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
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
GlobalPost, October 19, 2012
BERLIN, Germany — When the collapse of Lehman Brothers threatened to set off a global depression in 2008, Peer Steinbrueck stood shoulder to shoulder with Chancellor Angela Merkel to steer his country through the financial crisis.
The economy performed remarkably well. Although its growth is slowing, Germany’s boom helped make Merkel hugely popular.
Now the former finance minister who was once her right-hand man has a new challenge: to unseat Merkel in an election next year.
Although he faces a tough campaign, he may have a shot. Even though the chancellor’s approval ratings remain high, the complexities of Germany’s political system mean there’s no guarantee she’ll be able to form a government in 2013.
A member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) who was granted his ministerial post as part of a grand coalition with Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Steinbrueck has since emerged as someone who can pose Merkel a serious threat.
Many Germans see him as a safe pair of hands and a very competent crisis manager who helped overcome the financial crisis by introducing a stimulus package and recapitalizing banks. Continue reading
The Guardian, October 3, 2012
Germany‘s opposition party, the Social Democrats (SPD), has closed the gap on Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s Christian Democrats following the selection of her former finance minister to lead their general election campaign next year.
Polls show that the choice of Peer Steinbrück as the SPD challenger last week has given the party a significant boost in its attempt to oust Merkel. The SPD is now enjoying its highest level of support in a year.
A Forsa survey shows that the SPD has gained three points from a week earlier to 29% after the selection of the feisty, plain-speaking 65-year-old. Merkel’s party dropped three points to 35%.
The combined support for the SPD and the party’s preferred partner, the Greens, is now 41%, marginally ahead of the 39% support for the ruling centre-right coalition.
The polls seem to vindicate the SPD’s choice of the man regarded as most capable of poaching centrist voters from Merkel’s party and its struggling coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP). Continue reading
The Guardian, September 16, 2012
In today’s eurozone crisis, it is little remarked upon that Germany has done financial bailouts before.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in Leipzig, one of the success stories of the former East Germany. Big companies such as Amazon and DHL, BMW and Porsche, have created thousands of jobs by moving operations to what is now an attractive business and cultural centre. New roads, rail links and a redeveloped airport have acted like magnets for investment. The population has increased by 10% to 530,000 over the past 10 years.
But Uwe Albrecht, the city’s deputy mayor, is under no illusions about who needs thanking for the sudden renaissance. “Without the financial boost from the transfers from the west, it would not have been possible,” he says, referring to approximately €1.3 tn (£1tn), which has flowed from west to east since reunification.
The enormous costs that the country has shouldered since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 have pushed many to the limits of their generosity. Richer regions are complaining about constantly having to fork out for poorer states via the federal system of equalisation payments, and Bavaria has even filed a complaint with the constitutional court.
Read More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/16/leipzig-proves-value-bailouts-germany
Kate Connolly in Berlin, Ian Traynor 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
GlobalPost, August 30, 2012
BERLIN, Germany — It’s often overlooked that this country’s churning economy was recently stalling. That was the topic of a presentation by Peter Hartz, personnel director of the Volkswagen Group, to the great and good of the German media in the capital’s opulent FrenchCathedral 10 years ago this month, when he unveiled a set of ideas to turn it around.
The work of a 15-member commission reporting to Gerhard Schroeder, the proposals envisioned a complete shake-up of the labor and welfare system.
The so-called Hartz reforms provided the heart of the chancellor’s ambitious program to modernize the economy. They divided public opinion and ended up costing Schroeder his job. But many believe they were central to transforming Germany’s economic fortunes.
Now Berlin is imploring the rest of Europe to liberalize its labor market along similar lines. However, evaluations are still mixed a decade on. Although some argue the reforms reinvigorated a sclerotic labor market and slashed unemployment, others believe their larger legacy is an explosion of low-paid work and growing social inequality. Continue reading
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
The Guardian, July 27, 2012
The idea that Germany could somehow emerge from the current economic crisis unscathed has proved illusory. Europe‘s industrial powerhouse is now feeling the effects of the economic crisis, particularly in its export-driven sector.
A slew of household names, including Siemens, BASF and Puma, has had bad news to announce this week.
On Thursday, engineering giant Siemens announced that orders were drying up, saying it would make it “more difficult” to reach annual targets that it had already cut in April.
Read More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/27/germany-eurozone-crisis-business-slowdown
GlobalPost, July 3, 2012
BERLIN — The German military is changing. What was once a male bastion has slowly been taking on a more female hue, with women accounting for almost one in 10 of those serving in the armed forces.
Now the military, or Bundeswehr, says it wants to see even more women in its ranks. “Currently 9 percent of all soldiers are women,” Chief of Staff Volker Wieker told Bild am Sonntag recently. “Our goal is a combined ratio of 15 percent.”
To achieve that, the army intends to make itself more attractive to female recruits, in particular by improving family-friendly structures. Yet problems persist. Continue reading