FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank confirmed on Sunday they were in talks about a merger, prompting labor union concerns about possible job losses and questions from analysts about the merits of a combination.FILE PHOTO: Banners of Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are pictured in front of the German share price index, DAX board, at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo
Germany’s two largest banks issued short statements following separate meetings of their management boards, a person with knowledge of the matter said, indicating a quickening of pace in the merger process, although both also warned that a deal was far from certain.
“In light of arising opportunities, the management board of Deutsche Bank has decided to review strategic options,” Deutsche said in its statement.
Christian Sewing, Deutsche Bank’s chief executive, told employees that Deutsche still aimed “to remain a global bank with a strong capital markets business… with a global network”.
Sewing said many factors could still prevent a merger and a Deutsche spokesman said the talks were expected to last some time. Commerzbank described the outcome as open.
However, formal disclosure of talks appeared to boost the chances of concluding a deal first floated in 2016 before the banks opted to focus on restructuring.
The German government has pushed for a combination given concerns about the health of Deutsche, which has struggled to generate sustainable profits since the 2008 financial crisis.
The government, which holds a stake of more than 15 percent in Commerzbank following a bailout, wants a national banking champion to support its export-led economy, best known for cars and machine tools.
Berlin also wants to keep Commerzbank’s speciality – the funding of medium-sized companies, the backbone of the economy – in German hands.
“SHAKY ZOMBIE BANK”
A merged bank would likely be the third largest in Europe after HSBC and BNP Paribas, with roughly 1.8 trillion euros ($2.04 trillion) in assets, such as loans and investments, and a market value of about 25 billion euros.
However, sceptics questioned the wisdom of a merger.
“We do not see a national champion here, but a shaky zombie bank that could lead to another billion-euro grave for the German state. Why should we take this risk?” said Gerhard Schick, finance activist and ex-member of the German parliament.
While the banks had not publicly commented on merger talks until Sunday, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz last Monday confirmed that there were negotiations.
On Sunday, the ministry acknowledged the announcement and said it remained in regular contact with all parties.
However, there were signs of political opposition.
Hans Michelbach, a lawmaker from the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), urged the government to sell its 15 percent stake in Commerzbank before a deal.
“There may not be an ownership by the federal government in a merged big bank indirectly through an old stake. We do not need a German State Bank AG,” he told Reuters.
The supervisory boards of both banks are scheduled to hold long-planned meetings on Thursday, four people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The status of merger negotiations is expected to be discussed.
A merged bank would have one fifth of the German retail banking market. Together the two banks currently employ 140,000 people worldwide – 91,700 in Deutsche and 49,000 in Commerzbank.
Germany’s Verdi labor union on Sunday renewed its objections to a merger, saying that tens of thousands of jobs were at risk and that a tie-up added no value.
Jan Duscheck, head of the union’s banking division and a member of Deutsche’s supervisory board, said the union would raise its concerns on both banks’ oversight bodies.
U.S. authorities investigate FAA approval of Boeing plane: WSJ
Deutsche emerged unscathed from the financial crash but later lost its footing. German officials fear a recession or big fine could derail the bank’s fragile recovery.
Other than Deutsche, Commerzbank is Germany’s only remaining big publicly-traded bank, after a series of mergers.
Commerzbank has also struggled to rebound, and German officials say it is vulnerable to a foreign takeover. If an international rival snapped it up, that would increase competition for Deutsche on its home turf.
Initial reaction among analysts to a deal was skeptical.
There will only be limited benefits of adding Commerzbank’s clientele of retail and small and medium businesses to Deutsche, said David Hendler, an independent analyst at New York-based Viola Risk Advisors, which specializes in risk management.
“It doesn’t change the fact that Germany is not getting a flagship bank that can compete on the world stage. It’s still a stunted bank with a lot of problems,” Hendler said.
One of the biggest risks is how to fill what one German official has told Reuters will be a multi-billion-euro financial hole because a merger could trigger an adjustment to the valuation of some bank investments.
Commerzbank, for example, has about 30.8 billion euros of debt securities such as Italian bonds that now have a value of 27.7 billion euros. A tie-up could crystallize this loss. Deutsche has such securities at market value in its accounts.
Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess apologized for his use of a phrase that appeared to play on the slogan on the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp, “Work sets you free.”
Diess said “Ebit macht frei” during an internal Volkswagen event, in a reference to the abbreviation for earnings before interest and taxes, evoking the Nazi slogan “Arbeit macht frei.” The misstep coincided with a notice that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has sued VW over the diesel emissions cheating scandal.
“It was in fact, a very unfortunate choice of words and I am deeply sorry for any unintentional pain I may have caused,” Diess wrote in a post on his LinkedIn page. “For that I would like to fully and completely apologize.”
The comments are all the more unfortunate considering Volkswagen’s history. The automaker was founded by the German government in 1937 to mass-produce a low-priced car, and was originally operated by the German Labour Front, a Nazi organization. Volkswagen, whose factory was repurposed during World War II to build military equipment and vehicles, is today the world’s biggest automotive group with brands including Audi, Bugatti, and Porsche.
The expression ‘Ebit macht frei’ was made in an internal management presentation in connection with operating margins from various company brands, Diess said. Within Volkswagen, “brands with a higher margins have more freedom within the Group to make their own decisions. My comment was made within this context,” he said.
The CEO said it wasn’t his intention to make this expression in a way that could be misinterpreted, and he didn’t consider the possibility that it could be.
“Volkswagen has undertaken many activities over the last 30 years that have made the company, myself personally and our employees fully aware of the historical responsibility Volkswagen bears in connection with the Third Reich,” Diess wrote.
VW’s powerful works council welcomed Diess’s “swift clarification and unequivocal apology” for the remark, adding that remembrance and responsibility are part of the company’s DNA.
Since Diess, 60, took over as CEO last April, he’s struggled to put the 3 1/2-year-old diesel cheating scandal in the past. In the latest twist, the SEC said Thursday it was suing the carmaker for failing to disclose to investors that its diesel vehicles violated emission standards.
“The investors did not know that VW was lying to consumers to fool them into buying its ‘clean diesel’ cars and lying to government authorities in order to sell cars in the U.S. that did not comply with U.S. emission standards,” the SEC alleged.
VW said the SEC complaint is “legally and factually flawed” and the company will “contest it vigorously.” It accused the SEC of “piling on to try to extract more from the company” more than two years after settlements with the Justice Department.
Official cites past security-related events as example
Auctioning of 5G licenses in Germany starts next week
Huawei Technologies Co. isn’t a trustworthy partner to build Germany’s fifth-generation mobile networks, a representative of the country’s BND intelligence service told a committee of lawmakers.
Past “security-relevant incidents” involving the company are part of the reason, the representative told the committee in Berlin on Wednesday. An official from the Foreign Ministry, speaking at the same meeting, said it would be hard to work with a company that cooperates with its national secret service. The parliamentary press service reported the comments in a statement but didn’t name the officials.
“It’s above all a matter of trustworthiness and of the impact on our relationship with our allies,” the Foreign Ministry official told the committee, adding that Germany is in contact with partner nations on the issue.
German intelligence officials have been pushing the government to stop Huawei from playing a part in the building of 5G infrastructure in the country, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News this month. The officials are concerned that Huawei could help China steal German corporate secrets, the people said.
Huawei has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and long maintained it doesn’t provide back doors for the Chinese government, pointing out that no one has provided evidence to support such concerns.
An outright ban on Huawei is seen as legally impossible, but German officials are looking at tools that would have the same effect. The U.S. has been pressuring its allies in Europe to ban Chinese equipment in the ultrafast networks being rolled out over spying concerns.
Germany’s Bundesnetzagentur regulator said last week that it wants to limit equipment supply to “trustworthy” vendors that comply with national safety regulations as well as secrecy and privacy rules. Germany plans to start an auction of 5G airwaves on March 19, though legal challenges to its design by multiple carriers risk delaying the process.
Executives are looking for reassurances they’ll get government backing for potential job cuts as they consider going public with their potential plans, according to people involved in the discussions. While the German Finance Ministry has encouraged the struggling banks to combine, Merkel has stayed on the sidelines so far, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private deliberations.
The government owns 15 percent of Commerzbank and the chancellor will eventually have to give the deal her green light in order for it to happen.
Proponents of a deal say the combination would create a stronger German champion that can better compete with rivals but Merkel remains skeptical that a merger would fix the banks’ problems and the chancellor is keen to avoid being drawn into more bank bailouts. With as many as 30,000 jobs under threat, the possible combination of Germany’s two largest listed lenders is also likely to face a public backlash and no one wants to be seen as the instigator.
Despite those reservations, the discussions have continued to move forward. Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing and his counterpart at Commerzbank, Martin Zielke, are increasingly looking at a combination as their best option as their restructuring efforts fail to quickly bear enough fruit, people have said. The Finance Ministry is also concerned that the deal needs to happen now before Germany’s slowing economy makes such a move even more difficult.
Spokespeople for Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, the Chancellery and Finance Ministry declined to comment.
An announcement of formal merger talks is potentially imminent, the people said, but executives want to dispel doubts over their political cover before moving ahead. The two banks’ supervisory boards are both due to meet next week, separately, and that could be an opportunity to finalize an announcement.
As the banks deliberate the merits of a deal, the government’s position is still being hammered out, the people said. While the Finance Ministry clearly backs the deal, the government’s stance will be decided in talks that also include the Chancellery and Economy Ministry, headed by close Merkel ally Peter Altmaier, they said.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is keen to create a national champion for the German banking industry and wants to bolster Deutsche Bank before the economic slowdown starts to bite. Union leaders from Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank have closed ranks in opposition to the potential job losses, warning the risks of a tie-up would outweigh the advantages.
Labor representatives aren’t alone in their criticism. Representatives of two large Deutsche Bank shareholders have expressed doubts about a combination, while financial regulators are also wary, according to people familiar with the discussions.
For the politicians, there’s also the prospect of European parliamentary elections in May, where Scholz’s Social Democrats will be competing with Merkel’s Christian Democrats. With their national coalition already coming under pressure, particularly from Scholz’s rank-and-file, high-profile job losses would make life difficult for both leaders.
In recent days, Scholz himself has steered clear of the issue, dodging questions when asked by lawmakers at closed-door meetings, according to people briefed on the discussions. At another meeting last week, one of Scholz’s deputies waved off the idea that the ministry was pushing a tie-up, the people said.
While executives may want a solid commitment from Berlin, they’re unlikely to get public support from the chancellor and will likely have to make do with whatever reassurances she is prepared to offer in private, some of the people said.
Ambassador Richard Grenell wrote a letter to Germany’s economics minister urging Berlin to not allow Huawei or other third parties from China to provide 5G infrastructure to the country, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. and Germany have been trying to repair a fragile intelligence sharing relationship following spy scandals in 2013 and 2014.
Kate FazziniPublished 21 Hours Ago Updated 20 Hours AgoCNBC.com
Thomas Peter | ReutersA man walks past a Huawei shop in Beijing, China, March 7, 2019.
Berlin should bar Huawei or other Chinese vendors from constructing Germany’s 5G network or risk losing access to U.S. intelligence, according to a letter from U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell to the country’s economics minister, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The two countries have been carefully rebuilding their intelligence sharing relationship since 2013 and 2014, when the U.S. and Germany were at odds over two spying scandals stemming from the revelations by Edward Snowden of NSA snooping. Last month, German officials said they “weren’t ready” to ban Huawei equipment and were unsure of the legality of such a request, according to a statement from the German Interior Ministry.
“A direct exclusion of a particular 5G manufacturer is currently not legally possible and not planned,” said a ministry spokesman, according to a CNBC translation. “The focus is on adapting the necessary security requirements so that the security of these networks will be guaranteed even if there are potentially untrustworthy manufacturers on the market.”
The letter was sent Friday, the Journal said. This would be the first time the U.S. has explicitly threatened consequences against a country for using the Huawei’s equipment, which has been the subject of heavy scrutiny from U.S. intelligence agencies that say the company is intimately connected to the Chinese government and intelligence agencies. Huawei continues to deny these claims, and has launched legal and marketing campaigns to defend itself.
A Huawei spokesperson and Grenell’s office were not immediately available to comment.
(BBG) By Steven Arons8 de março de 2019, 07:32 WET Updated on 8 de março de 2019, 16:19 WET
Informal discussions picking up amid government pressure
Deutsche Bank CEO is said to have given up resistance to deal
A merger of Deutsche Bank AG and Commerzbank AG is shaping up as the most likely endgame as Germany’s largest listed lenders are running out of time to show they can grow as standalone companies.
The banks are intensifying informal talks as their turnaround efforts sputter, according to a person familiar with the matter. While there’s no formal mandate to pursue a merger and other options are still being considered, Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing has given up his resistance to doing a deal this year, according to the person, who asked not to be identified in disclosing internal deliberations.
Less than a year after taking over, Sewing is still struggling to reverse a long slide in revenue amid a slowdown in the economy that’s delaying a return to more normal interest rates. The Finance Ministry favors a merger of both lenders before the situation gets worse to support the small and mid-sized companies that are the backbone of the export economy, people familiar with the matter have said.
Deutsche Bank in February reaffirmed its 2019 profitability target but also made clear that it would need to implement tougher measures if markets don’t play along and revenue continues to decline. January was a terrible month for the trading business though February has seen improving conditions, several people familiar with the matter said.
The bank is now planning to implement tougher cost cuts as one step to ensure it can reach the profitability target, said the people. Other strategic options include a merger with another European bank, though that’s seen as remote. People close to Deutsche Bank’s leadership have floated names like UBS Group AG, BNP Paribas SA and ING Groep NV.
Deutsche Bank dropped 0.8 percent at 5:17 p.m. in Frankfurt trading and Commerzbank fell 1.7 percent. The banks declined to comment on the talks, which were reported earlier by German magazine Focus. The Finance Ministry also declined to comment.
The two companies previously discussed a merger in the summer of 2016 under then-Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan. Sewing was part of those discussions as head of the retail division at the time. The talks fell apart and the lenders embarked on their respective restructurings.
Almost three years later, those turnaround plans are sputtering. Commerzbank has dropped most of its 2020 financial targets after cutting its revenue outlook. Deutsche Bank, too, has been unable to reverse a long decline in revenue. Both lost more than half of their market value last year.
For Deutsche Bank, the urgency to address the situation is exacerbated by high funding costs and the risk of a credit rating cut. Chairman Paul Achleitner sees an expansion of Deutsche Bank’s retail deposit base — which a Commerzbank deal would bring — as one way to lower funding costs, the people said.
Two credit rating providers — Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings — have a negative outlook on the lender and see progress on revenue and profitability as key to maintaining their rating.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and Joerg Kukies, a former Goldman Sachs banker who serves as his deputy, have been favoring a merger with Commerzbank, people familiar with the matter have said. While a deal is viewed by some as an imperfect solution, some in the government think it will be impossible for Sewing to turn around Deutsche Bank before an economic slowdown exacerbates the situation, Bloomberg has reported.
The idea back in 2016 was to merge Commerzbank with a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank that would also contain its retail and some of its corporate banking operations, and then float that business on a stock exchange, according to one of the people. Deutsche Bank’s trading operations would have remained separate, perhaps with a view to selling or merging them with another bank at some point.
Deutsche Bank last year laid some groundwork that would make such a split easier, by setting up a largely separated retail and commercial clients operations when it combined its two German retail subsidiaries. The move was aimed at placating regulators’ requirements that the new entity could be separated easily from the rest of Deutsche Bank should it be necessary to wind down the trading operations.
Several of the largest Deutsche Bank shareholders said they would need to see a concrete proposal first before deciding whether they would support it. Two of them said they currently lean toward opposing a merger, while one would back a deal. All spoke on condition of anonymity.
Critics of the Commerzbank option say it would lock Deutsche Bank into several years of restructuring and come with high execution risks, as job cuts are difficult to implement given Germany’s tough labor laws. They also warn that Deutsche Bank’s disappointing track record of technology integration would make it tricky to achieve savings.
Another option under consideration — and currently favored by the two shareholders skeptical of a merger — would see deep cuts to the bank’s U.S. investment banking operations. In this scenario, the bank would redeploy the freed capital in growth areas. That option, however, would erode the bank’s top line even more, at least initially. Sewing has said that the bank will remain in the U.S., with the investment bank a key revenue contributor.
Socialist leader Nicolas Maduro has already backed down from demands that US diplomats leave Venezuela (backing off after the US threatened a military intervention to protect their diplomatic corps.), but it looks like he will have better luck with Germany.
To wit, on Tuesday, the Venezuelan strongman declared German ambassador to Venezuela Daniel Martin Kriener persona non grata and gave him 48 hours to leave the country, according to Reuters. The expulsion order was confirmed by the German government, which said it would obey the order and recall Kriener.
“Venezuela considers it unacceptable that a foreign diplomat carries out in its territory a public role closer to that of a political leader aligned with the conspiratorial agenda of extremist sectors of the Venezuelan opposition,” the government said in a statement.
A German foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed Venezuela had expelled the ambassador and that the ministry was consulting with its allies on how to respond.
Kriener was expelled after he joined a group of other diplomats at the Caracas airport to welcome opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by Germany and roughly 50 other countries as the legitimate democratically-elected ruler of Venezuela. Guaido risked arrest to return to Venezuela last week.
Most Western countries, including Germany, recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state and back his plan to install a transition government ahead of free elections. Guaido denounces Maduro as an usurper whose re-election last year resulted from a sham vote. Maduro says he is victim of a coup.
Kriener, along with ambassadors and diplomats from other European embassies, had gone to the airport on Monday to support Guaido, who had risked arrest on his return to Venezuela for flouting a court-imposed travel ban to visit other Latin American countries.
On Monday, the embassy said on its Twitter account that Kriener hoped Guaido’s return “was a step towards a peaceful and political process to overcome the Venezuelan crisis.”
The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas blasted Maduro for the “incomprehensible decision” and said he had decided to recall Kriener to avoid any conflict.
(GUA) Belgian parliament asks Berlin to stop payments to non-Germans who pledged allegiance to Hitler
Nearly 75 years after the second world war, Germany is still paying monthly pensions to collaborators of the wartime Nazi regime in several European countries including Belgium and Britain, according to Belgian MPs and media reports.
The foreign affairs committee of the Belgian parliament this week voted in favour of a resolution urging the German federal government to put an immediate stop to the payments and publish a full list of those receiving them.
“The receipt of pensions for collaborating with one of the most murderous regimes in history is in clear contradiction to the work of remembrance and for peace constituted in the European project,” states the resolution, which was passed unanimously.
The document said nearly 30 people in Belgium are still receiving the payments under a decree by Adolf Hitler granting the same nationality and pension rights as German citizens to foreigners, including Waffen-SS volunteers, from Nazi-occupied territories who pledged “allegiance, fidelity, loyalty and obedience” to the Führer.
German authorities have “consistently refused to communicate the list of pension recipients to their Belgian counterparts, citing legal concerns around the protection of privacy”, according to le Soir newspaper.
The resolution’s authors, five MPs from French-speaking parties, said the monthly payments were made by individual German states and the names of the recipients were known to the German embassy in Brussels.
Responding to the claims, the Germany labour ministry said 18 people in Belgium were receiving war pensions but “there are no former members of the Waffen-SS” among them. It did not name the pensioners or say on what grounds they were entitled to the payments.
Authorities in Belgium were not aware of the pensioners’ identities, the Belgian MPs (Olivier Maingain, Stephane Crusnière, Véronique Caprasse and Daniel Senesael) said, adding that the situation was “the same in the UK, where former SS people also receive payments directly from the German länder [states] without the amounts being taxed or communicated to the British authorities”. The German embassy in London said it did not have any information about the Belgian allegations.
The Belgian state broadcaster, RTBF, said similar payments were also being made in Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. In the Netherlands, historian Cees Kleijn has said war criminals may be among 34 former Nazi collaborators receiving German government pensions, according to the state broadcaster NOS.
Citing the work of a Belgian researcher specialising in the second world war, Alvin de Coninck, RTBF said the payments range from €435 to €1,275 a month, depending on the length of time the recipients – among a total of 80,000 Belgians convicted of various forms of wartime collaboration – had spent in prison after the war.
By contrast, Belgian survivors among the 12 million foreigners from 20 countries who were enrolled in Nazi Germany’s forced labour schemes receive €50.
“This pension shows that Belgian collaborators with the Nazi regime are considered to be like any other kind of worker,” the MPs said, “even if they were convicted of actively participating in the war”, creating a “morally problematic” situation.
The pension payments have continued because Hitler’s 1941 decree was not repealed by the postwar Potsdam Conference of July 1945, at which Britain, the US and the Soviet Union established Germany’s postwar order, deciding on its demilitarisation, dismantling, democratisation and denazification.
German payments to wartime collaborators have been a source of concern in Belgium since their existence was first uncovered by a Socialist deputy in 1997. In 2012, it emerged through parliamentary questions that about 2,500 Belgians were still receiving some form of German state pension, the majority of whom are now thought to have died.
“Among the beneficiaries were some residents of eastern Belgium and Alsace who acquired German nationality after the Nazi invasion, but also Belgians who joined the Waffen-SS during the war,” said De Coninck, the son of a resistance fighter and member of Remembrance, a group of Belgian concentration camp survivors.
In 2017, at the request of Remembrance, Germany’s then ambassador, Rüdiger Lüdekring, told a hearing of the Belgian parliament that as a representative of the federal government he was was unable to give any precise information because the relevant details were held by Germany’s 16 länder.
A Belgian parliamentary commission visited Berlin last year to discuss the issue with their German counterparts. The MPs established that a majority of 27 Belgian wartime collaborators still receiving German pensions were being paid by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Belgian media reported.
The present German ambassador to Belgium, Martin Kotthaus, told a Flemish-language news site last year that an investigation was under way to establish what exact role the remaining recipients of the pensions had played during the war.
But despite what the leftwing German MP Ulla Jelpke called a “wholly unacceptable situation”, a German historian, Martin Göllnitz, of Johannes Gutenberg university in Mainz, said he doubted the problem would be resolved in the near future.
German privacy laws would not permit a case-by-case study of the pension recipients, while the German social security system was not subject to eventual criminal law proceedings, Göllnitz said.
MUNICH/BERLIN (REUTERS) – Germany’s halt in exports to Saudi Arabia is preventing Britain from completing the sale of 48 Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes to Riyadh, and has delayed potential sales of other weapons such as the A400M military transport, a top Airbus official said on Friday (Feb 15).
Germany in November said it would reject future export licences to Saudi Arabia after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It has not formally banned previously approved deals, which would entitle companies to compensation, but has urged industry to refrain from such shipments for now.
Airbus Defence and Space chief Dirk Hoke told Reuters that uncertainty about the issue had undermined Germany’s credibility, and could threaten future Franco-German defence projects, including a planned Eurodrone that was heading for an initial contract by the end of the year.
“This is a serious problem,” Mr Hoke said in an interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
“We’re facing constraints in many projects, and many problems have been put on ice,” including what he called discussions about a sale of A400M military transports to Saudi Arabia.
Germany accounts for just under 2 per cent of total Saudi arms imports, a small percentage internationally compared with the United States and Britain, but it makes components for other countries’ export contracts. That includes a proposed £10 billion (S$17.5 billion) agreement by Riyadh to buy 48 new Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets from Britain.
The deal, in the making for nearly four years, was finalised late last year, but has been held up for months due to the German position, triggering “massive, emotional reactions” from Britain and BAE Systems, Mr Hoke said.
Eurofighter is built by a consortium of four founding countries – Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain – represented by Airbus, Britain’s BAE Systems and Italy’s Leonardo .
Mr Hoke said the current situation was difficult to explain to customers since there was no formal embargo. Top Airbus executives had appealed to the Foreign Ministry and the Economy Ministry to allow the Eurofighter deal to proceed, he said.
He said Germany’s politically driven stance could also have negative consequences for future Franco-German projects, including the Eurodrone project.
Germany and France have made progress in recent months on a bilateral agreement, but Berlin is resisting making it legally binding, according to French sources familiar with the matter.
“It will pose lasting damage to the German relationship with France if no serious, long-term solutions can be found,” he said. “Germany is simply viewed as unreliable on this issue at the moment.”
Demonstrators in Berlin brandish Turkish and Palestinian flags as they burn an Israeli flag. Photo: Jüdisches Forum für Demokratie und gegen Antisemitismus.
In yet another dramatic sign of rising antisemitism on the European continent, Germany’s government disclosed on Wednesday that violent attacks against Jews in the country surged by 60 percent during 2018.
The numbers were published in answer to a request for information from German parliamentarian Petra Pau, a prominent leader of the left-wing socialist party Die Linke (“The Left”). Figures gathered by the German authorities showed an overall rise of 10 percent in antisemitic incidents compared to 2017, with 1,646 offenses reported last year.
Of those, 62 were classified as “violent crimes,” compared with 37 crimes in the same category in 2017.
A total of 43 people were injured in 2018’s violent incidents, while police said they had identified 857 suspects and made 19 arrests.
About two dozen offensive posters were found outside the Hillel building at Tufts University in Massachusetts on Tuesday morning, including one calling…
Germany’s government again reiterated its firm opposition to antisemitism in its response to the numbers. Ulrike Demmer — a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel — emphasized that “there is no place for antisemitism in Germany.”
Jewish life in Germany must be allowed to “develop freely and safely,” Demmer stated.
Josef Schuster — president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany — remarked in an interview with the BBC that what “had already solidified as a subjective impression among Jews is now confirmed in the statistics.”
“The latest numbers are not yet official, but at least they reflect a tendency — and that’s scary,” Schuster said.
“Considering that acts below the threshold for criminal liability are not covered, the picture becomes even darker,” he added.
Last April, the German government appointed career diplomat Felix Klein as the country’s first federal commissioner charged with combating antisemitism. In successive interviews, Klein identified both the far right and elements within Germany’s various Muslim communities as responsible for the increase in offenses against Jews.
Additional government statistics made public on Wednesday showed that more than 19,000 hate crimes were carried out by German far-right extremists in 2018, of which nearly 1,100 involved violence.
News of last year’s precipitate increase in Germany came one day after the French government announced a shocking rise of 74 percent in antisemitic crimes committed last year.
Last week, the Community Security Trust — the UK Jewish community’s security body — published its highest ever annual toll of antisemitic incidents, with 1,652 offenses targeting British Jews in 2018, more than 100 of which involved violence.
About 100,000 Jews live in Germany, a community swelled in recent years by the arrival of thousands of young Israelis.
The Nazis left the task of creating inventories for the millions of books they seized to a special task force, members of which are seen here in Estonia.CreditYad Vashem Photo Archives
The hunt for the millions of books stolen by the Nazis during World War II has been pursued quietly and diligently for decades, but it has been largely ignored, even as the search for lost art drew headlines. The plundered volumes seldom carried the same glamour as the looted paintings, which were often masterpieces worth millions of dollars.
But recently, with little fanfare, the search for the books has intensified, driven by researchers in America and Europe who have developed a road map of sorts to track the stolen books, many of which are still hiding in plain sight on library shelves throughout Europe.
Their work has been aided by newly opened archives, the internet, and the growing number of European librarians who have made such searches a priority, researchers say.
“People have looked away for so long,” said Anders Rydell, author of “The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance,” “but I don’t think they can anymore.”
Given the scope of the looting, the task ahead remains mountainous. In Berlin, for example, at the Central and Regional Library, almost a third of the 3.5 million books are suspected to have been looted by the Nazis, according to Sebastian Finsterwalder, a provenance researcher there.
“Most major German libraries have books stolen by the Nazis,” he said.
But researchers say there are signs they may be on the brink of making measurable progress in restitutions.You have 4 free articles remaining.Subscribe to The Times
In the last 10 years, for example, libraries in Germany and Austria have returned about 30,000 books to 600 owners, heirs and institutions, according to researchers. In one instance in 2015, almost 700 books stolen from the library of Leopold Singer, an expert in the field of petroleum engineering, were returned to his heirs by the library of the Vienna University of Economics and Business.
“There’s definitely progress, but slow progress,” said Patricia Kennedy Grimsted, senior research associate at the Ukrainian Research Institute of Harvard University and one of the world’s foremost experts on the libraries and archives stolen during World War II.
The numbers alone often do not do justice to what a single returned piece of Judaica, or even a more prosaic volume, can mean to a family.
In Germany last year, the University of Potsdam library gave an important 16th-century volume back to the family of its owner, a man killed in a concentration camp in 1943. The book, written by a rabbi in 1564 and later looted, explains the fundamentals of the Torah’s 613 commandments. The owner’s grandson identified it from a list of looted works that had been posted online. Then he and his father, a Holocaust survivor, flew from Israel to Germany to retrieve it.
“It was quite an emotional experience for my father and myself,” said the grandson, David Schor.Berl Schor, 91, and his son, David, 52, reviewing a 16th-century book once owned by Berl’s father, who died in a concentration camp. It was returned by a German university after David Schor spotted it online.CreditCorinna Kern for The New York Times
The distinctive stamps on the 16th century book, written by a rabbi about the Torah, helped David Schor identify it online and reclaim it.CreditCorinna Kern for The New York Times
Ms. Grimsted’s work in tracking the lost volumes has advanced considerably since 1990, when she discovered 10 lists of items looted from libraries in France by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, a task force headed by the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg. The task force plundered more than 6,000 libraries and archives all over Europe but left behind the sort of detailed records that have proved invaluable in tracing what was stolen.
Hundreds of thousands of records from the task force and other sources have been posted online in recent years, part of an effort by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the World Jewish Restitution Organization and others to ease the path for researchers, libraries, museums, historians and families tracing the works. Ms. Grimsted’s work has been central to the task, and her publication, “Reconstructing the Record of Nazi Cultural Plunder: A Guide to the Dispersed Archives of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) and the Postwar Retrieval of ERR Loot” is, among other things, an inventory of where the many documents can be found.
The National Library of Israel has also stepped forward to help catalog and identify stolen books from Croatia and make the lists accessible to people who speak Hebrew, Ladino, Yiddish and other languages.
Though Rosenberg, who was hanged as a war criminal in 1946, was the major force behind the seizure of books, he had something of a competitor in Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, whose agents also collected books, particularly those associated with Freemasonry.
The Nazi targets were mainly the families, libraries and institutions of Jews but also included the Masons, Catholics, Communists, Socialists, Slavs and critics of the Nazi regime. Though libraries were destroyed and some books were burned by the Nazis early on, they later came to transfer many of the works to libraries and to the Institute for Study of the Jewish Question, which was established by the task force in Frankfurt in 1941.
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“They hoped to utilize the books after the war was won to study their enemies and their culture so as to protect future Nazis from the Jews who were their enemies,” Ms. Grimsted said.Many of the looted books recovered after the war ended up at a depot outside Frankfurt where the United States Army unit popularly known as the Monuments Men attempted to process them for return.CreditYad Vashem Photo Archives
After the war, the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives unit of the United States Army, better known as the “Monuments Men” and famed for the return of looted art, also saved millions of books. Its main book collection point, the Offenbach Archival Depot outside Frankfurt, was the former headquarters of IG Farben, a chemical company whose subsidiary had produced a poison gas used in the death camps. The Army unit processed nearly three million books and manuscripts, which were returned, mainly to their countries of origin.
The first director of the depot, Col. Seymour J. Pomrenze, arranged for archives that the Nazis had stolen from a prominent European Yiddish organization in Vilna, then part of Poland, to be shipped to Manhattan, where the group had moved. The organization, now known as the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, houses what is considered one of the world’s foremost collections of Yiddish books and artifacts.Books and papers at the Yiddish Scientific Institute in 1943 in what was then Vilna, Poland (now the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York City).CreditYad Vashem Photo Archives
Many of the stolen books now reside in Russia where, still bitter about their own losses from the war, the Russians have resisted efforts to return items they took from the Nazis, researchers said.
“They stole millions of books looted by the Nazis that are now in libraries from Moscow to Vladivostok,” said Ms. Grimsted. “Many are now in Minsk — but the Russians refuse to do anything. In Belarus, they talk about possible book exchanges with Germany but nothing is happening.”
In Germany, Berlin’s Central Library created a database to help with the restitution effort in 2012. The researchers there studied 100,000 books and found that 29,000 of them had been stolen and still had some mark that identified an earlier owner. But locating those owners is a second, labor-intensive task.
“We have a small team of researchers and, since we started 10 years ago, we have returned 900 books to 20 countries,” Mr. Finsterwalder, the researcher, said.
“Thousands of books were marked by the Nazis with the letter J, an abbreviation for Judenbücher — Jewish books,” he said. “These were erased after the war and replaced with the letter G, as in Geschenk — gifts.”
Overall, libraries in Germany have returned about 15,000 books since 2005, Maria Kesting, a provenance researcher at the Hamburg State and University Library, said. “I have returned books to about 360 heirs, owners and institutions in the United States, Britain, Germany, Israel, South Africa, France and other countries,” she said.
Researchers say the process can be complicated because libraries across a country like Germany will often lack a central database of their holdings or the money to do more than minimal provenance research. Since 2008, the German Lost Art Foundation, which is funded by the federal government there, has provided $5.6 million for provenance research on books “and related items” in German libraries. The foundation publishes descriptions of books with photos in its database when owners or their heirs cannot be located.
Wesley Fisher, research director of the Claims Conference, said that it and the World Jewish Restitution Organization have helped train 180 provenance researchers in Germany, Lithuania, Greece, Italy and Croatia.
In the absence of a coordinated government effort, researchers from libraries in nine German cities have organized to trade notes, according to Ms. Kesting, who said they meet twice a year. Among the problems they have found is that the Gestapo often distributed looted works to multiple libraries.
“The books from the library of one collector were found in seven different cities,” she said.
Markus Stumpf, a provenance researcher at the University of Vienna Library, said that about 15 Austrian libraries have returned at least 15,000 books since 2009.Books owned by Leopold Singer, an Austrian engineer whose library was looted by the Nazis, were returned to his family, who donated them to the Vienna Technical Museum.CreditTechnisches Museum Wien
“The most difficult part of the work is tracking down owners or descendants,” he said. “Some come easy. Some take years if there are no heirs. With many books, the nameplates, stamps or signatures have been torn out. Names are sometimes unreadable.
“Sometimes,” Mr. Stumpf continued, “it’s difficult to decide who gets the book back if you have one book and five family members. In one case involving one book, we found one family member who lives in the United States and the other in Germany. One didn’t know the other existed. But they talked and decided that the family member who lives in Germany gets the book.”
Ms. Kesting said: “Reaching out to the heirs is always a sensitive issue. For the heirs, it very often is painful to be confronted with their family history, a history of persecution and death and loss. For us as provenance researchers, restitutions are always very special and moving moments.”
Mr. Finsterwalder recalled an experience from 2009 when he returned a book to a man who had survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as a teenager and emigrated to California. His teacher had given him the child’s activity book as a Hanukkah gift.
The concentration camp survivor, who had been reluctant to recount his wartime experience, began giving talks to students in high schools.
“When he got the book back, Mr. Finsterwalder said, “it completely changed him.”
Germany has banned Iranian airline, Mahan Air from operating in the country’s airports.
Following heavy US pressure on Berlin to act, the foreign ministry announced the measure, saying Iran has been transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones.
The move was necessary to protect Germany’s “foreign and security policy interests”, said foreign ministry spokesman Christofer Burger.
Officials at the Federal Aviation Office (LBA) sent Tehran-based Mahan Air a notification “ordering the immediate suspension of its authorisation to operate passenger flights from and to Germany” from Monday, a transport ministry spokeswoman added.
Mahan, Iran’s second-largest carrier after Iran Air, flies four services a week between Tehran and the German cities of Düsseldorf and Munich.
It was blacklisted by the US in 2011, as Washington said the carrier was providing technical and material support to an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards known as the Quds Force.
Mahan Air in Tehran said it could not comment immediately on the ban.
The measure does not signal plans for the reimposition of broader sanctions against Iran, said a German government source.
Mahan Air, established in 1992 as Iran’s first private airline, has the country’s largest fleet of aircraft and has flights to a number of European countries, including France, Italy, Spain, and Greece.
European countries have been under sustained U.S. pressure to reimpose sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump last year pulled Washington out of a nuclear non-proliferation treaty it had reached with Tehran under his predecessor Barack Obama.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert denied that the decision to ban Mahan air was the result of US pressure.
“The German decision is based on considerations of our security needs,” he said.
“It cannot be ruled out that this airline could also transport cargo to Germany that threatens our security. This is based on knowledge of past terrorist activities by Iran in Europe,” he added.
Along with Iran, the other signatories to the non-proliferation deal – Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China – are still trying to keep it alive.
On Thursday, China’s ambassador to Canada warned of “repercussions” if the country banned the company from its 5G network.
The two countries are embroiled in a diplomatic row.
A court in China this month sentenced a Canadian to death for drug smuggling in a ruling that comes after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, a top official at Huawei and its founder’s daughter, on a request from the US.
The US is also reportedly investigating Huawei for “stealing trade secrets” from US businesses, and has accused it of contravening sanctions by lying about its business in Iran.
Drop in German industrial production points to second straight quarter of contracting GDP for Europe’s largest economy
Investors are worried that a global slowdown led by China could begin to sap U.S. growth, but it’s Europe that’s looking a little sickly at the moment.
Expectations that Germany, Europe’s largest economy, could post a second consecutive quarter of falling gross domestic product were on the rise after a dismal reading on November industrial production last week, which showed a 1.9% fall, defying a forecast for a 0.3% rise.
“Industrial production data was a proper disappointment this month. Our German GDP tracker has deteriorated to minus 0.1% [quarter-on-quarter]. This would be the second consecutive [quarter-on-quarter] GDP contraction, meaning Germany could now be in a technical recession,” wrote economists Evelyn Herrmann and Gilles Moec at Bank of American Merrill Lynch, in a Monday note (see chart below).
Herrmann and Moec are skeptical the weakness will turn into a full-blown downturn, but others were ringing the alarm bells after the November decline, which was the second consecutive fall and followed data that showed a continued decline in manufacturing orders.
On Monday, data showed factory output across the eurozone saw its largest annual decline in six years in November and underscored worries the region’s economy isn’t bouncing back from a weak third quarter.
“The question is, how bad will it be?” wrote Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, in a note. “Industrial production is one of our best advance indicators of how GDP will turn out. A drop of industrial production in any quarter signals an 80% chance that GDP declined, based on historical experience,” he said, with the plunge in Germany’s November industrial production assuring a big contraction for industrial output for the quarter.
Herrmann and Moec argued that half of the November decline in Germany was due to one-time factors, including the aftermath of a sharp drop in car production in the third quarter that appeared to reverberate through the supply chain in the final quarter of 2018. A slowdown in the chemical sector, due in part to cutbacks by BASF SEBAS, -0.44% as a result of low water levels on the Rhine, and a drop in pharmaceutical exports to Ireland after a sharp but difficult to explain run-up from late 2017 through October 2018, were the other factors that may have played a one-time role in the slowdown.
However, “that still leaves a chunky deterioration in underlying growth momentum, not in Germany, but possibly globally,” they said. After stripping out one-time factors, the economists found the slowdown in German output remained slightly below, but within its usual range, around the signal coming from global momentum, which has weakened and suggests growth very close to zero.
The economists argue that a tight labor market, a slightly looser fiscal stance by Germany’s government, a pickup in nominal wage growth and a very tight labor market could ensure that a “technical recession” doesn’t turn into a “downturn proper.”
“The labor market response in this is key,” they said. “Domestic demand should strengthen into 2019 driven by fiscal policy, nominal wage growth and inflation. This should keep labor market pressures intact and keep a proper recession at bay, even if corporate sector profitability could be dented.”
Economists define a recession as a significant decline in activity that lasts more than a few months and stretches across the economy, affecting everything from industrial production to employment, wages and wholesale-retail trade.
A full-blown downturn would require additional shocks, Herrmann and Moec wrote. While not part of their base case, the known risks include Brexit, cars, trade wars and China, they said.
When it comes to China, a major source of concern over the global growth outlook, “data has to stabilize,” they warned, noting that their China-based colleagues expect data to turn better in the first half of 2019 as policy stimulus measures kick in. That’s a big deal for Germany, they said, estimating that the contribution to German GDP from exports to China moved from minus 30 basis points in mid-2015 to positive 60 basis points in early 2017, before slowing to zero in 2018 — a factor that alone explains a large chunk of growth deceleration, they said.
(DW) German authorities say a 20-year-old, acting alone, was behind a huge leak of personal data concerning leading politicians and celebrities. The man has confessed, but questions remain about German cybersecurity.
Germany’s investigative police force, the BKA, has arrested the hacker responsible for what some have called one of the largest data leaks in Germany’s history. The 20-year-old from the western German state of Hesse could now face charges of stealing and illegally publishing private data.
“The suspect was questioned on January 7 by the responsible prosecutor and BKA officials,” the BKA announced in a statement. “He extensively confessed to the accusations against him and provided helpful information beyond his own crimes.”
According to the BKA, the suspect said he was acting alone, and there are no indications of anyone else or any foreign state being involved. The BKA said the suspect had indicated he was motivated by “anger at the public statements of the politicians, journalists and public figures concerned.”
The published material included personal data from Chancellor Angela Merkel and other political leaders, celebrities and journalists. Hundreds of politicians from all political parties except the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) were affected.
But BKA President Holger Münch said authorities were not treating the hack as a political crime and that the suspect had no known ties to right-wing extremism in Germany.
The hacks have increased the pressure on Interior Minister Seehofer (right)
The authorities’ performance
At a press conference with Münch and the head of the government’s IT security agency, Arne Schönbohm, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the identity of the suspect had been known since Sunday.
“In important matters like this, we do our job,” Seehofer insisted, most likely in response to detractors in the political opposition, who had accused him of not taking the hack seriously enough.
Seehofer said attempts had been made to delete the stolen data immediately after the leak became known late on January 3, and that the Interior Ministry had advised members of the German parliament on what to do about the hack. He said authorities had worked “very well, very quickly and very efficiently.”
Münch added that a task force had initially been set up under the assumption that the hack was more extensive than it was. The sole suspect, he said, had been located within 48 hours of the leak becoming known, and authorities had succeeded in preventing the data from being further disseminated.
Schönbohm characterized the hack as “remarkable” in terms of the prominence of the victims, but played down the significance of the data.
Whether these explanations will be enough to take the heat off Seehofer personally remains to be seen. The spectacle of Germany’s highest security organs breathlessly pursuing a 20-year-old, who by all accounts is no elite IT professional, for the better part of a week can hardly assuage public fears that the government’s digital infrastructure isn’t up to scratch.
Authorities said stronger passwords could help keep hackers at bay
The German government has repeatedly been targeted by hacks in recent years, and calls for Seehofer to resign over his handling of this and other issues are growing louder. The minister stressed that most victims had very little sensitive data stolen.
“The incident was certainly personally painful for those affected, but it doesn’t reflect a new security situation,” Seehofer said, adding that an “early warning system” and better public education would be important steps toward solving the problem.
Seehofer, Münch and Schönbohm all underscored the need for people, including politicians, to handle their data carefully and responsibly.
“We can promise to do everything we can, but we cannot promise absolute cybersecurity,” Seehofer said, adding that he was “amazed” at the sort of inadequate passwords people used.
Greens co-leader Robert Habeck had private family chats leaked
The data leaked in December included personal phone numbers and addresses, internal party documents and credit card details. It was published online via Twitter accounts.
On Tuesday, Deputy Interior Minister Stephan Mayer said government networks had not been breached in the attack.
“One bit of positive news is that government networks are apparently not affected by this or these hacker attacks,” Mayer said. “But it’s clear that we as the federal government … must do more to improve cybersecurity.”
The documents were published online in December in the form of an advent calendar with one post per day from the @_0rbit account, which appears to have gone unnoticed until the first week of January, when it was closed down. The account attracted 18,000 followers.
“Monuments Man” James Rorimer, with notepad, supervises U.S. soldiers as they carry paintings down the steps of the castle in Neuschwanstein, Germany, in May 1945. (AP)By Stuart E. EizenstatJanuary 2 at 6:06 PM
Stuart E. Eizenstat was under secretary of state and special representative of the president and secretary of state on Holocaust-era issues in the Clinton administration and is expert adviser to the State Department on Holocaust-era issues in the Trump administration.
During World War II, the Nazis looted some 600,000 paintings from Jews, at least 100,000 of which are still missing. The looting was not only designed to enrich the Third Reich but also integral to the Holocaust’s goal of eliminating all vestiges of Jewish identity and culture. The Allies warned neutral nations in the 1943 London Declaration against trafficking in Nazi-looted art. Art experts, the storied “ Monuments Men ,” were embedded in the liberating U.S. Army. The looted wealth they preserved was returned to the countries where it had been stolen in the expectation that the original owners or their heirs would receive it. That hope was misplaced: Most items were sold or incorporated into public and private collections, lost to their rightful owners.
Decades later, in December 1998, we started to change that. Forty-four countries committed to the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Artthat I negotiated for identifying, publishing and ultimately restoring the looted art through negotiation. To achieve a consensus, we had to permit nations to act within their own laws, and appealed to their moral conscience to adopt a “just and fair solution.” Many felt these nonbinding principles would be ineffectual. They were wrong, but the lack of legal requirement has created barriers we have yet to fully overcome.
The principles were an overdue but vital first step. Philippe de Montebello, then-head of New York’s Metropolitan Museum, correctly forecast that after the Washington Principles “the art world would never be the same.” During the past 20 years, galleries, dealers and museums began researching paintings that had passed through European hands between 1933 and 1945 to spot suspicious gaps in their provenance or chain of ownership. With the Internet, suspected Nazi-looted art is increasingly being posted on websites. Almost 30,000 works from their collections have been posted by 179 members of the American Alliance of Museums on a portal, a single point of contact for potential claimants to find their Nazi-looted art.
Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain have created advisory commissions to resolve disputed claims. Austria has returned more than 30,000 artworks, books and cultural objects, and Germany has restituted more than 16,000 from its public museums and libraries. Christie’s and Sotheby’s maintain full-time staffs to implement the Washington Principles, and both auction houses decline to deal in art with suspicious Holocaust-era histories. Christie’s has successfully resolved more than 200 claims over the past 20 years. In 2009, the principles were strengthened by the Terezin Declaration, when 46 countries, led by the United States, agreed to extend the Washington Principles to include “public and private institutions” and broaden the meaning of confiscated art to include “forced sales and sales under duress” for Jewish families desperately needing money to escape Nazi Germany.
There have been painful disappointments. Russia and a handful of other European nations that supported the Washington Principles have largely ignored or barely implemented them. Provenance research is a low priority in Europe’s public museums and nonxistent in its private collections; looted art still trades in the European market with little hindrance. Deaccession laws prevent public museums from returning art under any circumstances.
Fortunately, the Washington Principles continue to exert a moral force. With bipartisan support, Congress in 2016 created a unique federal statute of limitations preempting other defenses related to the passage of time and providing six years to file a claim only after a claimant has discovered the identity and location of the artwork. In 2018, Congress passed another law instructing the State Department to report on the restitution record of all 46 countries that endorsed the Terezin Declaration. And in late November, more than 1,000 representatives and stakeholders from more than 10 countries gathered in Berlin for three days to measure our progress after 20 years and chart a road map for next steps. The Trump administration sent Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Thomas Yazdgerdi and me to recommit to the international effort to return these personal and cultural treasures to the families to which they belong. We know this is the work of more than any single administration, indeed more than any single generation.
France has just given the prime minister’s office new authority to resolve claims and facilitate restitution. Cooperation has begun between major German and American museums. Germany has significantly increased funding for provenance research and set a goal to complete a comprehensive database of its federal museums by 2020. Germany will no longer permit its federal museums to block claims for restitution simply by refusing to participate in mediation. Germany and France announced initiatives to review art taken from their former colonies, and the European Parliament is considering legislation to endorse the Washington Principles and develop rules for cultural objects stolen in future conflicts.
No self-respecting government, art dealer, private collector, museum or auction house should trade in or possess art stolen by the Nazis. We must all recommit to faithfully implementing the Washington Principles before Holocaust survivors breathe their last breath. We owe it not only to those who lost so much in the Holocaust but also to our own sense of moral justice.
(ZH) S“Nation states must today be prepared to give up their sovereignty”, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who told an audience in Berlin that sovereign nation states must not listen to the will of their citizens when it comes to questions of immigration, borders, or even sovereignty.
No this wasn’t something Adolf Hitler said many decades ago, this is what German Chancellor Angela Merkel told attendants at an event by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin. Merkel has announced she won’t seek re-election in 2021 and it is clear she is attempting to push the globalist agenda to its disturbing conclusion before she stands down.
“In an orderly fashion of course,” Merkel joked, attempting to lighten the mood. But Merkel has always had a tin ear for comedy and she soon launched into a dark speech condemning those in her own party who think Germany should have listened to the will of its citizens and refused to sign the controversial UN migration pact:
“There were [politicians] who believed that they could decide when these agreements are no longer valid because they are representing The People”.
“[But] the people are individuals who are living in a country, they are not a group who define themselves as the [German] people,” she stressed.
Merkel has previously accused critics of the UN Global Compact for Safe and Orderly Migration of not being patriotic, saying “That is not patriotism, because patriotism is when you include others in German interests and accept win-win situations”.
Her words echo recent comments by the deeply unpopular French President Emmanuel Macron who stated in a Remembrance Day speech that “patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism [because] nationalism is treason.”
The French president’s words were deeply unpopular with the French population and his approval rating nosedived even further after the comments.
Macron, whose lack of leadership is proving unable to deal with growing protests in France, told the Bundestag that France and Germany should be at the center of the emerging New World Order.
“The Franco-German couple [has]the obligation not to let the world slip into chaos and to guide it on the road to peace”.
“Europe must be stronger… and win more sovereignty,” he went on to demand, just like Merkel, that EU member states surrender national sovereignty to Brussels over “foreign affairs, migration, and development” as well as giving “an increasing part of our budgets and even fiscal resources”.
(Reuters) Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats vote on Friday to decide who replaces her as party leader and moves into pole position to succeed her as German chancellor.
HAMBURG: Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats vote on Friday to decide who replaces her as party leader and moves into pole position to succeed her as German chancellor.
The frontrunners are Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel protege seen as the continuity candidate, and Friedrich Merz, a Merkel rival who has questioned the constitutional guarantee of asylum to all “politically persecuted” and believes Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, should contribute more to the European Union.
Merkel said in October she would step down as party chief but remain chancellor, an effort to manage her exit after a series of setbacks since her divisive decision in 2015 to keep German borders open to refugees fleeing war in the Middle East.
The new CDU leader will be chosen by 1,001 delegates who vote at a party congress in Hamburg. The winner will likely lead the CDU in the next federal election due by October 2021.
A survey by pollster Infratest dimap for broadcaster ARD on Thursday showed 47 percent of CDU members favoured Kramp-Karrenbauer compared with 37 percent for Merz and 12 percent for Health Minister Jens Spahn.
Merz, 63, who lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002 and is returning to politics after a decade in business, is backed by CDU members tired of Merkel’s consensual politics. He won support this week from party veteran Wolfgang Schaeuble.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a Merkel ally, said: “I am convinced that with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer we have the best chance of the CDU winning an election,” adding she would be the most dangerous candidate to face the centre-left Social Democrats and the ecologist Greens.
Kramp-Karrenbauer’s trump card is her record as former state premier in Saarland, where she led a broad coalition with the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats, alliance-building skills useful in Germany’s fractured political landscape.
Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, has differentiated herself from Merkel on social and foreign policy by voting in favour of quotas for women on corporate boards, opposed by Merkel, and by taking a tougher line on Russia.
She told Reuters last week Europe and the United States should consider blockading Russian ships over the Ukraine crisis.
But on what lies ahead for the CDU, Kramp-Karrenbauer says: “I have no particular recipe.”
By contrast, Merz takes clear positions that appeal to rank-and-file party members hungry for a more clearly defined party after 13 years under Merkel as chancellor. He wants tax cuts, a stronger EU and a more robust approach to challenging the far-right.
Merz will benefit from the fact that 296 of the delegates at the congress – almost a third – will be from his home state, the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia.
One senior CDU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said many delegates were undecided before the congress and could be swayed by how the candidates present themselves on Friday. “It could come down to the speeches on the day,” he said.
The Frankfurt headquarters of Deutsche Bank have been raided by prosecutors in a money laundering investigation.
Germany’s public prosecutor alleged that two staff members have helped clients launder money from criminal activities.
Police cars were seen outside the tower blocks that house the headquarters of Germany’s biggest bank.
Other Deutsche offices in the city were searched in an operation involving about 170 police and officials.
Prosecutors are looking into whether Deutsche Bank staff helped clients set up off-shore accounts to “transfer money from criminal activities”.
The investigation was sparked by revelations in the 2016 “Panama Papers” – an enormous amount of information leaked from one of the world’s most secretive companies, a Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca.