By The Associated Press - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - 0 Comments
BERLIN – The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reports that a man caught last…
BERLIN – The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reports that a man caught last month trying to enter Germany with a cheque worth about $70 million was Iran’s former central bank chief.
The weekly reports that customs officials at Duesseldorf airport found the cheque in Tahmasb Mazaheri’s luggage Jan. 21 upon his arrival from Turkey.
German customs had issued a statement Friday saying a cheque for 300 million Venezuelan Bolivars issued by the Bank of Venezuela was found on an unnamed 59-year-old man.
Neither customs officials nor Iran’s embassy could be reached for comment late Saturday.
Mazaheri was the governor of the Central Bank of Iran until 2008.
Bild am Sonntag reported in its Sunday edition that German police and customs are investigating possible money laundering.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Rescuing Germany’s history, one toothbrush at a time
Justinian Jampol created a museum because he had a storage problem.
A decade ago, the young Californian was a graduate student at the University of Oxford, researching visual culture from the Cold War Communist bloc. He worked his way through archives in Berlin and Moscow, but found that the material in them was limited.
“You realize two things,” says Jampol, speaking of the archival material. “They’re the voice of authority, and they’re paper.”
Museums had other flaws. “They’re there to tell you a particular story. There’s a beginning, a middle, an end, and a gift shop. You can’t really engage with it.” Continue…
By The Associated Press - Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 8:11 AM - 0 Comments
BERLIN – Chancellor Angela Merkel is highlighting Germany’s economic strength and dismissing worries that…
BERLIN – Chancellor Angela Merkel is highlighting Germany’s economic strength and dismissing worries that her party could be dragged down by its struggling coalition partner as she kicks off campaigning for an important state election.
Merkel’s centre-right coalition faces a tough battle to extend its 10-year hold on Lower Saxony state in the Jan. 20 election. Polls suggest the centre-left opposition has a good chance of winning — giving it a significant boost ahead of September national elections in which Merkel will seek a third term.
Merkel, speaking Saturday after her conservative Christian Democrats’ leadership met in Lower Saxony, criticized opposition plans for tax increases.
Merkel’s party leads polls in Lower Saxony and nationally but its junior partner, the pro-market Free Democratic Party, is very weak.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 31, 2012 at 8:26 AM - 0 Comments
BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the state must watch over the market…
BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the state must watch over the market to prevent the excesses that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
Merkel used her New Year’s speech broadcast Monday to warn that the lessons of the market collapse five years ago haven’t been fully learned yet.
The German chancellor says greater international efforts are needed to control financial markets and prevent the “irresponsibility” that began when the U.S. subprime mortgage bubble burst.
Merkel warned that reforms agreed to by governments to end the subsequent European sovereign debt crisis would require patience.
Europe’s economic turmoil “isn’t overcome by a long stretch,” she said.
By The Canadian Press - Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:27 AM - 0 Comments
BERLIN – German lawmakers are sending legislation on possible copyright restrictions on Internet search…
BERLIN – German lawmakers are sending legislation on possible copyright restrictions on Internet search engines, commonly called the “Google Tax,” to an expert committee for further review.
The levy, being pushed by publishers, would require search engines to pay each time they link to media content like newspaper articles or photographs.
After a debate that began close to midnight, Parliament said Friday the matter was passed on to its legal committee. There was no immediate word on when the committee may issue recommendations.
Google on Tuesday launched a campaign dubbed “Defend Your Web” aimed at drumming up support to defeat the measure.
In a short online video, Google warns “for more than 10 years you’ve been able to find what you are looking for.” A planned law, it says, “would change that.”
By Erica Alini - Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 2:57 PM - 0 Commentsof Photos
By Alan Parker - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 1:54 PM - 0 Comments
A new, controversial book argues it should.
BAD KREUZNACH, GERMANY — It’s a unique region of the country—home to a people with a separate and distinct historical, linguistic, social and political culture that often puts it at odds with the rest of the country.
The region occupies about 20 per cent of the whole country. The people—about 12.5 million of them—are a minority overall but form a regional majority and consider themselves masters in their own house.
They have their own pop stars, media celebrities and a thriving film and television industry. But if other citizens of the same country want to watch their movies, subtitles are often necessary.
It’s a region that has its own political agenda—one that is often in conflict with the larger national agenda—and a strong, persistent body of opinion that believes the region and its people would fare better as a separate, independent nation.
It’s not Quebec (but you knew that already, didn’t you?), not even Scotland.
It’s Bavaria—Bayern, as Bavaria is called in Germany (or Deutschland, as Germany is called in Deutschland).
The Bavarian separatist movement is small compared to the Quebec sovereignty movement, but it’s real and the issues it espouses touch raw nerves of both Bavarians and non-Bavarian Germans.
Those nerves have been pressed in recent weeks by the publication of a best-selling (in Germany) book calling for the independence of Bavaria from the double yoke of bondage to both the federal German government in Berlin and the larger European Union headquartered in Brussels.
Bayern kann es auch allein (roughly translated as Bavaria Can Also Go It Alone), is a 191-page polemic covering a range of standard Bavarian complaints about the present German (and European) political order and a paen to the benefits and glories that await an unfettered Free State of Bavaria.
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 1:45 PM - 0 Comments
Volkswagen is on track to become the world’s biggest automaker by volume
It took a decade for Germany to emerge as Europe’s most important economy—one on which the very future of the monetary union depends—so it’s only fitting that it’s now also home to the world’s most ambitious car company: Volkswagen AG.
The maker of such iconic rides as the Beetle is on track to become the world’s biggest carmaker by volume, helped by Toyota’s recent struggles and General Motors’ new focus on profitability over market share. Last week, it took another step toward cementing its status as an industry titan by buying the half of fellow German carmaker Porsche that it doesn’t already own for US$5.59 billion. The addition of Porsche gives VW an impressive roster of high-end vehicles—ranging from Audi and Bentley to Bugatti and Lamborghini—to sell alongside more mainstream VW models. It’s no longer just the “people’s car.”
By Paul Wells - Friday, June 22, 2012 at 5:38 PM - 0 Comments
A transcript of an email exchange between two guys who sit eight feet apart in our Ottawa bureau.
Paul Wells: John, I see it’s going badly between Angela Merkel and François Hollande. He’s Mr. Growth, she’s Ms. Austerity. Each has repeatedly endorsed the other’s political opponents. And this roundup in Le Figaro shows that both at a human level and a policy level, Europe’s most important relationship is in trouble.
Hollande’s determination to follow through on some of his more exuberant election promises is amazing to the Germans, who don’t just want spending restraint, they want the kind of structural labour-market reforms they went through in a decade ago. So when Hollande lowered France’s retirement age to 60 for some workers, “we were floored,” a senior German official tells Le Figaro. “We don’t understand Hollande’s determination to join the PIGS (the crisis-racked southern club of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain).” I’m also enjoying the German headlines. Süddeutsche Zeitung: “François, Nightmare of Business.” Financial Times Deutschland: “Mr. President, Break Your Promises!”
So the Germans may be irritated with Canada, but they’re furious at France. What do you make of it all?
John Geddes: As a hopelessly parochial Canadian, my initial reaction is that I’m glad the Germans don’t have time to dwell on their quite understandable irritation with us. At a deeper level, the Merkel-Hollande, austerity-vs.-growth tension makes me think of debate that’s played out here in recent times.
We learned that you need both. I’ve argued before that the key to Canadian deficit-eliminating success in the 1995-1999 period was tax-generating growth; but the Liberal formula included real restraint, too. It would be more rhetorically satisfying to argue for one over the other, but you need both when a serious debt crunch looms.
The problem is that concocting a policy blend that includes short-term pain with medium-term gain is going to be far harder in Europe circa 2012 than it was in Canada circa 1995. As Royal Dutch Shell CEO Peter Voser, no less, told Maclean’s recently, there’ s no quick solution to be had.
And, by the way, on Hollande’s lowering of the retirement age, isn’t it fascinating the Finance Minister Jim Flaherty managed to nudge up the eligibility age for Old Age Security to 67 from 65, albeit not until 2023, has gone over pretty smoothly. You can do things in this country without filling the streets with protestors. Well, sometimes.
Paul Wells: Indeed it should be possible to reconcile growth with the kind of structural reform that can keep these countries fiscally sustainable. The Europeans are getting no end of advice on this front. Robert Zoellick and Stephen Harper are saying a lot of the same things, and the leader they sound the most like is Merkel. But she won’t get far without a France-sized ally, and as long as Hollande is busy replaying the worst of early François Mitterrand, they’ve got trouble.
But enough about Europe. Why is Jim Flaherty suddenly containing the ardours of the Toronto condo market? Since we work at Maclean’s, I’ve always felt a little proprietary about housing-bubble speculation and I hope Flaherty hasn’t managed to ruin our fun.
John Geddes: It’s hard to remember now that back in 2006 Flaherty was all for blowing bubbles, or at least for making it easier to get mortgages for very long terms. But after
introducing 40-year mortgages[very sloppy of me to phrase it like that; I've added an update at the bottom for more detail] opening the Canadian market wider to private mortgage insurers, he’s spent the six years tightening, tightening, tightening.
This week, he reduced the maximum mortgage amortization to 25 years. And that’s after he said in April that he wanted to avoid tightening the rules for the fourth time (since he first loosened them), hoping for “the market itself to correct to the extent correction is necessary.”
Apparently the market didn’t do its job. (The market can be lazy that way.) Hence Flaherty’s move to discourage marginal house hunters won’t buy unless they can really spread those payments out. Yet this powerful fear of an overstimulated housing market—especially the Toronto and Vancouver housing markets—comes against the backdrop of an economy that shows no sign of revving up, and is considered vulnerable to the interminable threat of a “shock” from Europe.
Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney recently issued this warning (and woe betide us if we fail to pay heed to this giant who strides among us): ”Given the reality of global finance, it’s not enough to have our house in order unless we seal ourselves off from the world,” he said. “And, of course, if we seal ourselves off from the world, we would end up much poorer.”
So the policy trick is to cool an overheated housing market without choking our economy just as it might be hit hard by a European setback. That’s no easy matter. It’s why the spring budget looked so delicately—some might say awkwardly—balanced between austerity and let’s-not-go-overboard-with-the-austerity-here.
Note that Carney stresses the need not to view our problems in isolation, which brings us back to the dance of Merkel and Hollande. It would be silly to suggest Canada can do anything decisive to aid the EU. But shouldn’t we be doing something? The only something in play was the International Monetary Fund’s plan to bulk up its resources to help shore up EU economies, and Harper refused to contribute.
Maybe that’s justifiable: not our problem, fix it yourself. The other viewpoint (argued well here) is that anteing up to the IMF would have been a rather low-cost way to ensure our traditional Canadian place at the table. Why have the likes of Carney hanging around Basel, Switzerland, if our national policy doesn’t lend him as much clout and credibility as possible?
Paul Wells: For what it’s worth, I think there’s a strong case for keeping Canadian money (even loaned, even if from foreign-currency reserves and not from general revenues) out of a European solution, and it’s the case Bob Zoellick makes in the piece I linked to above. Europe needs reform; reform is hard; and constant lifelines don’t concentrate the minds of national European leaders who would prefer not to concentrate. The nativist “Don’t bail out rich European socialist” rhetoric the Conservatives are peddling doesn’t help, but just because they are oafish in selling their policy doesn’t mean it’s bankrupt policy.
I do wish Harper would simply explain his viewpoint to some actual Europeans. I continue to wonder why this prime minister, who was briefly so eager to get on U.S. television when the Fox-obsessed Kory Teneycke was his communications director, has not bothered to write an op-ed for the Financial Times or some German tabloid now that the fate of Europe is the biggest cloud on Canada’s horizon. But that’s the columnist in me talking, not the realist. The realist says it’s the weekend and we should enjoy it. Have a good one.
John Geddes: Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s office rightly points out by email that he did not introduce 40-year mortgages, as I originally and incorrectly phrased it in my exchange with Paul. The 40-year amortization was introduced to the Canadian market by a private mortgage insurer in the fall of 2006. That was my mistake, for which I’m sorry; I’ve corrected it in the text above.
What Flaherty did do in his first budget, back in the spring of 2006, was double the amount available, to $200 billion from $100 billion, as a government guarantee for private companies that insure mortgage loans. That move was plainly intended to pave the way for a big expansion of private mortgage insurance in Canada, and unequivocally signalled the government’s aim of stimulating the housing market.
Flaherty’s undisguised hope at the time was that private insurers would make it easier for would-be home owners to buy. Here’s how his May 2, 2006 budget explained the purpose of encouraging more private insurers to join the Canadian residential real estate game: “These changes will result in greater choice and innovation in the market for mortgage insurance, benefiting consumers and promoting home ownership.”
By way of innovation, private insurers introduced 35-year- and 40-year amortizations in the spring of 2006, even before the budget was tabled. The federal Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., in step with the government’s policy bent, also began backing 30-year and then 35-year amortizations that spring. In that email note to me today, Flaherty’s office says there was no reason at the time to worry about any of this. “In 2006,” the minister’s officials write, “risks relating to mortgage markets were not top of mind.”
Evidently such risks were not top of mind around Flaherty’s office. However, the danger inherent in those spring 2006 “innovations” in the Canadian mortgage insurance business certainly worried David Dodge, the Bank of Canada governor of the day, and arguably the most respected voice in Ottawa on economic issues.
Canadian Press broke the story of Dodge’s urgently worded, promptly written June 30, 2006, letter to the head of CMHC. ”I read with interest and dismay your press release of June 28 which indicated that CMHC would offer mortgage insurance for interest-only loans and for amortizations of up to 35 years,” Dodge wrote.”Particularly disturbing to me is the rationale you gave that ‘these innovative solutions will allow more Canadians to buy homes and to do so sooner.’”
Beyond Dodge’s remarkable blunt and prescient intervention, the recollection of Flaherty’s staff regarding the worry-free atmosphere regarding mortgage risks in 2006 seems to me a bit off. Just to cite just a couple of mainstream examples from the same month as Flaherty’s first budget, BMO economist Douglas Porter warned of worrisome “bubble-like activity” in Canadian real estate, and, down in the U.S., Fortune reported: “The great housing bubble has finally started to deflate.”
By Michael Petrou - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
Greece’s second attempt this year to form a government in the midst of a rapid and escalating financial crisis seems a little more likely to succeed than its first, only a month ago.
In May, legislative elections shook up the Greek parliament, pummeling PASOK, the left-leaning party that many Greeks blamed for accepting severe austerity measures as part of the 2010 bailout package with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
PASOK, together with the conservative New Democracy party, which also supported the bailout deal, earned less than one third of the vote in May. They lost ground to SYRIZA, a party originally founded as a coalition of radical leftist parties. SYRIZA, crucially, opposed the bailout package, and its success brought worries that Greece would reject austerity and leave the euro — possibly triggering the eventual collapse of the entire eurozone.
But none of the leading three parties was able to form a government, and so here we are again. Last weekend’s elections again failed to give any party a majority. But they did reshuffle power. New Democracy surged to 30 per cent of the popular vote. Leader Antonis Samaras says he will seek changes to the bailout deal. He’s not proposing scrapping it. PASOK continued its decline, but combined the two traditionally powerful parties will likely be able to form a government. Alexis Tsipras, leader of SYRIZA, has ruled out joining a coalition – opting instead, as he put it, for strong and responsible opposition. This is the right choice. His party has firmly opposed bailout conditions. Comprising for power would stain its integrity, and would besides leave more radical and less responsible parties to fight that corner.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 8, 2012 at 2:41 PM - 0 Comments
Before QP yesterday, the Conservatives used four members’ statements—from Shelly Glover, Randy Hoback, Bernard Trottier and Pierre Poilievre—to lament that Thomas Mulcair would prefer to bail out the “sumptuous European welfare state countries and the wealthy bankers that lend to them”—a “reckless” plan that would apparently “kill jobs and put a huge burden on the economy here at home.” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty then criticized Mr. Mulcair during QP, in response to questions from the NDP leader, and after QP, in a scrum with reporters. Today, another members’ statement—Mr. Poilievre, again—was dedicated to bemoaning it all.
All of this seems to have been inspired by the leader of the opposition’s questions in the House on Wednesday. Mr. Mulcair noted that the Prime Minister had, in an interview with the CBC, expressed concern about the global impacts of the European economic situation, but that, in April, Mr. Flaherty had refused to go along with other G20 countries in contributing to an IMF initiative to backstop Europe. The following is the closest Mr. Mulcair comes to endorsing a Canadian contribution to the IMF’s fund.
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister pretends to be concerned now, but two months ago in Washington the Conservatives were singing a different tune. At the G20 meeting in April the Minister of Finance led the effort to block an international plan to resolve the European economic crisis. He told European countries “to step up to the plate” and fix the problem on their own, as if our fate were not intimately connected to theirs, and he gets applause for that from the peanut gallery. When will the Conservatives stop lecturing European countries and put forward a real plan to protect and create jobs here in Canada?
Of the developed economies, only Canada and the United States are declining to participate. Mr. Flaherty’s concerns are, at least partially, related to the IMF’s governance structure. Germany has publicly registered its concerns with Canada’s reluctance.
By Jonathan Gatehouse with files from Anthony A. Davis - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 11:46 AM - 0 Comments
His life of radical activism lands him in a familiar spot: a European jail cell
The last time Paul Watson was in a European jail, he emerged as a global environmental hero. It was 1997, and the Canadian founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was being held in the Netherlands on a Norwegian government warrant. A court in Oslo had convicted him in absentia and sentenced him to 120 days for sinking a ship in an anti-whaling protest three years before. During the months of legal wrangling over his extradition, the mop-topped vegan conducted countless interviews from a prison pay phone. Celebrities like Pierce Brosnan and Jane Seymour campaigned for his release, while supporters protested outside Dutch embassies around the world. And by the time the court finally ruled in his favour, he had signed up several guards as new members. “Dutch prisons are probably the most civilized you’re going to find anywhere in the world,” he proclaimed.
Which is all to say that the Germans—who arrested Watson at Frankfurt Airport this week, on decade-old charges for a run-in with a Costa Rican shark-fishing vessel, and are now moving ahead with efforts to extradite him to Central America—best tread carefully. The available evidence suggests the “interference with a ship” consisted of a minor collision with no apparent injuries (even if the Costa Ricans are suggesting they might upgrade the indictment to attempted murder). And people who try to bring the world’s most notorious environmental swashbuckler to justice have a way of finding themselves on trial.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 3:12 PM - 0 Comments
A new book illuminates a dying generation’s ongoing reluctance to admit guilt for its support of Nazism
In 2005, Moritz Pfeiffer, a young German history student, interviewed his grandfather about his role in the Second World War. Then he fact-checked what his grandfather told him. What was intended to be an exercise in scholarship and family history unearthed a series of evasions and half-truths. The results are in a new book, My Grandfather in the War, 1939-1945, which illuminates a dying generation’s ongoing reluctance to admit guilt for its support of Nazism and for the genocidal crimes committed in its name.
“At first I was just the history-studying grandson interested in questioning his grandparents about their wartime experiences,” says Pfeiffer, now a historian at an SS museum at Wewelsburg Castle in Germany. “I noticed some contradictions in their stories and a gap between their portrayal of that time and what I had learned in university. So I decided to check the facts.” It turns out their enthusiasm for Hitler and the Nazi regime was “very much bigger,” he says, “than they admitted decades later.”
Pfeiffer’s book is the latest contribution to a debate that has at times raged in Germany over how much responsibility ordinary Germans had for Nazi crimes. Immediately after the Second World War, some West German historians argued that a relatively small number of ideologues foisted Nazism on the rest of the population. This historiographical perspective has changed in recent decades. But according to Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, the reluctance of Germany’s wartime generation to acknowledge its support for Nazism persists.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Repeating that war settles nothing, Mr. Woodsworth declared: “I rejoice that it is possible to say these things in a Canadian Parliament under British institutions. It would not be possible in Germany, I recognize that … and I want to maintain the very essence of our British institutions of real liberty. I believe that the only way to do it is by an appeal to the moral forces which are still resident among our people, and not by another resort to brute force.”
… In the end, addressing his own historic motion for war, the prime minister said: “There are few men in this Parliament for whom I have greater respect than the leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. I admire him in my heart, because time and again he has had the courage to say what lays on his conscience, regardless of what the world might think of him. A man of that calibre is an ornament to any Parliament.”
By Gabriela Perdomo - Friday, April 27, 2012 at 3:13 PM - 0 Comments
Last week, we wondered whether Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German officials were too stubborn to notice that their push for austerity is choking Europe’s economy. There’s a chance they aren’t.
On Wednesday, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi called for a European “growth compact,” acknowledging that fiscal austerity is “starting to reverberate its contractionary effects.” Merkel agreed with Draghi, though she immediately specified what type of growth she would–or rather wouldn’t–like to see:
By Gabriela Perdomo - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 1:03 PM - 0 Comments
German leaders are looking increasingly like loners in their insistence that austerity is the sole cure for the eurozone’s ailing economies. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bundesbank Governor Jens Weidmann continue to maintain that the only way for Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal to fix their finances and calm investors’ nerves is higher taxes and spending cuts. But scores of prominent economists have been arguing that too much of that medicine risks killing the patient. Their warnings are becoming more and more dire.
“(…) the recession [in Europe] will worsen throughout this year, for many reasons.
First, front-loaded fiscal austerity—however necessary—is accelerating the contraction, as higher taxes and lower government spending and transfer payments reduce disposable income and aggregate demand. Moreover, as the recession deepens, resulting in even wider fiscal deficits, another round of austerity will be needed. And now, thanks to the fiscal compact, even the eurozone’s core will be forced into front-loaded recessionary austerity.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 2:54 PM - 0 Comments
In this week’s print edition, I write about Brad Trost, Stephen Woodworth, abortion and the Prime Minister. For that I sat down with Mr. Trost a couple weeks ago in his office. Here is a slightly abridged transcript of that conversation.
Q: I wanted to start with Mr. Woodworth today. What did you make of that?
A: Everyone, I think, in Ottawa, knows I’m a pro-life Member of Parliament. I don’t see how scientifically there’s any question about when human life begins. And politically I don’t understand why Canada is the only democracy that really has no legislation whatsoever. I mean, let’s face it, we’re more socially conservative than France and France has abortion legislation after 14 weeks. Sweden does, we’re more socially conservative than Sweden. I don’t get where the disconnect is on this one. People can agree to disagree. My board of directors, Conservatives in Saskatoon-Humboldt, they’re all over the board on this. By and large they’re mostly like-mind because my riding has a huge devout Catholic proportion. It’s like 42% Roman Catholic, and not like Quebec, they’re a fairly observant lot. So that’s reflected in the nature of my constituency and my voters, but my board of directors includes a couple pro-choice people and they respect and some of them tell me I’m doing a great job on a whole range of issues. So I think we can have a good dialogue on this and it wouldn’t be what I’d like, but I still can’t figure out why Canada can’t have some legislation like Sweden or France or Germany has. This puzzles me.
By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Ironically, a weaker euro is making Germany even stronger, accentuating Europe’s imbalances
Though it’s better known for its caviar service in first class and its swank lounges at Frankfurt International Airport, much of the excitement at Lufthansa last year took place at its comparatively drab cargo operations. The carrier’s hulking MD-11 freighters hauled 18 per cent more tonnes of time-sensitive goods—ranging from German-made luxury car parts to pricey chemicals—in 2011 than the year before, when a previous record was set. Even more impressive is the destination for many of those planes: “China remains the core market for air-freight transportation out of Germany with growth at 26 per cent,” says Florian Pfaff, a manager for Lufthansa Cargo.
Apparently, not everyone is losing jobs to Guangdong province.
Despite the deepening eurozone crisis, Germany is booming. While Ottawa might like to brag about its performance through the Great Recession, the real miracle story belongs to Germany, and its manufacturing and export-driven economy. The country of 82 million has enjoyed GDP growth of three per cent or better for the past two years, while exports topped $1.3 trillion for the first time ever in 2011. Unemployment, meanwhile, is sitting at a 20-year low of 6.7 per cent, compared to Canada’s 7.6 per cent. And although it experienced a run on its banks in 2008, Germany has no housing bubble, boasts a high personal savings rate and slays deficits with near-religious zeal.
By Gabriela Perdomo - Friday, February 17, 2012 at 10:54 AM - 0 Comments
German President Christian Wulff stepped down from his post today, after a court stripped…
German President Christian Wulff stepped down from his post today, after a court stripped him of his immunity from being investigated for corruption.
Wulff is a member of the governing centre-right Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Yesterday, a court asked the German legislature to remove the president’s immunity from prosecution after it found “sufficient evidence” of wrongdoing, as reported by the BBC. Wulff is accused of traffic of influence, suspected of having accepted a controversial loan from the wife of a wealthy man to buy his home while he was serving as premier of Lower Saxony.
The presidential figure in Germany is mostly ceremonial. The president is not elected by popular vote, but by a “Federal Convention” (Deutsche Welle describes that here). But this is inevitably seen as a blow to Chancellor Merkel, who supported Wulff’s election two years ago and has defended him during the scandal.
Merkel can’t afford any distractions now. Her popularity has been sagging and she is facing unrest. She is juggling her job as Germany’s head of state with the more complex role of trying to save the European Union from collapse amidst the worst economic crisis of its history.
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 5:00 PM - 0 Comments
A militant group of hunters has set out to exterminate the ‘feathered vermin’
After enduring years of springtime attacks by crows on pedestrians walking city streets, Germans could be forgiven for wishing a nasty end to a few of the birds. But revelations about a militant group of “crowbusters” determined to exterminate the “feathered vermin” has sparked alarm even from fellow hunters.
Going by online names such as Demonicus and Harras, the anonymous group of crow killers uses semi-automatic weapons to decimate entire murders of crows with maximum efficiency, according to Der Spiegel. They think nothing of driving 1,500 km to a hunt. Last year at least 330 birds were shot in one hunt that was broadcast online. Another 300 died in Bavaria after local farmers helped lure the birds into the hunters’ kill zone by spreading manure on their fields. Still, the crowbusters’ single-minded fervour caused a hunting club in the Westerwalk mountains to ban the group from their region.
Regardless of concerns about the hunters’ zealousness, Germans just aren’t fond of crows, especially when they go on the offence during nesting season. In 2010, so many Berlin residents were assaulted that one bloodied area posted warning signs.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 12:35 PM - 0 Comments
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation wants the Defence Minister to explain his choice of accommodations in Europe.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay charged taxpayers $2,904 for a two-night stay at the luxurious Bayerischer Hof when he went to a security conference in Munich, Germany in February of 2010. MacKay arrived in Munich after attending an informal meeting of NATO defence ministers in Turkey, where he billed taxpayers $2,310 for a three-night stay at Istanbul’s Ceylon Intercontinental Hotel. At $1,452 and $770 a night respectively, these room tabs go far beyond what most taxpayers would consider reasonable.
In Munich, MacKay’s staff stayed at the Munich Park Hilton, an eight-minute cab ride away, for $239 a night. In Istanbul, MacKay’s staff stayed in the same hotel, but paid $276 per night.
By the editors - Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
It’s hard to argue anyone else can save the Old Continent
Among the many desperate calls for help during the current European crisis, that of Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski stands out for its sheer lack of precedent. “I may be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity,” Sikorsky said last week in Berlin to his hosts. “You have become Europe’s indispensible nation . . . nobody else can do it.” Only Germany can save Europe now.
It’s hard to argue against Sikorksi’s logic, at least in the short run. Ireland and Portugal have been bailed out at great expense. Investors were forced to take a massive loss on Greek bonds. Now even major European states such as Italy and Spain are teetering on the edge of insolvency. If these governments lose the ability to continue borrowing, the entire continent could be plunged into complete economic collapse, with grim implications for the rest of the world, including Canada.
Throughout this two-year-long crisis, only Germany has retained the financial and moral clout sufficient to save the day, thanks to its low unemployment rate, reasonable debt levels and robust financial sector. (France, for all its bluster, remains a necessary but junior partner in this project.) After decades of backstopping the European experiment by buying bonds and, more recently, providing the bulk of the recent bailout packages, Germany has begun to exert a new sense of authority. In particular, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been demanding strict new rules over spending in individual countries as the price for continued German intervention.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 25 Comments
The Environment Minister spreads the good word.
Environment Minister Peter Kent repeated his sharp criticism of Kyoto at a high-level session of the Durban talks. “Kyoto, for Canada, is in the past,” Mr. Kent told a large audience of delegates and climate negotiators on Wednesday. “For Canada, the Kyoto Protocol is not where the solution lies,” he said. “It is an agreement that covers fewer than 30 per cent of global emissions.”
As he spoke, six Canadian activists stood up and silently protested by turning their backs on him, wearing T-shirts that said: “Turn your back on Canada.” Security guards quickly rushed over and escorted them away, leading them through a narrow corridor at the back of the room and then evicting them from the conference. But the protesters won louder applause than Mr. Kent, whose speech was greeted by a smattering of polite applause from delegates.
Earlier this week, Mr. Kent promised the Harper government wouldn’t withdraw from Kyoto during the Durban conference, but wouldn’t comment on what might happen after the talks. Officials from Brazil, Germany, India and South Africa are unimpressed.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 11:50 AM - 4 Comments
As details of a 10-year Neo-Nazi killing spree emerge, Germans are learning that racist ideology is more widespread than they thought
In 2004, following a bombing in the Mülheim district of Cologne, an area home to many ethnic Turks, Germany’s then-interior minister, Otto Schily, told Germans the attack was carried out by “not terrorists but the criminal underworld.”
There have been a lot of those sorts of assumptions going around Germany this past decade or two. People from ethnic minorities would turn up dead, shot in the head at close range, and it was assumed to be the work of organized criminals, probably foreigners. The press even had a snappy name for a murder spree of eight Turks and a Greek between 2000 and 2006: “the doner killings,” named after a Turkish meat kebab.
Police had few leads. In 2009, they said the victims may have been linked to international match fixing in soccer. A murder in Turkey was related, they said. Police sketches of suspected witnesses showed swarthy-looking men.
Erdogan blasts Germany’s Merkel for her government’s immigration policies
Turkey’s prime minister wasn’t in the mood to make nice. Hours before he would be flashing a thin smile at a photo op with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last Wednesday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan dropped by the offices of Germany’s Bild newspaper to boldly criticize her in an interview. Erdogan blasted Merkel for her government’s immigration policies in a well-timed attack: the pair met at a ceremony marking 50 years since 650,000 Turkish “guest workers” arrived in Germany as part of a labour pact. Today, 2.5 million people in Germany have Turkish roots, though barely a third are citizens.
“German politicians do not give enough recognition to the integration” of these Turks, Erdogan told Bild, pointing to Germany’s resistance to dual citizenship, and saying it is failing to recognize Turks’ contributions. “The guest workers of yesterday are slowly becoming employers, academics, artists,” he said. This despite the fact that Turks, who make up the largest German minority, come last in measures of literacy, education and employment.
Erdogan also criticized Germany for giving only lukewarm support to Turkey’s bid to join the EU. With Turkey’s surging economy and Erdogan’s own growing influence, he can perhaps afford to ruffle a few feathers.