merkel era, and cued up a rare public race for her crown—an open contest that looks set to redraw the political contours of the country and Europe in ways few anticipated.

Ms. Merkel had managed to pull off one late coup even in her moment of weakness, with a maneuver that leaves her with more control of the outcome—and of the terms of her departure—than if she had left the succession to her party.

Mr. Schäuble, speaker of the Bundestag, parliament’s lower house, had spent weeks working on a transition plan, anticipating a trouncing for his and Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union at a regional electionon Sunday, Oct. 28. He had coached an old rival of Ms. Merkel’s and rallied supporters in a bid to replace her atop the conservative party she had chaired for almost two decades.

Wolfgang Schäuble glancing at Ms. Merkel last month during a service in the Berlin Cathedral on German Day of Unity. PHOTO: FELIPE TRUEBA/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Critics of Ms. Merkel in CDU leadership were planning to confront her by Sunday, Nov. 4, with their plan for her to surrender the reins, and they were expecting resistance, according to several people familiar with the plan.

Ms. Merkel was quicker. On Monday, hours after the last Hesse ballots were counted, leaving the CDU with its worst-ever score in the state, she told the party’s assembled leaders in Berlin she would remain chancellor but not run for the party’s chair in December.

In Germany, the chancellor leads the government. Most, including Ms. Merkel, have also headed their parties, taking authority over both state matters and their political troops. In rare cases where the roles have been split, power battles have almost always ensued, undermining the chancellor.

For decades, CDU-chairman successions have been the stuff of backroom deals. Only once in postwar history have two credible contenders publicly jostled for the chair, in 1971.

Ms. Merkel’s announcement surprised even many of her close lieutenants. Several European Union leaders, anxious about the prospect of political turmoil, flooded Ms. Merkel and her staff with inquiries about her plans, said a person familiar with the communications. Among them was French President Emmanuel Macron.

Almost immediately after Ms. Merkel’s announcement, three candidates had thrown their hats into the ring. Barring any upset—if one pulls out, say, to support another—they will square off during a ballot of 1,001 party delegates during the CDU’s annual convention in Hamburg on Dec. 7 and 8. They have four weeks to persuade CDU electors they can stop the group from hemorrhaging voters and reclaim its position as Germany’s party of power.

The candidates must lay out plans to tackle the issue that has fractured the country, how to deal with nearly two million immigrants who arrived after Ms. Merkel’s 2015 decision to open borders. They must answer pressing questions such as how to fix the flawed architecture of the euro currency, handle President Trump and contain a resurgent Russia.

This isn’t what the CDU veterans, most nearing or past retirement age, had in mind when they came together weeks ago to plan the party’s future. Mr. Schäuble, once Ms. Merkel’s boss as CDU chairman and, more recently, her finance minister, had begun pressing allies to consider his close friend Friedrich Merz as her successor, said people familiar with his thinking.

With the CDU’s poll ratings dropping, Ms. Merkel was unlikely to survive the December convention, Mr. Schäuble told a small group of acquaintances on Oct. 9. Mr. Merz, a former CDU grandee turned business lawyer, could turn the party’s fortunes around, Mr. Schäuble told them.

The next day, Mr. Merz was in Brussels quietly touting his bid to senior conservatives in EU institutions, according to one he spoke with. In the following weeks, Mr. Merz and his supporters went on a vote-gathering spree, sounding out regional CDU leaders in states with large numbers of convention delegates.

A spokesman for Mr. Schäuble said he rejects any impression he was part of a network aiming to bring about change in CDU leadership. Mr. Merz declined to comment.

Internal clash

Mr. Schäuble in 2000 was CDU chairman and parliamentary-group leader when his peripheral role in a party-funding scandal forced him to resign as Ms. Merkel took over the reins as chairwoman. He later was minister in three Merkel cabinets. But the conservative south German and the centrist chancellor never developed a warm rapport, according to people who know both. They address each other using the formal German “Sie” form and last names.

Mr. Schäuble’s choice of successor was intended to signal a rupture in several ways, people familiar with Mr. Merz’s bid said. A former rising star who had taken over from Mr. Schäuble as CDU parliamentary leader, Mr. Merz had repeatedly clashed with Ms. Merkel.

She pushed her party to the left, expanding its share of the political market and winning elections by embracing such policies as the abolition of military conscription, phasing out nuclear power, and the introduction of a minimum wage. Mr. Merz stood for solid, if often unpopular, pro-market policies and socially conservative values.

In 2002, two years after she became chairwoman, she ousted him from the powerful job of parliamentary-group leader and took his place. He left politics a few years later, focusing on his legal career. She became chancellor in 2005.

After Ms. Merkel scored her party’s worst post-World War II election result in September 2017 and talks collapsed to form a three-way coalition of conservatives, pro-marketers and environmentalists, Mr. Schäuble told the chancellor she should build a minority government, according to a person familiar with the episode. She instead revived her unpopular left-right coalition with the Social Democratic Party.

By early October 2018, the CDU’s poll ratings had fallen into the mid-20s, well off its already disastrous 32.9% score at the September 2017 general election. Sensing Ms. Merkel’s star was fading, Mr. Schäuble and other like-minded CDU officials became convinced her successor would have to represent a break with the past, a person familiar with his thinking said.

Mr. Schäuble told Mr. Merz the Hesse state election’s aftermath would be the time to launch his political comeback, this person said. As Mr. Merz rehearsed his political message—conservatism couched in moderate tones designed to appeal broadly—he discreetly began canvassing old CDU friends for support in mid-October, said a person familiar with his bid.

His network’s core was the Andes Pact, a group of male politicians, active and retired, wielding substantial influence in the party. Among them was Günther Oettinger, Germany’s representative at the European Commission. Mr. Oettinger discussed Mr. Merz’s candidacy early last month when Mr. Merz traveled to Brussels, said a person familiar with the exchange.

When the CDU executive board gathered in Berlin on Oct. 29 for a Hesse-election postmortem, Mr. Schäuble’s predictions about the importance of the ballot appeared vindicated. The party had dropped 11 points in the vote from the prior election, and calls for Ms. Merkel to pay the consequences were all over German media. Mr. Merz’s backers expected a denouement at a closed-door meeting of party top brass scheduled for week’s end.

They thought the chancellor, after some resistance, would be persuaded to give up the party chair. Mr. Merz—his bid until now out of public eye—would emerge as the leading candidate, just as backroom deals had worked over the decades. That would give him an advantage over another party member expected to put her hand up, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the CDU’s secretary-general.

Ms. Merkel’s ‘bomb’

Then, “as Merkel stood up and dropped the bomb, we looked at each other with Schäuble,” said one participant in the meeting, “and his look was speaking volumes”—a look, the person said, indicating Mr. Schäuble expected Mr. Merz to quickly make a public bid for the party leadership.

Mr. Merz almost immediately leaked the news of his comeback to the conservative Bild tabloid, in an effort to establish himself as successor, people familiar with the events said. But in the closed-door meeting, two other contenders—Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer and Jens Spahn, health minister—then also declared their candidacies. This, too, quickly leaked.

Speaking to journalists, a smiling Ms. Merkel said her succession was “now an open process.” Her decision not to seek re-election as chairwoman had matured during the summer, she said, after her fragile government had almost collapsed over proposed changes to immigration law.

A person close to her said Ms. Merkel had got wind of the Merz intrigue and didn’t want to fall victim to a palace coup.

Ms. Merkel is now a diminished figure who few experts believe can stay in the chancellery for another three years. “I would consider it a sheer miracle,” said Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a former defense minister who has remained friendly with her. “And I think it unlikely that the coalition will hold.”

Germany-watchers are scrutinizing the three candidates for hints of where they would take the country. Mr. Merz outlined a platform at a Wednesday press conference, declaring himself a “convinced European and trans-Atlanticist.” Mr. Merz, a senior counsel with U.S. law firm Mayer Brown and nonexecutive chairman of the German branch of BlackRock Inc., the world’s biggest asset manager, reiterated his pro-business positions.

Asked about animosity toward Ms. Merkel—which some analysts think could make it difficult for her to remain chancellor should he become chairman—Mr. Merz said there was none.

Allies of Mr. Merz said his biggest challenge will come from Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer. The chancellor’s protégée, nicknamed “mini-Merkel” by the German press, has yet to outline her priorities. In private conversations, she has said voters’ anxieties about immigration should be taken seriously, signaling a possible shift from Ms. Merkel’s stance.

She is the former premier of tiny Saar state, a Catholic who presents herself as more socially conservative than Ms. Merkel. She has campaigned against legalizing same-sex marriage and enforced in her state compulsory age tests for asylum seekers claiming to be children.

“She is a successful premier and determined European,” said Elmar Brok, a member of the CDU’s top executive body. “Her chances are great.”

Her closeness to Ms. Merkel could be her weakness, said political scientist Oskar Niedermayer. Mr. Oettinger, who supports Mr. Merz, echoed the argument, saying “her political profile is perhaps not yet so clearly defined in the eyes of voters.”

Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer and Mr. Spahn declined to comment.

Mr. Spahn is the youngest candidate at 38. He was the first senior CDU official to criticize Ms. Merkel’s refugee policy and a rare government member to actively seek contact with people close to Mr. Trump. He held talks with Steve Bannon, then White House chief strategist, and with national security adviser John Bolton.

He has sought to appeal to traditional CDU voters. In an essay in the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine daily last week, he called immigration “the white elephant in the room.” By contrast, a video on his Facebook page appears tailored to a younger, YouTube-watching audience with fast cuts, upbeat soundtrack of rapid percussion and an optimistic message.

Whoever wins will likely determine not just the CDU’s political direction but also how long Ms. Merkel will stay in the chancellery. “With Kramp-Karrenbauer there can be a viable arrangement” between the chancellor and the CDU chairwoman,” said one Merkel aide. “With Merz, it would be very difficult. And Spahn is somewhere between the two.”

A poll published Oct. 31 found Mr. Merz the most popular, with 21.9% of respondents saying he was their choice. Mrs. Kramp-Karrenbauer followed with 16.2% and Mr. Spahn, with 8.2%. Nearly 23% of the surveyed believed none of them was a suitable replacement.

(Local) Polish president demands war reparations from Germany

(Local)

Polish president demands war reparations from Germany
Polish President Andrzej Duda has called for reparations for the destruction of Poland during World War II. Photo: Bernd of Jutrczenka / dpa

The president of Poland repeated on Sunday his country’s demand for Germany to pay reparations over World War II, days before ministers from Berlin and Warsaw will sit down for bilateral talks.

“In my view, reparations payments are not a topic that’s been dealt with,” Andrzej Duda told the Sunday edition of Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper Bild.
Citing two reports, one from former president Lech Kaczynski and another from the Polish parliament, Duda said that “the damage caused during the war was never compensated for”.
He pointed especially to the capital Warsaw, which was “razed to the ground” by German troops. “It’s a question of truth and responsibility,” Duda said.
Berlin has often rejected claims for war reparations in the past, saying Poland officially renounced such demands in August 1953.
But the conservative party that holds power in Warsaw argues that their country was forced to sign the document by the Soviet Union. On Friday, the two governments will hold a joint meeting in the Polish capital.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and several of her ministers will meet Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki and his cabinet.
In private, German diplomats suggest that Poland understands there is little chance of securing cash reparations. Instead, Warsaw hopes to strong-arm Berlin into backing it in debates over the European Union budget or Brussels’ threats to punish Poland for failing to uphold the rule of law.

(EurActiv) Merkel’s move poses risk of paralysis for the EU, analysts say

(EurActiv)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pose for photographs during the German-French Ministers Meeting in front of the German government’s guest house Meseberg Palace, in Meseberg, near Berlin, Germany, 19 June 2018. [Christian Bruna/EPA/EFE]

As Europe’s most powerful leader, Angela Merkel’s decision to quit as German chancellor in 2021 spells uncertainty and possibly paralysis for the EU as populists rally, diplomats and analysts warn.

After her announcement on Monday (29 October), the European Union is even less likely to bridge divisions on key topics like migration or eurozone reform in the coming months, they say.

The end of the Chancellor after the Hesse election

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday (29 October) she no longer wants to run for CDU chairmanship in December and, after the current legislative term, does not want to stand as a candidate for the chancellorship. EURACTIV Germany reports on ‘the end of an era’ in the country.

“Nobody is going to listen to her anymore in Europe. She has taken herself immediately out of the game,” said Sebastian Maillard, director of the Jacques Delors Institute think tank.

Maillard was referring not only to Merkel’s decision to quit as chair of her party before stepping down later as chancellor, but also to not run for an EU position afterward.

“It’s a tough blow for Europe,” Maillard told AFP.

Julian Rappolt, an analyst for the European Policy Centre, predicted few, if any major decisions would be taken before the May elections for a new European Parliament.

“Nothing will happen before the end of the year and probably nothing will take place until the European elections,” Rappolt said.

“There is the risk of paralysis at the European level,” he said.

Even though arrivals of asylum seekers peaked in 2015, the EU’s political crisis is as grave as ever over how to share responsibility for migrants who enter the bloc.

Many critics said Merkel’s initial open-door policy toward Syrian refugees exacerbated the political divisions.

Merkel and the refugees: How she emerged from a political abyss

Near the end of a recent campaign speech in northern Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel turned to Europe’s refugee crisis of 2015 and offered her audience a comforting dual message.

But the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, disagreed that Merkel’s announcement would lead to paralysis, a commission official said.

“Angela Merkel’s decision was expected. She had foreseen it and it changes nothing. The chancellor will not leave right away,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Sudha David-Wilp, deputy director of the German Marshall Fund’s Berlin office, also noted that Merkel’s departure was not a surprise and appeared to be orderly.

“I don’t see chaos or instability for Europe because this is going to be a very slow departure,” David-Wilp told AFP from the United States.

“Right now it is not in anybody’s interest for the grand coalition to split apart in Berlin,” she added in reference to Merkel’s ruling coalition with the centre-left SPD party.

‘Serious internal crisis’

Other analysts underscored uncertainty over who — from loyal allies to fierce critics — will replace Merkel as head of the centre-right CDU party in December and secure a chance to succeed her as chancellor.

“If it’s Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, it will be rather a good thing to revive the EU,” Schuman Foundation Director Jean-Dominique Giuliani told AFP.

“She is close to France and is very European. She will be more active than Merkel, who always played in the background,” he added.

“If Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer assumes the party chairmanship, there’s still a chance the chancellor can stay on the job until 2021,” Rappolt said.

Merkel proposes close ally for crucial party job

German Chancellor Angela Merkel put forward close ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer yesterday (19 February) to take over as secretary general of her Christian Democrats (CDU), heeding calls from within the party to inject new blood and groom a successor.

If not, “it will be the end,” he warned.

Such uncertainty comes at a bad time.

“Europe is experiencing a serious internal crisis,” an official from an EU member country noted.

“There is a lack of leadership in Europe. Most of the leaders are in trouble,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

French President “Emmanuel Macron has tried to give new impetus, but his initiatives have not found much support,” Rappolt remarked.

Not all Macron’s EU reforms possible, German finance minister says

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said EU reforms proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron should be addressed before European elections next year, but added that some of the proposals were not feasible.

Merkel herself has done little to revive Europe, Maillard said.

“The French-German engine did not start because France never had a guarantor in the chancellor. Angela Merkel always temporised, was always on the defensive,” he said.

Schuman Foundation president Guillani suggested “now that her authority is dented, tongues will loosen. I think her balance sheet will be pretty negative.”

(ZH) Merkel To Step Down As CDU Leader In Dramatic Move

(ZH) Angela Merkel will not seek re-election as chair of Germany’s ruling CDU party, effectively standing down as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, a post she has held for 18 years, after a disastrous performance by her party in regional elections in the German state of Hesse on Sunday badly dented her authority, and followed an ultimatum by her junior coalition partner, the SPD which also suffered a devastating loss in latest elections.

According to Spiegel and Bild, Merkel, who has chaired the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since 2000, was expected to compete again at the party congress in Hamburg in early December. however in what many are calling “the end of an era” during which her command of Germany put its stamp on Europe and beyond for more than a decade, on Monday morning she told senior party executives that she would not stand again.

Merkel is scheduled to speak to the media at 1 p.m. local time on Berlin.

The Chancellor will reportedly retire after the end of her current term in 2021, which will give the CDU time to groom a successor. Though she remains one of Germany’s most popular politicians, her fellow Christian Democrats have long been demanding that she clear a path for her successor. After leaving German politics, Merkel has reportedly said she won’t consider any EU-wide posts.

As we reported on Sunday, the CDU won the election in Hesse, but its share of the vote fell by more than 11 points, while the junior partner in her governing grand coalition, the Social Democrats, also slumped. The party’s poor showing reignited calls for the SPD to quit the government.

While Merkel can assume she’ll have the support to remain chancellor, “she’s broken the game for her succession wide open” according to Bloomberg, although doing it in a dramatic fashion, a surprise, as she has here, may help throw her competitors off balance. That would help her hand-picked successor, CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. But others are waiting in the wings. Bild reports that Friedrich Merz, her main antagonist in the first years after she took over the CDU in 2000, has thrown his hat in the ring.

Other possible contenders include Health Minister Jens Spahn, who has publicly criticized her open-doors refugee policy and is championed by the CDU’s social conservatives and Ralph Brinkhaus, a fiscal hawk who unexpectedly ousted Merkel’s longtime parliamentary caucus leader. Others include two state premiers Armin Laschet and Daniel Guenther, who carry weight after recently leading the CDU to victory in regional elections.

However, as Bloomberg notes, the potential for change in Germany is hemmed in by the country’s constitution and relatively strong political center.

“Even if Merkel were to be replaced and/or if a new government were to take power in Berlin, with or without new elections, it would not make a major difference once the dust has settled,” Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg, said in a note. “Any conceivable coalition in Berlin would still be dominated by the mainstream parties CDU/CSU, SPD, Greens and the smaller Liberals.”

The repercussions of her decision will resonate far and wide, not least in the U.K., where Brexit is the all-consuming topic. As Bloomberg notes, there might be dismay at the prospect of someone so influential disappearing from the scene.

She has the ability to tip the scales and she has taken a more conciliatory approach than say, France’s Macron. But if Merkel does stay on as chancellor, could this free her up to throw some caution to the wind and steer the ship safely without having to worry about burning political capital?

The news sent the Euro sliding to session lows, down as much as 0.3% to 1.1360 before staging a modest rebound. Meanwhile, Germany’s DAX30 has extended gains to more than 1% since the first media reports of Merkel not seeking to continue as CDU leader, largely on the back of the weaker euro.

(Economist) The real story of what happened to Italy’s Jews

(Economist) Simon Levis Sullam unpicks the accepted version of events.

The Italian Executioners: The Genocide of the Jews of Italy. By Simon Levis Sullam. Translated by Oona Smyth with Claudia Patane.Princeton University Press; 208 pages; $26.95 and £21.

The police report said that “the terrified child, Emma Calò, aged 6, clung, weeping, to the clothes of the concierge…Mr and Mrs Berna begged the official to desist from his intentions, but he was adamant.”

Told that this heart-wrenching scene took place in Rome in 1944, most Italians could confidently guess the background: the official would have been a Nazi engaged in the round-up of Jews that followed Italy’s withdrawal from the second world war, when the Italians’ German allies became their occupiers. As for the Bernas, their compassionate behaviour typified the Italian nation, which had been seduced by fascism but was never anti-Semitic.

The official, however, was not German, but Italian. And, as Simon Levis Sullam’s vigorously revisionist history makes clear, while many Italians stood up for the Jews, many did not. Some looked away, and some took an active, even enthusiastic, part in the persecution and removal of the 6,746 Jews sent from mainland Italy to German extermination camps. This was particularly true in the Italian Social Republic (rsi), the fascist-run state in the north.

To ingratiate themselves with the victors after the war, Italian bigwigs exalted the role of the Jews’ defenders while minimising that of their persecutors. Hampered though it is by the disappearance of much of the documentary evidence, Mr Levis Sullam’s short book sets out to give the latter group their sinister due.

It is hard to overstate the pervasiveness and potency of what became the accepted version of events. Even the leaders of the surviving Jewish community adopted it. “Everyone”, declared the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities in 1956, was “careful to warn the doomed innocent victims; all the friends, the acquaintances, the neighbours were ready to take them in, to hide them, to help them.” That story has entered history textbooks and has even been embraced by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem: one of its publications states that Italians rejected anti-Semitism as “contrary to Italian traditions”.

But, as a German diplomat explained in a note to Berlin as the deportations began in December 1943, “with the forces at our disposal in Italy, it is impossible to comb through all the towns”. Italians took part in 2,210 arrests; 1,898 were made by Italians alone. Then there were informers who betrayed Jewish acquaintances and people who worked willingly for such bodies as the General Inspectorate of Race and in Italy’s seldom-mentioned concentration camp at Fossoli near Modena. (Fossoli was no Buchenwald, but nor was it a holiday camp: in February 1944, prisoners appealed to Catholic prelates for help in alleviating their “miserable conditions” and for “aid that the elderly, women, children and the ill implore from human solidarity”.)

Though his focus is on the cruelty Jews endured, Mr Levis Sullam acknowledges that the story was many-sided. After a Jewish man and his mother were caught trying to flee to Switzerland, the local fascist chief released them and returned their seized property. The Bernas’ efforts to save Emma Calò met with the “tacit agreement” of a policeman accompanying the official.

Not that they succeeded in saving the little girl. She died in Auschwitz two months later. The official was acquitted of all charges after the war, “thanks to the activities that he claimed to have carried out on behalf of the Resistance”.

(OBS) O Cardeal Cerejeira e o nazismo – P. Gonçalo Portocarrero de Almada

(OBS) Faça-se a justiça de dizer a verdade: a Igreja Católica sempre declarou a absoluta incompatibilidade entre a fé cristã e a ideologia nacional-socialista.

É sabido que o Cardeal D. Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira, Patriarca de Lisboa, foi amigo pessoal do Dr. António de Oliveira Salazar, quando ambos eram professores da Universidade de Coimbra. Embora leccionando em faculdades diferentes – Cerejeira em Letras e Salazar em Direito – entre ambos estabeleceu-se, cimentada não só pela inegável valia intelectual de ambos, mas também pela sua comum fé católica, uma certa amizade que, com o passar dos anos, esmoreceu. Partilhavam também um vivo interesse pela realidade política nacional, ainda no rescaldo de uma primeira república que, não obstante o discurso libertário, de facto restringiu a liberdade de voto, a liberdade de pensamento e de expressão e, mediante uma impiedosa perseguição à Igreja católica, praticamente aboliu a liberdade religiosa.

Sidónio Pais tinha proporcionado ao país alguma moderação, nomeadamente pelo restabelecimento das relações diplomáticas com a Santa Sé, mas o governo do presidente-rei foi sol de pouca dura: um ano depois de ter tomado posse, foi assassinado na estação do Rossio, há precisamente cem anos, supõe-se que por alguém descontente com a sua aproximação à Igreja católica. Recorde-se que a primeira república foi essencialmente anticristã.

Entretanto, na Europa começavam a surgir os regimes totalitários, como o fascismo italiano e o nazismo alemão. A matriz profundamente anticlerical das forças de esquerda, nomeadamente os comunistas, socialistas e anarquistas, levou alguns católicos menos esclarecidos a depositar as suas esperanças nestes movimentos, não obstante a sua ideologia anticristã. O fascismo de Benito Mussolini, embora anticatólico, logrou pôr termo ao contencioso que opunha a Igreja ao Estado italiano, desde que este, nos finais do século XIX, ocupou os chamados Estados pontifícios, privando o Santo Padre das suas imemoriais possessões territoriais na península itálica. Graças aos pactos de Latrão, foi reconhecida formalmente a soberania do romano pontífice sobre o Estado Cidade do Vaticano, e a Igreja recebeu uma razoável indemnização, pelos bens patrimoniais de que tinha sido espoliada.

A emergência do nacional-socialismo alemão também foi saudada com algum entusiasmo pela direita conservadora, não obstante o seu evidente paganismo. Alguns cristãos, sobretudo protestantes, pensaram que Adolf Hitler poderia ser o instrumento da providência para vencer o comunismo, que ameaçava a cristandade. Assim se explica o fervor inicial de uns quantos fiéis alemães pelo nacional-socialismo, bem como a atitude colaborante de alguns bispos católicos, como o arcebispo de Viena que, contrariando a Santa Sé, saudou em público a anexação da sua pátria pelo terceiro Reich alemão.

Neste contexto, teria sido compreensível que o Cardeal Cerejeira, também pela sua amizade com Salazar – o qual tinha, então, no seu gabinete de presidente do conselho de ministros, uma grande fotografia de ‘il Duce’ – nutrisse alguma simpatia pelo fascismo e, até, pelo nacional-socialismo alemão, tido por muitos como a única força política capaz de vencer o bolchevismo ateu soviético. Contudo, o então Cardeal-Patriarca de Lisboa não se deixou seduzir pelo canto da sereia fascista, nem nazi, em perfeita sintonia com o magistério do Papa Pio XI – autor da encíclica Mit brennender Sorge, que condena o nacional-socialismo germânico – e de seu sucessor, Pio XII, que por ter sido núncio em Berlim, não tinha quaisquer dúvidas quanto à perversidade intrínseca da ideologia nacional-socialista.

O barão Oswald von Hoyningen-Huene (1884-1963), foi o representante diplomático da Alemanha nazi em Portugal, de 1934 a 1944, e “fazia parte da aristocracia alemã que não se identificava com Adolf Hitler, mas que o tolerava em nome da pátria”, como escreveu Margarida Magalhães Ramalho, num interessante artigo sobre “O barão do Reich”, publicado n’ A Revista do Expresso, a 5 de Agosto de 2017.

Em 1937, quando ainda não tinha começado a II Guerra Mundial, nem se conheciam as atrocidades cometidas nos campos de concentração nazis, o Cardeal-Patriarca, D. Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira, aproveitou a tradicional alocução radiofónica natalícia para denunciar, de forma contundente, a ideologia nacional-socialista. Fê-lo de tal forma “que mereceu, do barão, uma extensa carta de protesto de sete páginas. Tanto quanto se percebe, o prelado ter-se-ia referido diversas vezes (…) ao ateísmo germânico, condenando a política de eugenia promovida pela nova ordem e referindo-se a Hitler como um ‘César pagão’”.

O embaixador germânico, sem esconder o seu desagrado e indignação, perguntava ao Patriarca: “O objectivo do seu discurso de Natal era atacar a Alemanha? O meu país foi aí mencionado 5 vezes e há mais 4 alusões indirectas. Várias vezes V.ª Eminência o colocou no mesmo pé de igualdade que o Comunismo, ou com o ateísmo marxista. (…) Com a leitura do seu discurso, dir-se-ia que a Alemanha é o país mais pagão do mundo, um país que só conhece o culto da raça e da força, que se entrega a um Moloch (deus dos amonitas e considerado um demónio para os cristãos) novo e desconhecido, que destrói a liberdade do homem e que diviniza um César humano (…)”.

Note-se que o diplomata alemão não era nazi, nem partidário de Hitler, o que motivará a sua destituição, “por falta de confiança política”, em 1944. Depois de demitido das suas funções diplomáticas, o embaixador regressa ao Estoril, onde ficara a sua mulher, e aí fixa a sua residência. Contudo o Cardeal Cerejeira, mesmo sabendo que o barão von Hoyningen-Huene não era nazi e amigo de Portugal, foi implacável na sua condenação pública, sem eufemismos, do nacional-socialismo.

O protesto formal do embaixador alemão, em Lisboa, “só mereceu de Cerejeira uma resposta lacónica, quase um ano depois. Nesta, o cardeal reafirmava que existiam princípios que para ele eram condenáveis à luz da fé católica, pelo que não podia prometer não voltar a falar neles …”. Ou seja, o Cardeal-Patriarca não só não apresentou quaisquer desculpas, como não retirou o que dissera e até ameaçou voltar a denunciar o carácter violentamente anticristão do nacional-socialismo de Adolf Hitler.

Quando, algum dia, se escrever a história do século XX em Portugal, será necessário que, em vez de repetir o falso tópico marxista que cola a Igreja ao Estado Novo, por virtude da antiga amizade entre Salazar e Cerejeira, se faça a justiça de dizer a verdade. Ou seja, que a Igreja Católica sempre manteve a sua independência em relação ao regime autoritário que então vigorava em Portugal e que o seu principal prelado, o Cardeal-Patriarca de Lisboa, já então denunciava, publicamente, em total sintonia com o magistério pontifício, nomeadamente os ensinamentos dos Papas Pio XI e Pio XII, a absoluta incompatibilidade entre a fé cristã e a ideologia nacional-socialista.

Já agora, diga-se também que isto aconteceu muito antes de a Rússia comunista assinar, a 23 de Agosto de 1939, um infame tratado com a Alemanha nazi, o pacto Molotov – von Ribbentrop, em ordem à comum invasão, aniquilação e partilha da Polónia católica.

(GR) Greece ‘to Claim €280 Billion’ in War Reparations from Germany

(GR)

Greece is about to launch a campaign to claim €280 billion ($323 billion) in war reparations from Germany, reports Der Spiegel.

The German magazine notes that as long as Greece was dependent on EU support, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had avoided raising the issue. But now, after the end of the third bailout program, Athens is ready to take initiatives to claim the money, it says.

The issue is resurfacing a few days before the official visit of Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Athens where he will meet the President of the Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Tsipras.

Der Spiegel says it is no coincidence that the two highest ranking Greek politicians have both raised the issue in the last few days.

It marks the beginning of a long campaign, which, according to the German magazine, will start in November.

The Greek Parliament will endorse an audit report ready since August 2016, according to which Greece is entitled to €269.5 billion of repairs from the Second World War.

In addition, Greece demands the repayment of a €10.3 billion occupation loan.

The report remained under wraps throughout the last two years, but Tsipras seems ready to bring it back to the surface and start a campaign for war reparations, says Der Spiegel.

In the second phase, Greece intends to present its arguments at world organizations such as the European Parliament, the European Council, and the UN.

In the third phase, Greece plans to call on Germany to negotiate war reparations. For its part, the German government is expected to reject the request. Already in the past, it has made it clear that Greece has no legal right to claim damages for the Second World War.

In the opinion of some Greek lawyers, this German denial may open the way for the case to be brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, says the German magazine.

(BBG) German Bankers Brace for More Cuts After Losing 188,000 Jobs

(BBG) After lenders in Germany have already slashed about 188,000 jobs since the year 2000, many employees are now increasingly seeing digitalization as the next big threat to employment.

In the country’s private banking industry alone, around 40 percent of employees believe that digitalization will worsen long-term job security over the next two years, according to a study by the employers’ association seen by Bloomberg. In a 2015 survey, only 31 percent of respondents expected a deterioration. At the same time, the proportion of those predicting improvements has remained almost constant at around 25 percent.

“Many lenders are currently changing their business models, with jobs being lost as a result of digitalization, but there are also many new jobs, especially at the interface between banking and IT,” said Carsten Rogge-Strang, Managing Director at the employer association for private banks.

He represents the interests of private lenders in Germany, among them Deutsche Bank AG, Commerzbank AG, Bankhaus Lampe KG as well as Bausparkasse Schwaebisch Hall AG. Savings banks, cooperative banks and development banks are organized differently.

According to Rogge-Strang, many jobs that are currently being created by lenders are increasingly for professions that are not part of the traditional banking business, for example from areas like mathematics. “For some positions, it does not even matter what field applicants come from, as long as they do have interest and expertise in designing digital transformation processes,” he said.

In addition, specialists for regulation, compliance and control functions are increasingly in demand, he added.

Matthias Schellenberg, CEO of Merck Finck Privatbankiers AG, also stressed the importance of new jobs. “If you look at what vacancies are advertised by lenders, then two areas have gained tremendous weight – IT and compliance,” he told Bloomberg. “However, anyone who understands digitalization as a pure cost-cutting and job-cutting program does not see the challenges behind it and the opportunities that arise.” Digitalization creates more time for advising clients, he added.

All in all, new hires do not make up for the reduction in staff numbers caused mainly by digitalization, Rogge-Strang said. According to him, simple activities in processing and service units are being eliminated now.

The number of employees at private lenders, savings banks, cooperative banks, regional state lenders and development banks in Germany shrank from 774,550 in 2000 to 586,250 in 2017, according to numbers from the employer association for private banks which also collects data from other banking groups. Job losses occurred in all banking subsectors.

(ZH) Germany’s Right-Wing AfD Hits All-Time High Support; Now 2nd Most Popular Party 

(ZH) Germany’s right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has surged in popularity to become the country’s second most popular party behind Merkel’s Bloc.

AfD politician Björn Höcke (center)

While one recent poll commissioned by Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper has the party at 18% support, a Monday INSA Poll has the party at 18.5% – an all time high.

Europe Elects@EuropeElects

Germany: Right-wing to far-right AfD (EFDD) reaches all-time record high: 18.5% (INSA poll).

Coming in third is the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) at 16% popularity.

AfD’s popularity is the latest sign that the populist wave sweeping Europe continues to pick up steam, as Europeans steadily reject open-border globalism and other progressive policies. Critics on the left suggest that the party is simply catering to public fears and frustrations over migrants.

AfD politicians are regularly accused of extremism and don’t shy from the type of nationalist rhetoric that mainstream German politicians largely have shunned since World War II. After launching in 2013, Alternative for Germany has grown powerful by focusing especially on the public’s fears and frustrations over the country taking in record numbers of migrants and refugees in recent years. –NPR

AfD’s supporters disagree – while the party believes it is in touch with German society. “On the crucial issues of our time, the views of the majority of the population coincide with ours. That drives these people to us,” AfD spokesman Jörg Meuthen told NPR, adding that accusations that the party’s members are dangerous right-wing radicals are “an expression of political helplessness.”

Meuthen – a German member of European Parliament and an economist, says that the party’s leaders “completely reject any form of right-wing radicalism.”

That said, members of AfD were seen marching in solidarity with anti-migrant group PEGIDA as well as neo-Nazi activists who were seen performing Nazi salutes – which are illegal in Germany, while shouting “foreigners out!”

Liberals are scratching their heads over the rise of AfD – suggesting that it’s a product of insecurity.

So, how has the AfD managed to garner so much support for its “alternative” for the country?

According to Werner Weidenfeld, a political scientist at the University of Munich, the party appeals to a variety of sectors. “The AfD supporters are not all right-wing radicals,” he says. There is a range of backers, including “disappointed middle-class” citizens and “some right-wing extremists.

He thinks the AfD’s success reflects people’s longing for simple solutions to complex issues, like security and artificial intelligence. “We live in an age of complexity,” he says, “while at the same time nobody explains the complex connections. So there is confusion, and people become incredibly insecure. They are frustrated, afraid and want a simple answer.” –NPR

Over 1 million asylum-seekers came to Europe beginning in 2015, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, after Angela Merkel opened the country’s borders. German conservatives have have levied heavy criticism over the policy, and locals have grown frustrated at spiking crime rates blamed on migrants.

“So there is a valve for the frustration and anger over the prevailing political style,” says media scientist Jo Grobel, adding that as long as the party continues to focus on migration, it can harness Germans’ “shared anger.”

And while Europe’s establishment parties are still in control, winning elections – they have given up a lot of ground as populist parties make considerable gains.

“There is no singular explanation for the strengthening of the extreme right — it is a worldwide phenomenon,” says German parliamentarian Konstantin von Notz from the liberal Green Party. “The far right and autocrats have an international network and see themselves as a movement. This threatens the Western-type democracies massively, whose freedoms we have taken for granted for decades.”

Liberal German also blame social media for the rise in right wing populism – particularly Facebook.

“It consequently built its party structures along the network and uses it better than any other party,” says Political consultant Martin Fuchs. “both in terms of connecting [supporters] to the party, as well as the implementation [of its political agenda] with emotional content, escalating scandals, focusing on one topic and managing its community.”

The government is aware it needs to improve its appeal to citizens. “The public perception of the government needs a lot of improvement,” says Johannes Kahrs, a member of parliament for the Social Democrats, a partner in the ruling coalition. “Trust calms, a lack of trust gives a boost to the extremists.”

He says to combat the appeal of the AfD, traditional parties “need [to offer] guidance and we need to solve problems.” But he insists politicians should not adopt far-right positions: “There should be no attempt to overtake the far right on the right.” There has to be a clear limit to what is acceptable in German politics and society, Kahrs says. –NPR

In other words, the left can’t meme.

(ZH) German Regulator Orders Deutsche Bank To Take Action To Prevent Money Laundering

(ZH) With Europe still reeling over the recent revelations of Danske Bank’s $234 Billion money-laundering scandal, another target emerged moments ago – and a far more prominent one – when Germany’s markets regulator ordered Deutsche Bank to “improve its controls to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism.”

The regulator BaFin instructed Deutsche Bank to “take appropriate internal safeguards and comply with general due diligence obligations” under German law, Bloomberg reported. Suggesting that there may be far more behind the scenes, BaFin also appointed a monitor to assess the bank’s efforts, the first time BaFin has taken such action against a bank in relation to money laundering, the authority said in a statement on Monday.

In August, Deutsche Bank acknowledged that its anti-money laundering processes remained inefficient more than a year after it was fined almost $700 million for helping wealthy Russians move money out of the country. Deutsche Bank has also been mentioned frequently in the context of providing president Trump with loans for his various business ventures when few other banks were willing to lend to the now-US president.

Following the news, Deutsche Bank shares – which recently were lifted by news the largest German lender was looking to convert into a holding company in order to make itself easier to sell – dropped by 1%, but quickly recovered.

“We are in agreement with the BaFin that we have to improve these processes in the corporate and investment bank further,” Deutsche Bank said in response. “The bank will work together with the BaFin and the special representative KPMG to fulfill the regulatory requirements as soon as possible and within the given time frame.”

(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.

DBKGN.DEXETRA
-0.04(-0.43%)
DBKGn.DE
  • DBKGn.DE
  • CBKG.DE
  • .GDAXI

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.