Posts Tagged ‘Angela Merkel’

Davos 2019: What to watch for at this year’s World Economic Forum — Counting Global Elites and Absentees

January 22, 2019

World leaders converge to discuss climate change, co-operation and globalisation

By Niki Blasina in London

Global leaders, corporate titans, academics and thinkers are gathering in the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the annual World Economic Forum, which begins on Tuesday morning. Some 3,000 participants have converged on the Alpine town for the annual meeting of the global elite that this year features some 350 sessions, centred around issues such as improving global co-operation, embracing the digital revolution and tackling climate change. Here’s what delegates are likely to be talking about at Davos 2019:

1. Dropouts: Who’s not going reflects global turmoil

US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, including UK prime minister Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron of France have cancelled trips to Davos in the face of domestic difficulties.

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Three “No Shows” — Theresa May, Macron and Trump

The absentees underscore the backdrop to this year’s event: a world in turmoil, fuelled by anti-establishment sentiment and populist politics. Mr Trump, who delivered the keynote address at last year’s forum, called off his trip as the US government remains in partial shutdown, with lawmakers at an impasse over his demand for a federal budget that includes funding for a wall on the Mexican border. © Twitter

Last week, Mr Trump decided that the rest of the US delegation would also stay home, including Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and secretary of state Mike Pompeo. They were expected to speak on several panels, including a discussion on the future of America’s place in the world economic system.

In London, Mrs May called off her visit after a crushing parliamentary defeat on her proposed Brexit deal. Mr Macron, meanwhile, is struggling to contain nationwide street protests that have shaken France in recent months.

He perhaps thought it best not to seen in the company of chief executives and corporate high-fliers. Other notable absentees include Xi Jinping, Chinese premier who is grappling with an economic slowdown, and India’s Narendra Modi, who is dealing with a re-election campaign amid the fallout of his party’s embarrassing defeat in state elections last month.

Nevertheless, dozens of national leaders will attend, including Angela Merkel of Germany, Italy’s Giuseppe Conte and the new Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

2. Brazil’s Bolsonaro make his world debut

Image result for Jair Bolsonaro, pictures, bbc

Brazil’s newly-elected leader Jair Bolsonaro will make his debut on the world stage with a keynote address in Davos. © Reuters

Less than a month after his inauguration, Brazil’s leader Jair Bolsonaro will make his debut on the world stage with a special address on Tuesday afternoon. Without Mr Trump in attendance, Mr Bolsonaro, dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics”, is one of the big names to watch this year — yet he is likely to come under fire on issues such as the environment and human rights, on which several talks will be centred.

The former army captain swept to victory in Brazil with hardline policies on tackling crime and promises to combine “traditional family values” with economic liberalism.

Yet he has a long history of disparaging gays, women and black people, and like Mr Trump, is a climate change sceptic. His election has raised fears among environmentalists that he will relax curbs on deforestation, which could lead to further destruction in the Amazon rainforest. Mr Bolsonaro will probably look to present himself as a safe pair of hands to foreign investors. His case will be helped by a strong rally in Brazilian equities since he took office.

3. Tackling climate change will be centre stage

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Veteran broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough will participate in several panels about climate change. © Getty

The WEF asked its members to rank their worries ahead of this year’s event, and this year’s “worry” list was dominated by climate change concerns. WEF members fear that extreme weather events are becoming more common, and that the world has no effective mechanism to respond. Climate issues account for three of the five risks deemed most likely to materialise in 2019 — and four of the top five risks that could cause the most damage.

The only other topics cited are weapons of mass destruction, and cyber risks. With rising nationalism and a push for economic protectionism, there are growing fears that countries could turn their backs on global co-operation to address climate change — as Mr Trump did by pulling out of the 2015 Paris climate accord. How leaders tackle the issue will be a focal point in Davos, which will host a panel debate on Tuesday featuring the veteran broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

At 92, Sir David is the oldest participant to brave the wintry conditions in Davos this year. He will be joined by Al Gore, the former US vice-president and climate activist, and New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern. Sir David will also be interviewed by Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge.

4. Gloomy backdrop as global growth slows

Optimism peaked at Davos last year amid economic momentum buoyed by new US tax legislation and rising growth in Europe and Asia. But the economic backdrop has since changed markedly. With the escalation of a US-China trade war, uncertainty over Brexit, volatility in financial markets and a US government shutdown, pessimism is rising. The IMF on Monday said the global economy was weakening faster than expected as it revising down its economic forecast.

The new figures represent a significant shift for the global outlook and come as a result of weak data in Europe and Asia. New GDP data from China released on Monday also showed that growth had now slowed for three consecutive quarters, prompting concern among investors that the country could drag down the global economy. The Chinese economy, which contributes nearly one-third of global growth, could be the most pressing issue for nervous business chiefs in Davos.

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With Chinese leader Xi Jinping staying home, Wang Qishan, China’s vice-president, will give a special address on Wednesday as he seeks to reassure business leaders and make Beijing’s case for its economic reforms.

5. Tech-set comes to work crowd ahead of big IPOs

Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of ride-hailing service Uber, will be at Davos this year It has been an active start to the year for dealmakers, with a number of transactions already announced, including Bristol-Myers Squibb’s $90bn deal for rival drugmaker Celgene.

But as M&A tends to lag by several months, deals agreed this month would have been under way well before the sharp sell-off in equities in December. There are indications that some of the most active players in global dealmaking — such as Japan’s SoftBank — have demonstrated a more restrained appetite for risk. Without those bids that have funded frothy valuations, it remains to be seen how sustainable the recovery is.

That will have an impact on some of the big initial public offerings set to take place this year, particularly from the tech sector. If technology companies Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest and Slack were to float this year at their rumoured initial public offering valuations, they would all rank among the 10 largest venture-backed IPOs by value.

Tech chief executives will be seeking to make their cases to business leaders at Davos and defy the recent market jitters that have weighed on corporate valuations.

Additional reporting by Gillian Tett and Arash Massoudi in Davos


New France-Germany treaty aims to revive EU

January 22, 2019

A follow-up pact to the Elysee Treaty marks the latest gesture of friendship between France and Germany. The new bilateral pact pledges deeper cooperation between the two nations and paves the way for EU reforms.

German and French flags waving

As they mark the 56th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty in the German city of Aachen on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel will sign a new friendship treaty that is designed to deepen the Franco-German friendship, bring ties to a “new level” and improve the lives of citizens in both countries.

The idea isn’t new. Paris, in particular, has regularly suggested renewing the treaty in the decades since it was first signed, despite the fact that amendments have been added over the years.

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Intensified partnership

The initial treaty dates back to the early 1960s, just 18 years after World War II. On January 22, 1963, French President Charles de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed the historic Elysee Treaty that sealed reconciliation between the two former archenemies.

With their signatures, the governments agreed on mandatory consultations, close political cooperation and a broad-based youth exchange. Since then, more than 8.4 million young German and French citizens have taken part in exchange programs in both countries.

Charles de Gaulle (right) and Konrad Adenauer signed the Elysee Treaty only 18 years after the end of World War II

The essence of the Elysee Treaty, which merely describes a cooperation process, does not need to be changed — but this new extension is intended to send a political message, namely that Berlin and Paris want to tackle the next stage in Franco-German cooperation and prepare the ground for EU reform. At the same time, the intensified partnership is seen as a challenge to the rising populism and nationalism in Europe.

In the new joint 16-page declaration, Merkel and Macron have addressed initiatives in various policy areas. The renewed pact includes plans to extend exchange programs for citizens of both countries and intensify cooperation in European, foreign and security policies. It also pledges stronger economic integration, which includes coordinated environmental and climate policies. Refugee policies, however, have not been specifically addressed.

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Merkel and Macron

The German Bundestag and the French National Assembly have also passed resolutions demanding closer cooperation between both countries. This includes concrete examples that are now to be implemented, ranging from joint vocational training centers to a Franco-German center for artificial intelligence. In addition, a Franco-German parliamentary agreement is set to boost exchange between the two parliaments. Plans also include the uniform implementation of EU directives in both countries.

Focus on the economy

Germany is already France’s most important economic trading partner, but now the two countries plan to move even closer together and create a Franco-German economic area, cutting back on bureaucratic hurdles.

“Together, we are better than each of us alone — not only on a joint domestic market, but also with common rules in commercial law, insolvency and company law, and with identical assessment criteria for corporation taxation,” Andreas Jung, head of the Franco-German Parliamentary Group in the Bundestag, told DW.

The bid for harmonization is not new — in 2011, then-President Nicolas Sarkozy and Merkel agreed on uniform corporate taxes, but implementation was a long time coming because of the many technical pitfalls.

Security and armament

The renewed Elysee Treaty also focuses on Franco-German defense cooperation and the fight against terrorism — and here, the countries have already come a long way. A joint military unit, the Franco-German Brigade, was created in 1989. It has, however, lost some of its significance in recent years, and plays no major role in the countries’ day-to-day military routines.

Moving from visions to concrete defense projects has always been difficult because of the nations’ diverging philosophies: The French are more likely to opt for intervention, while the Germans are very reluctant on the military stage. That should improve, however, as Germany and France have pledged assistance — including military assistance — “in the event of an armed attack” on one of the two countries.

Prosperity in the 21st century is closely linked to the digital revolution, and the partner countries also want to initiate a “digital union.” US giants including Apple, Google and Amazon dominate this market, but lawmakers have urged Germany and France to try to set up a Franco-German center for artificial intelligence to support European companies directly or indirectly with taxpayers’ money.

However, a move in that direction has backfired in the past. Just over 10 years ago, when Google was conquering the world, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Jacques Chirac kicked off the plans for a Franco-German search engine, the Quaero project. But Germany would leave the project less than a year later.

Theresa May leaves diplomats in ‘disbelief’ after presenting EU leaders with unchanged Brexit demands

January 19, 2019

No New Brexit Demands?

  • Mrs May’s requests continued to focus around three solutions to Irish backstop 
  • Repeated demands to leaders of Germany, France, Netherlands and Ireland
  • Mark Rutte and Angela Merkel have signalled opposition to tweaks to the deal 
The Prime Minister (seen in May 2018) left EU diplomats in a state of 'disbelief' over her failure to shift her stance despite the historic defeat by a margin of 230 votes, a source said

The Prime Minister (seen in May 2018) left EU diplomats in a state of ‘disbelief’ over her failure to shift her stance despite the historic defeat by a margin of 230 votes, a source said

Theresa May made no change to her Brexit demands in cross-Channel phone calls with European Union leaders despite her own plan being heavily defeated by MPs earlier this week, it has been reported.

The Prime Minister left EU diplomats in a state of ‘disbelief’ over her failure to shift her stance despite the historic defeat by a margin of 230 votes, a source said.

Mrs May’s requests continued to focus around either a legally binding time-limit for the Irish backstop; a right for Britain to unilaterally withdraw, or a commitment to a trade deal finalisation before 2021 to prevent the backstop from coming into force.

She repeated her demands in talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, reported The Telegraph.

‘It was the same old story – the same set of demands – all unchanged despite the defeat,’ a source with knowledge of the calls said.

The solutions to the border issue were rejected by the EU at the European Council meeting in December after leaders expressed doubts that they would be enough to get the deal over the line in Westminster.

It comes as the Dutch and German governments publicly signalled their opposition to any new concessions for Britain, with Mr Rutte telling Mrs May the deal could not be ‘tweaked’.

‘I said: “I don’t see how the current deal can be tweaked”,’ he told journalists after his phone call. ‘She is really expecting Brexit to go ahead on March 29.’

Angela Merkel (pictured in Berlin on December 30) appears unwilling to allow Britain any new concessions  

Angela Merkel (pictured in Berlin on December 30) appears unwilling to allow Britain any new concessions

Mr Rutte said that any form of Brexit, with or without a deal, will damage the Netherlands, a major British trading partner and one of the world’s top five export countries.

‘It will cause disruptions and we are trying to minimise those,’ he said. ‘We need to look at the facts and prepare for all scenarios. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.’

Among measures taken by the Dutch government is the hiring of roughly 1,000 customs officials to deal with changes in border checks.

‘I appeal to social organisations, companies and institutions, if they have not done so already, to inform themselves about what must be done to be prepared. Time is running out. March 29 is only 10 weeks away.’

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (seen in Dublin on Wednesday) also spoke to Mrs May on the phone 

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (seen in Dublin on Wednesday) also spoke to Mrs May on the phone

The German government appears to be similarly unwilling to shift its stance, with foreign minister Heiko Maas saying Mrs Merkel had made it ‘very clear’ to Mrs May that she would not allow the deal to be changed.

There was little let up on the home front for the Prime Minister, with Tory MP Nick Boles warning that ministers in her Government are prepared to defy her and vote for a backbench plan to give MPs power to block a no-deal Brexit.

Nick Boles told the BBC that some non-Cabinet ministers had told him directly they would quit if whipped against a bill allowing parliamentarians to demand Article 50 be extended for fresh talks with Brussels.

Speaking to the Radio 4 podcast Political Thinking the Grantham and Stamford MP also said members of his local Tory party in Lincolnshire may try to deselect him because of his stance on Brexit and said he continued to receive death threats.

Mr Boles’ dropped a planned bill giving more power to the backbenches on Wednesday but has swung behind the cross-party replacement European UnionWithdrawal (Number 3) Bill, which is due to be tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper on Monday.

He told the programme’s presenter Nick Robinson: ‘We have had indications that many ministers, including Cabinet ministers are very, very keen to see it pass and are telling the Prime Minister that they will not vote against it.

‘There is a bandwagon rolling, it’s got a lot of momentum behind it and I very much hope that any MP who shares my view that a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster, will jump on board.

‘I have been told directly by ministers, not in the Cabinet, that they have said that they would resign if they are whipped to vote against it.’

But Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom hit back, telling the Telegraph that colleagues who want to stop no deal wrongly ‘think they know better’ than voters, but will ‘fail our country’ and weaken the UK’s negotiating hand.

Emmanuel Macron (seen yesterday in Souillac, southern France) has long urged a tough stance against Britain 

Emmanuel Macron (seen yesterday in Souillac, southern France) has long urged a tough stance against Britain

Ms Leadsom said: ‘Parliamentarians are the servants of the people – and the people gave us a very direct answer to a direct question. We must leave the EU.

‘No deal is not the desired outcome, but it would be incompetent for any responsible government to rule it out, and there are very good reasons for that. If we rule out no deal, we can forget about the EU taking us seriously. We weaken our negotiating hand.’

Ms Leadsom said people campaigning to block no deal were ‘conveniently ignoring’ the fact that Parliament had passed legislation which meant the UK will leave the EU on March 29 whether there is a deal or not.

She said: ‘It’s the legal default position between the UK and the EU. If we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail our country.

‘The will of the people is not something that should be redefined by parliamentarians who think they know better, and want to pursue their own agenda.

‘Anyone who wants to cheer the optimistic future we have ahead of us is worthy of our support, not our derision.’

Political clouds cast shadow over Germany’s export machine

January 15, 2019

“When the global economy cools down, we notice.”

Economy risks slide into technical recession as trade spats and Brexit hit sentiment

Image result for German beer is loaded on to a ship at Hamburg's port, pictures

A weakening global economy threatens the country’s €1.6tn in annual exports

By Claire Jones in Frankfurt and Valentina Romei in London

Alexander Hinterkopf, a maker of digital industrial printers, built his business through regular trips from the company’s German headquarters to big markets around the world. But in recent months his travels have been less fruitful.

“The environment can be summed up in one word — uncertainty,” the Baden-Württemberg based businessman told the Financial Times.

“Uncertainty is never a good thing in business, it means you always postpone decisions. Since the summer, I’ve been to China three times, and each time customers come up with another reason to postpone.” After a decade of boom, a darkening political climate is beginning to cloud the international economic outlook.

German carmakers are struggling to get ready for tough new EU emissions tests, which caused production bottlenecks across the vital sector. (AFP)

The global economy is forecast to grow less than 3 per cent for the first time since 2009 in 2019, according to Consensus Economics, which polls economists worldwide. Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, with a €1.6tn-a-year export machine, is among those most exposed.

“To invest in a big new machine . . . businesses need to be able to tell themselves a story about how good the economy is going to be over the next two to three years,” said Mr Hinterkopf. “Instead we have a trade war between the world’s two biggest powers. And Europe has its own problems.”

His concerns are shared by others in the country’s Mittelstand of small and medium sized companies, the bedrock of its economy. “We are affected by the high punitive tariffs being imposed in the trade war between the US and China. Brexit concerns us too,” said Marc-Sven Mengis, chief executive at automotive systems manufacturer Fischer, also based in Baden-Württemberg.

“When the global economy cools down, we notice.” People are beginning to realise it’s not just cars, that export demand in general has weakened Isabel Schnabel, Bonn University A poll of German business confidence by Ifo, the Munich-based think-tank, fell to its lowest level since 2016 in December.

Carmakers have suffered bottlenecks as they struggle to make cleaner vehicles

Carmakers have suffered bottlenecks as they struggle to make cleaner vehicles dpa/AFP

“[Companies] are seeing a reluctance to order new machines from all over the world,” said Ulrich Ackermann, managing director for foreign trade at VDMA, the trade body representing machine manufacturers. “A company only invests if they are feeling optimistic about the future and we are coming to the end of the economic cycle after 10 years of growth.”

German exports of goods and services make up a higher proportion of groiss domestic product than in any other big economy, at 47.2 per cent.

The most recent figures show trade is providing the largest drag on GDP since 2010, and the weakness in exports could push Germany into a technical recession — defined as two quarters of negative growth.

The first data on the final three months of 2018 will come on Tuesday, when the Federal Statistics Agency publishes its official estimate of what happened to Germany’s growth over the year.

Berlin Cranes before the TV tower in Berlin (Imago)

In the third quarter, the country’s economy shrank for the first time since 2015. Many economists thought that would prove a temporary blip, blaming delays at automakers in meeting new EU emissions standards. But recent purchasing managers’ indices — a frequently used bellwether of what will happen to GDP — indicate there will be little sign of improvement in the fourth quarter.

The index for German manufacturing exports hit its lowest level since 2012 in December.

“People are beginning to realise it’s not just cars, that export demand in general has weakened,” said Isabel Schnabel, a professor at Bonn University and a member of the Council of Economic Experts, which advises the German government.

Ms Schnabel thinks German growth will remain above 1 per cent in 2019, but that is well below the level in recent years. “Growth worldwide is less dynamic, but it also has to do with capacity constraints in the German economy.

There had to be a slowdown in growth anyway due to a lack of potential to continue growing at this pace after so many strong years.” Companies’ main fear remains the possibility of an intensification of the US-China trade spat.

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“With China we need a clear solution; the danger is that the tariffs imposed are much too big,” said Mr Hinterkopf. “Ten per cent [tariffs] was already a painful hurdle; at 25 per cent no one will buy anything and things will come to a complete standstill.”

The threat of a hard Brexit is also causing concern. A senior manager at a German manufacturer of high-end household goods said: “No one really believes the UK will crash out of the EU with no deal . . . There is a deep-rooted belief that in the end UK politicians will put the economy first. In other words, we are in complete denial.”

Recommended Mittelstand German Mittelstand faces battle to overcome skill shortages

Companies are also increasingly concerned about fractiousness within the eurozone, fuelled by the gilets jaunes protests in France and the potential for a clash between the markets and the populist government in Rome.

“France and Italy could also become problematic — especially Italy,” said Jürgen Polzin, economist at ZVEI, an organisation representing manufacturers of electrical and electronic products. What German manufacturers need most are global leaders to take decisions and provide clarity, Mr Hinterkopf said. “We need [Donald] Trump to tell us what he wants, then the world will be better.”

But he is optimistic that any slowdown will be shortlived. “I am stepping on the accelerator because I think by the spring things will be better. What we have to remember is that no one wants this standstill. People want to buy things, traders want to sell them, and we want make them.”


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Germany flirts with recession, but Italy and France will bear the brunt

Germany at risk of recession but economists keep faith

January 15, 2019

Germany will find out on Tuesday if Europe’s top economy ended 2018 in a technical recession, with fears over slowing momentum fuelling calls for Berlin to use its fiscal leeway to bolster growth.

Federal statistics office Destatis will publish a preliminary estimate of Germany’s fourth quarter and full-year gross domestic product figures for 2018, data closely watched across the eurozone for signs of a wider slump.

The German economy shrank by 0.2 percent in the third quarter, its first contraction in more than three years.

Carmakers have suffered bottlenecks as they struggle to make cleaner vehicles

Carmakers have suffered bottlenecks as they struggle to make cleaner vehicles dpa/AFP

The setback was mainly blamed on carmakers’ struggles to get ready for tough new EU emissions tests, which caused production bottlenecks across the vital sector, and low water levels in the Rhine that hampered shipments of chemicals and raw materials.

Disappointing industrial data since then has suggested the aftershocks of both stretched into the final months of 2018, raising the prospect that Germany’s output shrank for a second consecutive quarter — the definition of a technical recession.

Uncertainty about Brexit and weaker Chinese growth as a result of US-led trade tensions have further rattled nerves in export-reliant Germany.

But many economists have been quick to stress that Germany’s underlying fundamentals remain strong, powered by healthy domestic demand.

“Even if it happens a technical recession should not leave any marks on the labour market but should be the very final wake-up call to step up investments and structural reforms,” said ING Diba bank analyst Carsten Brzeski.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, who expects German growth of around 1.5 percent for 2018 compared with 2017’s 2.2 percent, has also rebuffed the doomsayers.

“Germany is not at the beginning of a recession, even if there are unresolved problems in international trade with Brexit and the United States,” Peter Altmaier told Handelsblatt last week.

Europe’s powerhouse “has a strong reputation globally, the mood is good among businesses and many order books are full”, he said.

Altmaier, of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU, however acknowledged the government could do more to give businesses “a tailwind” at a time of sluggish global expansion.

“It makes sense right now to set incentives for growth,” he said, including through “tax relief for companies”.

That puts him on a collision course with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz of the centre-left Social Democrats, who has said he sees no need for corporate tax cuts and recently warned that “the fat years are over” when it comes to Germany’s run of tax revenues overshooting expectations.

– Loosening the purse strings –

Destatis is due to put a number on Germany’s public finances for 2018 on Tuesday, expected to show a sizeable surplus for the fifth year in a row.

In 2017 federal, regional and municipal governments took in 36.6 billion euros ($42 billion) more than they spent, helped by record-low unemployment, high wages and the European Central Bank’s ultra-low interest rates.

Germany, which also boasts a massive trade surplus with the rest of the world, frequently faces calls from abroad to spend more of the proceeds of its wealth to encourage consumption at home — which would indirectly benefit trading partners.

Among the loudest critics is US President Donald Trump, who regularly rails against Germany’s “unfair” trade imbalance and chastises Berlin for not spending enough on defence.

Merkel’s coalition government agreed last year to stick to its cherished “black zero” policy of a maintaining a balanced federal budget, but also pledged billions of extra euros in social spending, including on childcare, education and pensions reforms.

The government also vowed to invest in the country’s creaking internet infrastructure amid criticism it is failing to prepare the nation for the digital future.

And Altmaier has mooted public investments in electric car battery production and European projects on artificial intelligence.

But Berlin remains a laggard on military spending, only committing to raising expenditure from 1.24 percent of GDP last year to 1.5 by 2024 — well short of the 2.0 percent promise Trump wants upheld.


Germany: Comprehensive review of immigration system ordered

January 13, 2019

CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer wants a “comprehensive review” of Germany’s immigration system. Contradicting Angela Merkel, the new party leader said scrutiny of the fateful year of 2015 was necessary.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (picture-alliance/dpa/G. Fischer)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor at the helm of the Christian Democrats (CDU) has told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that the party will scrutinize the chancellor’s migration policy since the beginning of the migration crisis in 2015.

“We will look at the entire immigration issue, from the protection of the external border to asylum procedures and integration, from the perspective of effectiveness” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who replaced Merkel as CDU leader in December, said the party would review the immigration system at a planned workshop in February.

The European Union’s border protection agency, Frontex, and Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees would take part in the talks to examine “where and what needs to be improved,” she added.

AKK contradicts Merkel

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was Merkel’s favored candidate to take over the CDU, differed from her predecessor on the topic of the 2015 migration crisis and the government’s subsequent response.

Read more: Ai Weiwei: ‘Refugee crisis is a political tool for populists’

Merkel said that discussions surrounding what happened in 2015, when more than a million migrants entered Germany, amounted to “wasted time,” according to Die Welt am Sonntag. But Kramp-Karrenbauer said she did not fully agree.

“It would be a strange state of affairs if we in the CDU were to approach the topic comprehensively and ignore what happened in 2015,” she said.

Immigration has dominated German politics since the migration crisis. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has enjoyed repeated electoral successes across the country on the back of an ardent anti-migration platform.

jcg/amp (KNA, AFP)


Bautzen Kornmarkt Polizei vs rechtes Spektrum

Bautzen, Germany anti-migrant demonstrations

A police officer stands guard as migrants stage a protest in front of a train at Bicske railway station, Hungary, September 4, 2015. Hundreds of migrants, many of them refugees from the Syrian war, woke after a night spent on a packed train stranded at a railway station west of Budapest, refusing to go to a nearby camp to process asylum seekers. The train had left Budapest on Thursday morning after a two-day standoff at the city’s main railway station as police barred entry to some 2,000 migrants. Hungary says they must be registered, as per European Union rules, but many refuse, fearing they will be sent back to Hungary if caught later in western and northern Europe. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

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The ‘Great Wall of Calais’, aimed at preventing migrants and refugees from attempting to reach Britain AFP/Philippe Huguen


Is Germany’s Extreme-Right AfD Falling Apart? Or Beaten Into Submission?

January 11, 2019

The far-right Alternative for Germany may be unravelling at the edges after a disgruntled member struck off on his own. That’s bad news for the populists ahead of key elections, says DW political analyst Jefferson Chase.

Shattered glass in front of AfD office

There is now even more right-wing alternative to the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

On Thursday, the former party leader in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, Andre Poggenburg, resigned his party membership. Only hours later, the far-right hardliner announced that he is forming a party of his own, the “Aufbruch deutscher Patrioten” (Uprising of German Patriots), to compete with the AfD.

Poggenburg was one of the more extreme nationalist and xenophobic leaders within the AfD, which twice censured him for using language reminiscent of right-wing extremism. He has close ties to the radical Identitarian and Pegida movements. And for much of his career he was also an ally of Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke, who is regarded as one of the main motors behind the AfD’s ethnic-nationalist hardline wing and who has often been accused of anti-Semitism.

In 2016, Poggenburg became the leader of the opposition in the Saxony-Anhalt regional parliament, but stepped down last year from that position and as regional party leader following controversial anti-Turkish remarks. The emblem of Poggenburg’s new party, a blue cornflower, has been criticized for having right-wing extremist and Nazi connotations.

Reaction to Poggenburg’s defection among AfD members has been mixed. Some hardliners have rued his departure, while members of the relatively moderate Alternative Mitte group have welcomed it. Regional parliamentarian Uwe Junge, for instance, tweeted: “Andre Poggenburg is leaving the AfD! Finally. I hope he takes all the extremist fools and self-proclaimed patriots with him.”

Uwe Junge, MdL


André Poggenburg verläßt die AfD!
Endlich – ich hoffe, er nimmt den ganzen Narrensaum und die selbst ernannten Patrioten mit! , !  via @junge_freiheit

André Poggenburg verläßt die AfD

Der frühere AfD-Landes- und Fraktionschef von Sachsen-Anhalt, André Poggenburg, ist aus der Partei ausgetreten. Am Donnerstag abend erklärte er in einer E-Mail an die AfD-Bundesgeschäftsstelle den…

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A limit to the AFD’s move right?

The 43-year-old may not have been universally liked within the AfD, but party leaders have to be concerned that Poggenburg’s supporters could follow him and defect — a scenario that has some precedent.

The Alternative for Germany was founded in 2013 primarily in opposition to European monetary union. But a lack of electoral success shifted the focus to hostility toward mass migration. Co-founder Bernd Lucke was replaced by the far more conservative Frauke Petry as party head in 2015.

That shift roughly coincided with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision not to close Germany’s borders as large numbers of refugees and migrants began arriving from Syria, Northern Africa, Afghanistan and other places. That brought a surge of support for the AfD from Germans who feared that large-scale migration would threaten their way of life and the country’s traditions.

A protest organized by the AfD, and the Pegida and “Pro Chemnitz” movements | John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

Since 2015, the AfD has moved further and further to the nationalist, some might say racist right, guided by such figures as current party co-leader Alexander Gauland, Höcke and Poggenburg. That evolution has come to the dismay of more moderate AfD members, including Petry, who became increasingly marginalized in the run-up to the 2017 German federal election.

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Frauke Petry

The party recorded an impressive 12.6 percent of the national vote and eventually became the main opposition party in the Bundestag. The triumph prompted Gauland to promise to “hound” Merkel and Germany’s traditional political parties.

But the day after the vote, Petry and her supporters quit the AfD. That meant the parliamentary group immediately lost three seats. Petry subsequently formed the Blue Party, but it has yet to contest any elections and has attracted very few members.

Potential damage in eastern elections

The schism with Poggenburg and his supporters could be far more damaging than the split with the Petry. For starters, this is the first time that a rival group has formed to the right of the AfD. And it comes as the party had hoped to kick start its stalled momentum with three regional elections in its stronghold of eastern Germany: Saxony and Brandenburg on September 1 and Thuringia on October 27.

After becoming Germany’s third-largest party at national level in 2017, the AfD failed to dramatically increase its support in regional elections in 2018. The populists came in a distant third with just over 10 percent of the vote in Bavaria and fourth in Hesse with slightly more than 13 percent.

The AfD continues to attract some 13.5 percent support in opinion polls, but the far-right populists have been outstripped by the Greens who have been polling 18 to 20 percent.

The AfD does attract 20 to 25 percent support in the east, but splits like those with Petry and Poggenburg could see erosion on both ends of the AfD’s spectrum of voters. Petry, who is from Saxony and won her constituency outright there in 2017, could siphon off moderates. Poggenburg, who was also born and bred in the formerly Communist east, could take away some hardline far-right and extremist voters.

Many mainstream political analysts have predicted, perhaps with an admixture of wishful thinking, that the tug-of-war between relative moderates and hardliners could rip the AfD apart at the seams. That remains a very hypothetical scenario — at the time of writing, Poggenburg’s new party has a grand total of ten Twitter followers.

But arguably more than any other German party, the AfD’s appeal relies on the perception that it represents a popular movement that is inexorably growing in strength. The latest discord undercuts the idea of the AfD as a truly viable alternative.


Damaged AfD office in Döbeln following explosion (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Willnow)

Police authorities said “an unknown substance was detonated” on Thursday at around 7:20 p.m. local time (620 UTC) in front of the building that houses the offices of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Saxon city of Döbeln.

Doors and windows of the building hou

German hacker behind massive political data leak arrested

January 8, 2019

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 reportedly confessed to the hack, but investigations continue.

Tastatur und Bildschirm mit Programmiercode und Binärcode (picture-alliance/K. Ohlenschläger)

The German Criminal Police Office (BKA) says that it has the hacker responsible for what is believed to be 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 said 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 being involved. The BKA said the suspect had indicated he was motivated by “anger at the public statements of the politicans, journalists amn public figures concerned.”

The published material included personal data from Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leading politicians, celebrities and journalists. Politicians from all political parties except the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) were affected.

The BKA said the suspect’s apartment had been searched on Sunday, after which the arrest was made. The home of a 19-year-old man in Heilbronn, a town north of Stuttgart, who had contact with the suspected hacker was also searched. He is cooperating with authorities as a witness.

German Interior  Minister Horst Seehofer will hold press conference later on Tuesday together with the heads of the BKA and the government’s office for IT security (BSI).

Read more: The top 10 mistakes that make life easy for hackers

An advent calendar of data leaks

The data included personal phone numbers and addresses, internal party documents and credit card details; it was published online via Twitter accounts.

Stephan Mayer, state secretary in the interior ministry, 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 cyber security.”

Read more: Six hack attacks that shook the world

The documents were published online in December in the form of an advent calendar with one post per day from the #-0rbit account, but appears to have gone unnoticed until the first week of January, when it was closed down. The account attracted 18,000 followers.

Newspaper Bild said the leaks contained data belonging to 405 politicians from Merkel’s CDU-CSU alliance, 294 from the SPD social democrats, 105 from the Greens, 82 Left party members and 28 FDP MPs.



Germany: AfD Lawmaker Severely Injured in Street Attack

January 8, 2019
Beaten unconscious with a piece of wood and then kicked in the head as he lay on the ground
Bundestag MP beaten about the head by three masked assailants
Merkel’s spokesman, German political parties condemn assault
Frank Magnitz Photographer: Michael Kappeler/AFP via Getty Images

A member of parliament for Germany’s far-right AfD party was severely beaten in the street in Bremen on Monday evening in what police said was probably a politically motivated attack.

Frank Magnitz, who is also the AfD’s Bremen chairman, was seriously injured by three masked men who knocked him out with a piece of wood and kicked him in the head as he lay on the ground, the AfD’s branch in the city said in a statement on Facebook. A passing construction worker stepped in to end the attack, the party said.

The Bremen prosecutors’ office and a unit of the Federal Crime Office responsible for probing politically motivated incidents are investigating, Bremen police said.

The Bremen AfD said Monday’s attack represents “a black day for democracy in Germany” and accused rival political parties of supporting extreme left-wing “Antifa” activists.

“The AfD is more and more the target of left-wing attacks, which the other parties fail to condemn or even show support for,” the party said.

Values Betrayed

Top officials from Germany’s main political parties condemned the attack, along with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, who said in a Tweet that he hopes the police will quickly catch the culprits.

“The AfD is political opponent of our tolerant and peaceful society,” Andrea Nahles, chairwoman of the Social Democrats, said in a Tweet. “But people who fight the party and its politicians with violence, betray these values and endanger our coexistence. I condemn the attack on Frank Magnitz in the strongest possible terms.”


A local leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany was attacked and seriously wounded by several men in the northwestern city of Bremen, an assault that drew condemnation Tuesday from some of the party’s fiercest opponents.

Bremen police said they believe the attack on Frank Magnitz, a lawmaker in Germany’s national parliament who leads the party’s local branch, was politically motivated. They called for witnesses to the attack around 5:20 p.m. Monday near a city theater to come forward.

Magnitz was beaten over the head with an unidentified object by at least three men wearing dark clothing and hoods or hats, who then fled, police said. Two workers who were loading a car nearby found him lying on the ground and called an ambulance. The 66-year-old was hospitalized.

The party, known by its German acronym AfD, said earlier Tuesday that Magnitz was ambushed after he left a local newspaper’s new year’s reception, beaten unconscious with a piece of wood and then kicked in the head as he lay on the ground.

Bremen, Germany’s smallest state, holds a regional election on May 26, the same day as European Parliament elections in which AfD hopes to make gains.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, wrote on Twitter that “the brutal attack on lawmaker Frank Magnitz in Bremen must be strongly condemned. Hopefully police will quickly succeed in catching the perpetrators.”

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, a center-left politician who has been a strong critic of AfD, tweeted that “violence must never be a means of political confrontation — no matter against whom or what the motives are.”

“There is no justification for this,” he said, calling for those responsible to be punished.

That was echoed by other politicians from established parties, including prominent Green party politician Cem Ozdemir, who said that AfD must be countered by legal means, not violence. “Anyone who fights hatred with hatred always lets hatred win in the end,” he wrote on Twitter.

AfD is represented in all of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. It entered the national parliament in 2017 and is currently the biggest opposition party there..

AfD views the country’s established political parties with contempt, and the feeling is mutual.

“The cowardly and life-threatening attack against Frank Magnitz is the result of constant agitation against us by politicians and media,” party co-leaders Alexander Gauland and Joerg Meuthen said in a statement.

AfD took 10 percent of the vote in Bremen in the 2017 national election, below its nationwide result of 12.6 percent. Bremen is not considered a stronghold of the six-year-old party, unlike three states in Germany’s ex-communist east that hold regional votes in September and October.

Germany has seen other attacks on politicians in recent years.

In 2015, a far-right extremist stabbed in the neck a leading mayoral candidate for Cologne, who at the time was in charge of housing refugees. Henriette Reker was elected mayor the following day while in an induced coma and took office about a month later.

In 2017, a man with a knife attacked the mayor of Altena in western Germany. The mayor was known for voluntarily taking in more asylum-seekers than the small town was obliged to.

Associated Press

Twenty-year-old suspect held over massive German politician data leak

January 8, 2019

German police said Tuesday they have arrested a 20-year-old suspect in the case of private data stolen from hundreds of politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, and published online.

Image result for BSI, Germany, cyber, pictures

“The prosecutor’s office in Frankfurt, the Central Office for Fighting Internet and Computer Crime and the Federal Police Office (BKA) searched the flat of a 20-year-old suspect on January 6 and took him into custody,” the BKA said in a statement.

Image result for BSI, Germany, cyber, pictures

It announced a press conference at midday to give further details on the probe into the remarkable breach of cybersecurity, which has piled political pressure on the government.

The information, which included home addresses, mobile phone numbers and copies of identity documents, was first released on Twitter in December but its spread gathered pace last week.

Among the estimated 1,000 people affected were members of the Bundestag lower house of parliament and the European Parliament as well as regional and local assemblies.

Deputies from all parties represented in the Bundestag were targeted except those from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), the largest opposition group in parliament.

Image result for angela merkel, cellphone, photos

Although the leak was sweeping, there is no evidence sensitive information reached the public, investigators and the interior ministry insisted.

The case has been deeply embarrassing for the political class, and increased pressure on unpopular Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

The leak also exposed the private data of celebrities and journalists, including chats and voicemail messages from spouses and children of those targeted.

The information came both from social media and private “cloud” data.

The Twitter account @_0rbit published the links every day last month, along the lines of an advent calendar with each link to new information hidden behind a “door”.

The account, which calls itself G0d and has now been suspended by Twitter, was opened in mid-2017 and was said to have more than 18,000 followers.

It described its activities as “security researching”, “artist” and “satire and irony” and said it was based in Hamburg.


Germany’s cybersecurity authority has defended its handling of a mass data attack on hundreds of politicians, after criticism it did not tell the police about the breach for weeks.

The agency says it was not aware of the full extent of a systematic leak of information until Thursday night.

Journalists, celebrities and politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, are among those whose personal data was published online.

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