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German election: More of the same for EU?

EUobserver, September 23, 2017

The German election campaign has been – without doubt – a dull, lacklustre affair. In fact, for months, it has felt like a long set-up for a foregone conclusion in Sunday’s (24 September) vote: A fourth term for Angela Merkel.

The chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) along with their Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), are striding towards victory, polling at around 36 percent – a significant stretch ahead of their coalition partners and main rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD), who are currently on less than 23 percent.

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Macron victory fires up German campaign

Next week, Angela Merkel will welcome the fourth French president of her chancellorship to Berlin.

In Emmanuel Macron, she will meet the man who staved off the far-right threat and possibly saved the European Union from breaking apart, but also a man whose ambitious ideas for shaking up the eurozone are anathema to many in Germany, particularly in her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.

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Neo-Nazi trial sparks debate on Germany’s racist undercurrents

Irish Independent, May 13, 2013

Enver Simsek was their first victim. On September 9, 2000, the Turkish immigrant and businessman was gunned down at one of the flower stalls he owned in Nuremberg, shot in the head eight times.

It was the start of an alleged killing spree by the far-right National Socialist Underground (NSU) that saw 10 people murdered between 2000 and 2007: eight men of Turkish origin, one of Greek descent and a German policewoman.

The case has left Germany reeling and has revealed not only severe failings on the part of the authorities but also a blind spot when it came to the threat posed by the extreme right. Continue reading

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Another German minister caught in plagiarism scandal

GlobalPost, October 20, 2012

BERLIN, Germany — A close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s is under fierce pressure over claims she plagiarized her doctoral thesis more than 30 years ago.

Annette Schavan’s role as education minister, in which she oversees the country’s universities, makes the accusations especially damaging.

Opposition politicians have called on her to resign, saying her reputation is in tatters after the leaking of a report from the University of Duesseldorf appeared to back up the allegations.

“If the accusations prove correct, I have a hard time imagining how the minister in charge of science and research can credibly carry out her duties,” Green Party leader Claudia Roth said earlier this week.

Der Spiegel magazine reported that the university’s examination of Schavan’s thesis recommended stripping her of her PhD. But the university hasn’t made clear when it would make a decision, putting her in a difficult position for the foreseeable future. Continue reading

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Far-right German group plans to show anti-Islamic film

The Guardian, September 16, 2012

A far-right Islamophobic group in Germany has said it wants to screen the anti-Islamic film that has sparked deadly protests across the Muslim world.

The Pro Deutschland Citizens’ Movement has already posted the trailer for Innocence of Muslims, which insults the prophet Muhammad, on its website. Now it says it wants to stage a screening of the film in Berlin.

“For us, it’s a question of art and freedom of expression,” Manfred Rouhs, the group’s head, told Der Spiegel magazine.

The authorities are determined to use whatever legal means at their disposal to prevent the move. “Such groups and organisations only want to provoke Germany’s Muslims,” the interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, told the magazine. He accused them of “recklessly pouring oil on the fire”. Continue reading

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Germany’s savers feel resentment and guilt over pressure to end euro crisis

 in Berlin,  in Brussels and Siobhán Dowling in Leipzig

The Guardian, September 16, 2012

Uwe Albrecht has what he calls a wonderful problem. In his office in Leipzig’s fortress-like town hall, the deputy mayor says the city’s population has grown so much in the past decade that he is having to build more kindergartens and schools.

“Ten years ago we were talking about closing schools,” he said.

Now Leipzig is one of the success stories of reunification. New roads, rail links and a redeveloped airport have sucked in investment and international companies. But none of it would have happened without a colossal 20-year bailout that has already cost the west €1.3tn. “Without the transfers from the west, it would not have been possible.”

With Europe slumped in an existential crisis, looking both desperately and fearfully to Germany to supply the leadership and the money to match its clout as the EU’s central power and biggest economy, it is often forgotten that Berlin is a past master at financial bailouts. Which is why it is also weary of them.

Read More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/16/germany-resentment-guilt-savers-euro-crisis

 

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Euro zone holds breath for German court decision

GlobalPost, September 11, 2012

BERLIN, Germany — As euro zone officials struggle to find a way out of the debt crisis, the fate of European Union unity on top of its common currency may come down to a decision by this country’s highest court.

The constitutional court’s eight red-robed judges are set to rule on Wednesday on a cornerstone of the effort to save the euro, the plan for a $630 billion permanent bailout fund called the European Stability Mechanism, or ESM.

Although most analysts predict the court will give the rescue fund a green light, a negative ruling could provoke panic on the markets and ultimately force the euro zone’s break up. Continue reading

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Magazine considers reversing ban on professional models after two years

The Guardian, September 3, 2012

Germany‘s top-selling women’s magazine is considering abandoning its use of amateur models barely two years after deciding to banish professional ones.

The fortnightly Brigitte hit the headlines in 2009 when it said it would feature only “real women” in its pages, part of a backlash against the use of ultra-thin professional models in fashion.

However, the magazine is reported to have found working with amateur models a challenge and the move has done nothing to increase sales.

Now, with Stephan Schäfer taking over at the helm as co-editor-in-chief alongside Brigitte Huber, the magazine is reconsidering the policy.

Read More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/sep/03/magazine-reversing-ban-professional-models

 

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To Hell with Hitler

GlobalPost, August 30, 2012

BERLIN, Germany — Patrick Radmacher sips tea in the leafy courtyard of central Berlin’s Humboldt University. The crisis gripping much of euro zone seems far away from this quiet corner of the German capital where the 24-year-old history student is taking a break from his work in the library.

Young Germans aren’t facing the kind of bleak future and unemployment confronting their counterparts in Greece and Spain. Nevertheless, he says the crisis worries him and his friends deeply. “It’s the largest issue facing this generation.”

That’s because prosperous Germany must shoulder the lion’s share of the burden if the euro is to be saved.

Bailouts for Greece and other stricken economies are highly unpopular among Germans, who so far have helped prevail on Chancellor Angela Merkel to refrain from backing the kind of agressive solution many economists are calling for.

Attitudes among the young are helping drive the general opinion. Older Germans have prized European integration for helping their country move beyond its Nazi past. They see integration as subsuming potentially dangerous nationalism into a wider identity and creating strong ties with neighboring countries.

But younger Germans see it differently. Many appear to take the European Union for granted or, increasingly, view it negatively. Their voices could become an important factor as the deepening euro crisis continues to slow Germany’s prodigious economic growth ahead of elections next year. Continue reading

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Why Germans fear inflation

GlobalPost, August 16, 2012

BERLIN, Germany — Peggy Schmidt is worried. The economy may be booming, she says, but “everything” is becoming more expensive. That’s affecting sales at the family-owned bakery in the small town of Angersmuende, 50 miles north of Berlin where she works as a sales assistant.

“Everything we buy has increased in price, so we have to raise our prices,” she says. “People can’t afford as much, so they buy less than they did a few years ago.”

Schmidt, who says her own wages haven’t kept pace with rising prices, worries about “how we’ll be able to afford things in the future.”

She’s not alone. Last year, the rising cost of living was the top worry among Germans asked in an annual poll to name their greatest fears. Sixty-three percent said they were most concerned about inflation, as most have since 2000 — apart from 2003 and 2009, when worries about the worsening economic situation topped the list. Continue reading

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