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Posts tagged ‘United Land of Germany’

Snowfall leads to 2 deaths, canceled flights in Germany

December 03, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Heavy snow in Germany is being blamed for two deaths, several accidents and dozens of canceled airline flights. The German news agency dpa reported that an 86-year-old woman died in Uelzen in Lower Saxony on Sunday when a car veered on a slippery road and crashed into another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction.

Police said an 83-year-old man with dementia froze to death in Koelleda in eastern Germany. Officers found his body in the snow on the side of a road near the nursing home where he was living and think he might have gotten lost.

In Frankfurt, more than 80 flights had to be canceled Sunday because of the weather. Several high-speed ICE trains were ordered to slow down in central and southern Germany because of the snow.


Merkel: Stability for Germany main goal in coalition talks

November 27, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday her conservative bloc is willing to start talks on trying to forge a “stable government” with the Social Democrats, with an eye on the large challenges Germany faces both internationally and domestically.

“We are ready to hold talks with the Social Democrats … in a serious, engaged, honest way and obviously with the intention of success as well,” Merkel told reporters after a meeting with her party’s leadership in Berlin.

Talks between Merkel’s conservative bloc and two smaller parties to form a previously untried coalition collapsed a week ago. Merkel’s partners in the outgoing government, the Social Democrats, initially refused to consider another so-called “grand coalition” after a disastrous showing in the election.

But following an appeal from the country’s president they reversed course Friday and said they are now open to holding talks. Merkel said that her conservative bloc was “prepared to take responsibility” for governing again, while acknowledging that compromise would be necessary to form another alliance with the Social Democrats.

“For us it is important that we achieve stability for our country, and that we are the anchor of that stability,” she said. The chancellor said that in the face of problems in Germany and Europe, such as the task of integrating hundreds of thousands of migrants, but also “regarding the conflicts in the Middle East, the situation in Russia, and the situation in the U.S.A.,” the government needs to be “capable of acting.”

Merkel, the leader of her party’s Bavarian-only sister Christian Social Union, Horst Seehofer, and Social Democratic leader Martin Schulz are due to meet German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday.

Schulz later Monday struck a somewhat skeptical note about the meeting, telling reporters that he would talk with Merkel and Seehofer about “if and in which form” they would continue discussions and “if it even makes sense to continue to talk with one another.”

Schulz said his party’s members would have a final say over any agreement, be it a revival of the grand coalition or a Merkel-led minority government tolerated by the Social Democrats. Strife over the CSU-run Agriculture Ministry’s decision Monday to back an extension of the use of weed killer glyphosate within the European Union illustrated how difficult the talks may be.

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, a prominent Social Democrat, said she had told Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt only a few hours before the vote that her party was against any extension, and that Germany should have abstained.

“Anyone who is interested in developing trust between two parties cannot behave that way,” she said. Earlier in the day, a leading member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats suggested coalition talks with the Social Democrats will only get underway in earnest next year.

Julia Kloeckner, a deputy leader of the Christian Democrats, said on public television ARD that thoroughness is more important than speed. If Merkel can’t put together a coalition, the only options would be a minority government or a new election, months after the Sept. 24 vote.

David Rising contributed to this story.

Pressure grows on German Social Democrats in gov’t impasse

November 23, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Pressure is growing within Germany’s Social Democratic Party to at least discuss the possibility of forming a new government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives. SPD leader Martin Schulz has ruled out returning to the current “grand coalition” with Merkel, following a disastrous result in September’s election, even after her talks on forming a government with two other parties collapsed.

If no one budges, the options are a minority government — never previously tried — or new elections. Schulz is meeting Thursday with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has urged politicians to compromise.

Several Social Democrats, while expressing skepticism, have suggested the party should discuss another coalition with Merkel or supporting a minority government. Lawmaker Karl Lauterbach tells ZDF broadcaster “if absolutely nothing else works, we must again consider a grand coalition.”

Germany’s Merkel looks to future despite coalition chaos

November 21, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chances of cobbling together a government in Germany’s current parliament look slim. But the long-time leader is already signaling that she will run in any new election and it appears far too early to start writing Merkel off.

Merkel’s trademark calm was on display hours after coalition talks collapsed. She brushed aside suggestions that she was a lame duck, telling ARD television that she was “a woman who has responsibility and is ready to continue taking responsibility.” Her pre-election commitment to serve another four years stands, she added.

Merkel has good reasons not to be too worried about her future for now, despite recent setbacks. Germany’s Sept. 24 election wasn’t kind to Merkel’s conservative Union bloc, whose vote tally of 32.9 percent was its worst since the first post-World War II election in 1949. But it was still easily the biggest group — far ahead of challenger Martin Schulz’s center-left Social Democrats, whose disastrous 20.5-percent showing left them facing an uphill struggle to rebuild support.

While hardly helpful, the result hasn’t yet triggered any serious questioning of Merkel’s position inside the party. After 12 years as chancellor and 17 as her Christian Democratic Union’s leader, the 63-year-old still has no obvious successor who could match her broad party support and appeal to a wide public, or indeed who is prepared yet to make a move against her.

“Merkel has not suffered yet,” because she has “stayed true to her style of politics,” said Manfred Guellner, the head of the Forsa polling agency. Over the years, Merkel has won widespread acceptance, though not necessarily enthusiasm, with a combination of ideological flexibility, calm decision-making and personal modesty. She has been able to overcome, or at least muddle through, sticky patches — most recently, the aftermath of her 2015 decision to allow in large numbers of asylum-seekers.

While it remains unclear who will get the blame if Germans have to vote for the second time in a few months, it was the pro-business Free Democrats who walked out of coalition talks and the Social Democrats who have refused even to contemplate them.

“She is not really being called into question,” said Thorsten Faas, a political science professor at Berlin’s Free University. The poor election result in part reflected the fact that “it was clear to voters that Merkel would remain chancellor,” so many voted for other parties or stayed home, he added.

“The Union knows very well that switching to another person now, in this awkward situation, is not an alternative,” Faas said. “What can happen to her? For now, she stays in office (and) she can be comparatively relaxed about new elections.”

The only other option, assuming that other parties can’t be persuaded to negotiate a coalition, would be an unprecedented minority government. Merkel says she doesn’t want that. “I don’t have a minority government in my plans,” she said Monday. “I don’t want to say never today, but I am very skeptical and I think that new elections would then be the better way.”

The chancellor could benefit from a wish for stability in a new election. Or more voters could turn against mainstream parties, boosting the nationalist and anti-migrant Alternative for Germany’s 12.6-percent vote share from September. Either way, it appears likely that — as in this parliament — no plausible coalition would be possible without Merkel’s conservatives.

Polls so far have shown little change from the September result. It’s hard to tell whether and how that will change; one potential factor is a leadership struggle inside the Christian Social Union, the Bavaria-only sister to Merkel’s CDU, which has been simmering since that party performed particularly badly in the election.

On Tuesday, parliament speaker Wolfgang Schaeuble added his voice to an appeal by Germany’s president, who is holding a round of meetings with party leaders, for politicians to show more readiness to compromise.

“We can be of different opinions as to how we should be governed, but it is clear that we must be governed,” Schaeuble, a prominent member of Merkel’s party, told lawmakers. “This is a test, but not a crisis of the state,” he said. “The task is big, but it can be solved.”

Merkel to meet German president after coalition talks fail

November 20, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to meet with the country’s president after talks on forming a new government collapsed in the night, raising the possibility of new elections. Merkel will meet President Frank-Walter Steinmeier later on Monday to brief him on the negotiations and discuss what comes next.

Preliminary coalition talks broke down late Sunday after the pro-business Free Democrats bowed out of the negotiations with Merkel’s conservative bloc and the left-leaning Greens. Beside the possibility of new elections, Merkel could attempt to continue her current coalition with the Social Democrats — which that party has said it will not do — or she could try to go ahead with a minority government.

Free Democrats leader Christian Lindner told reporters his party pulled out of the weekslong talks rather than further compromise its principles.

Macron takes Europe’s center stage while Merkel falters

November 21, 2017

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron looks like the last, best hope to salvage a unified Europe, as Britain drifts away and Germany bogs down. The role of knight in shining armor is one Macron relishes, whether he’s standing up to U.S. President Donald Trump on climate change, mediating in Mideast crises or crusading to make Paris the world’s newest financial capital.

Yet pitfalls await. The inexperienced 39-year-old must surmount many hurdles to transform France into the kind of superpower economy that could drive the rest of Europe toward prosperity. And instead of leaving Macron alone in the spotlight as Europe’s superstar, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s troubles in forming a coalition at home may in fact drag him down with her.

“Macron can only really lead Europe if he is in full cooperation with Germany,” said Simon Tilford, deputy director of the Centre for European Reform. “France needs an engaged, cooperative Germany.” A divided, inward-looking Germany hobbles Macron’s ambitious hopes of revitalizing the European Union and its shared currency through things like a banking union and harmonizing taxes. These ideas were always a hard sell in Germany, and Merkel is now too weakened to push them through.

The mood was somber in Macron’s office the morning after Merkel’s failure to form a coalition Sunday night. France wants “its principal partner to be stable and strong,” a presidential official said. But Macron isn’t giving up, and instead sees Merkel’s difficulties as “reinforcing” the need for France to take initiatives to strengthen the EU, the official said.

In a Europe looking for direction, many see Macron as a much-needed captain. He’s energetic, telegenic and forward-looking. He has a big head and big ideas, and doesn’t apologize or flinch when critics target his “Jupiter-like” tendencies.

In just six months in power, he’s secured support for a more robust European defense operation and rules cracking down on cheap labor, and pushed multinationals to pay more taxes. At European summits, he commands attention, and other leaders seek audiences with him — rivals and supporters alike.

“Along with Merkel, they are the only two leaders of any real stature in Europe at present,” notably with Britain, Italy and Spain mired in other troubles, Tilford said. Macron also vaunts French grandeur — hosting Vladimir Putin in Versailles and inviting Trump to dine in the Eiffel Tower. And Macron’s administration has openly lobbied to leech financial activity away from London when Britain quits the EU.

Macron cried victory when the EU voted Monday to move the European Banking Authority from Britain to Paris. “It’s the recognition of France’s attractiveness and commitment to Europe,” he tweeted. It was based on luck as much as anything — Paris beat Dublin based on a paper draw from a bowl to break their tie. But it was a clear boost to Macron’s efforts to make Paris into a post-Brexit financial capital. It also fits his vision for a more simplified, concentrated EU, since Paris already hosts the European Securities and Markets Authority.

Foreign companies welcomed the move, even if it remains to be seen which European city — if any — is first in line to replace the City of London as the continent’s financial hub. Macron’s status as leader of a united Europe will depend heavily on whether France’s economic recovery picks up speed and joblessness goes down at last. He’s just beginning to dismantle labor laws that have long scared investors away — and is already angering much of the French electorate in the process.

But Macron’s success also depends heavily on Germany. In recent years, “the German engine was spinning at full speed while the French engine was practically at a halt. Now, there is uncertainty about the German engine just at the moment when the French engine is ignited again with President Macron,” European Parliament member Alain Lamassoure said on Europe-1 radio.

“It is in all of Europe’s interest that Germany comes out of this political crisis as soon as possible.”

Global climate talks begin in Germany with Fiji at the helm

November 06, 2017

BONN, Germany (AP) — Diplomats and activists have gathered in Germany for two-week talks on implementing the Paris agreement to fight climate change. Environmental groups staged protests in the western city of Bonn and at a nearby coal mine ahead of the meeting to highlight Germany’s continued use of heavily polluting fossil fuels.

The 23rd conference of the parties, or COP23, will be opened Monday by Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe ‘Frank’ Bainimarama. The Pacific island nation is already suffering the impacts of global warming. Negotiators will focus on thrashing out some of the technical details of the 2015 Paris accord, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

While President Donald Trump has expressed skepticism, a recent U.S. government report concluded there’s strong evidence that man-made climate change is taking place.

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