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Posts tagged ‘United Land of Germany’

Berlin’s polar bear cub growing fast, public debut soon

February 26, 2019

BERLIN (AP) — Berlin’s Tierpark zoo says its polar bear cub is almost ready to be introduced to visitors. The zoo on Tuesday released new photos of the as-yet-unnamed female cub and her mother, Tonja. The bear was born Dec. 1 and weighed 8.5 kilograms (18.7 pounds) by the time of her first medical checkup nearly two weeks ago.

Zoo director Andreas Knieriem says that keepers are very satisfied with the cub’s development and Tonja is a good mother. Mother and daughter will probably make their first appearance in the bears’ outside enclosure — and see visitors for the first time — in mid-March.

The Tierpark has the same management as Berlin’s other zoo, which was home a decade ago to celebrity polar bear Knut.


German ruling parties grapple with labor reforms, migration

February 11, 2019

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s governing parties sought Monday to put behind them long-running internal divisions on labor reforms and migration policy, but the results could deepen tensions in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition.

Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union leads an uneasy “grand coalition” of what were traditionally Germany’s biggest parties with the center-left Social Democrats, who are trying to reverse a slump in poll ratings ahead of this year’s European Parliament election.

The Social Democrats’ leadership Sunday endorsed a package of proposals aimed at revamping divisive labor market reforms the party launched 16 years ago, as well as calling for a hefty rise in Germany’s minimum wage and a right to work at home. The reforms and benefit cuts introduced under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder have been credited with strengthening the economy but alienated many of the party’s voters.

Party leader Andrea Nahles declared that the Social Democrats “are leaving behind us” an unpopular system of limited and conditional long-term unemployment benefits introduced under Schroeder. There is little chance of making the proposals reality in the coalition that the Social Democrats reluctantly entered last year. A deputy CDU leader, Volker Bouffier, charged that they “plan the burial of the social market economy.”

The Social Democrats appear to hope that a flurry of left-leaning proposals that also has included a call for boosting low earners’ pensions could help them avoid a disastrous showing in the European election in May. There has been widespread speculation that a poor performance, or an already-agreed midterm review of the coalition agreement this fall, could prompt the party to leave the government.

“We want to govern, but we want to govern with ideas that are in tune with the times,” the Social Democrats’ general secretary, Lars Klingbeil, said on ZDF television. Separately, the CDU was holding a “workshop” Monday to address migration policy, a hot-button issue inside the party since Merkel allowed in large numbers of migrants in 2015 — annoying conservatives and helping boost the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

New party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer convened the meeting after succeeding Merkel in December, in an effort to prevent the issue becoming the kind of running sore that labor and benefits have been for the Social Democrats. Merkel herself was not participating.

Germany, France renew friendship treaty, warn of nationalism

January 22, 2019

AACHEN, Germany (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Tuesday against rising nationalism in Europe and called for a revival of cross-border cooperation as she and her French counterpart signed a pact renewing their countries’ decades-long friendship.

The new accord was inked in the ancient western German city of Aachen exactly 56 years after the 1963 Elysee Treaty, which set the tone for the two countries’ close relationship following centuries of conflict that ended with World War II.

“Populism and nationalism are strengthening in all of our countries,” Merkel told French, German and European officials gathered in Aachen’s town hall. Citing Britain’s departure from the European Union and the growing protectionist tendencies around the world, Merkel noted that international cooperation is going through a rocky time.

“Seventy-four years, a single human lifetime after the end of World War II, what seems self-evident is being called into question again,” she said. “That’s why, first of all, there needs to be a new commitment toward our responsibility within the European Union, a responsibility held by Germany and France.”

Her words were echoed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who noted that France and Germany no longer pose a threat to each other. “(The threat) comes from outside Europe and from within our societies if we are not able to respond to the growing anger,” he said.

Outside the Gothic town hall, protesters staged noisy rallies — some in support of the treaty, others against. Among those opposed were dozens of people wearing yellow safety vests, which have become the signature outfit of anti-government protesters in France.

The Treaty of Aachen aims to boost cross-border cooperation along the 450-kilometer (290-mile) Franco-German frontier, and also improve coordination between the two nations when it comes to tackling international problems such as climate change and terrorism.

One long-standing bone of contention has been the issue of military action outside Europe. Berlin’s traditional hesitancy to send troops abroad — rooted in Germany’s grim history of militarism — has softened somewhat in recent years.

Merkel said that with the new pact, the two countries pledge to develop “a joint military culture” that includes a Franco-German arms industry and a common stance on weapons exports. “By doing so we want to contribute to the creation of a European army,” she said, noting that this would go hand-in-hand with greater foreign policy coordination in general.

Germany and France are often described as the engine of the European Union — to the occasional annoyance of other members, who feel sidelined by the cozy relationship between Paris and Berlin. The point was made by EU Council President Donald Tusk, Poland’s former prime minister, who told Merkel and Macron bluntly that “Europe needs a clear signal from Paris and Berlin that enhanced cooperation in smaller formats is not an alternative to the cooperation of Europe as a whole. That it is full integration — and not instead of — integration of Europe.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said some countries might feel the constant show of amity between France and Germany was “a bit much.” “But it will be very painful as soon as Germany and France are not of one and the same opinion,” he said. “So you should stick to this policy because that means that we others can also forge a position together.”

Jordans reported from Berlin. Raf Casert in Brussels and Sylvie Corbet in Paris also contributed to this report.

Merkel’s Bavarian allies elect new head, ushering in new era

January 19, 2019

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies elected a new leader Saturday, a change that offers Germany’s center-right a chance to move past their persistent bickering over recent years. The 52-year-old Markus Soeder was elected unopposed in Munich with more than 87 percent of the votes to lead the Christian Social Union. The CSU is the Bavaria-only sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, an independent-minded and sometimes-awkward ally despite the fact that they have a joint group in Germany’s national parliament.

Soeder replaces 69-year-old Horst Seehofer, the CSU leader for the past decade and the most prominent domestic opponent of Merkel’s welcoming approach to refugees in 2015. The friction between Merkel and Seehofer threatened at one point to bring down the chancellor’s coalition government over Seehofer’s insistence that some asylum-seekers should be turned away at the country’s borders.

Soeder already succeeded Seehofer, now Germany’s interior minister, as Bavarian governor last year. With Seehofer now replaced as head of the CSU, Merkel’s Cabinet now has no governing party leaders as ministers, including from the junior coalition Social Democratic Party.

Last month, Merkel ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer took over leadership of the CDU. She and Soeder appear keen to improve relations between the two parties that have frayed at times. Soeder told delegates at the party congress where he was elected that it was “time for a new strength of the CDU and CSU together in Germany.”

“We must open a new chapter of cooperation,” he said. Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was invited to talk at the CSU congress, told delegates the two parties’ differences made them a more effective bloc. “I come from a family of with many siblings. And we are siblings, CDU and CSU, not identical twins,” she said. “We were never that. We are different, and that makes us stronger.”

Avalanche slams into German hotel; no injuries reported

January 14, 2019

BERLIN (AP) — Officials say a large avalanche has slammed into a hotel in southern Germany, damaging the building but causing no injuries. A spokeswoman for Oberallgaeu regional authorities said the hotel’s 100 guests were evacuated to other dwellings in the village of Balderschwang.

Brigitte Kloepf told The Associated Press that about 1,100 people are unable to leave Balderschwang, near the Austrian border, because of an avalanche risk on roads following days of intense snowfall.

Authorities in parts of Austria, Germany and Switzerland have warned that further snow and rainfall is raising the risk of avalanches, and increase the weight on snow-laden roofs. Dozens of people have died in avalanches or weather-related accidents across central Europe in recent days.

Germany’s top security official planned to visit affected areas Monday.

China, German promise closer financial cooperation

January 18, 2019

BEIJING (AP) — China and Germany promised Friday to open their markets wider to each other’s banks and insurers, giving Beijing a burst of positive trade news amid conflicts with Washington and Europe.

The two sides affirmed support for a global trading system that other governments worry is threatened by President Donald Trump’s “America first” policies. That followed a regular annual meeting between German’s finance minister and China’s economy czar.

The initiatives reflect Beijing’s determination to press ahead with changes aimed at making its state-dominated economy more productive and to reduce reliance on the U.S. market by building commercial ties with other countries.

China has tried without success to recruit Germany as an ally in its tariff war with Trump. Berlin expresses support for free trade but Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed her government is not taking sides.

Delegations led by German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and China’s economy czar, Vice Premier Liu He, signed agreements to cooperate more closely on financial regulation. They included no details or commercial commitments, but Liu said Beijing welcomes “more qualified German banks to participate in the opening and innovation of China’s financial market.”

The two governments support their institutions doing “cross-border business in banking, securities, insurance and other fields,” the vice premier said. Beijing has promised repeatedly to carry out long-delayed commitments made when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 to open its banking, insurance and securities markets. The government promised in 2017 to allow full foreign ownership of banks and insurers for the first time but business groups say they need to see details of regulations to know whether those opportunities are worth pursuing.

Chinese regulators have suspended issuing licenses to American companies in finance due to the tariff hikes imposed Trump in the fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions. Beijing also faces pressure over technology from the European Union. The 28-nation trade bloc filed a challenge in the WTO in June to Chinese rules it says hamper foreign companies in protecting and profiting from their own technology.

Friday’s talks were “also about advancing multilateral cooperation,” Scholz said before the event began. He cited Chinese-German cooperation in the Group of 20 major economies and on Africa, taxation and other issues.

“We want to make further progress,” he said.

Germany: Local leader of far-right party attacked, wounded

January 08, 2019

BERLIN (AP) — 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.

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