Thursday 21st of March 2019

a temporary wedding...

a temporary wedding...

With Chancellor Angela Merkel entering her fourth, and likely final, term in office, there has been much speculation as to who might succeed her as head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). There are plenty in the party who would like to see the CDU return to its conservative roots after years of steering toward the political center under Merkel's leadership. Merkel, though, wants to protect her legacy. As such, her nomination of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer for the position of CDU general secretary - a position to which she was officially elected on Monday - has led many pundits in Germany to conclude that Merkel has made her decision.

Kramp-Karrenbauer is the governor of the tiny western German state of Saarland and is widely thought to hold similar political views to the chancellor. There had been speculation that Merkel would name Kramp-Karrenbauer to her new cabinet, but instead, the 55-year-old will be in charge of revamping the party's aging platform.

DER SPIEGEL: Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer, Alexander Dobrindt of the Christian Social Union (CSU) says that a party's general secretary is like the synchronized swimming partner to the party leader. Will that be true of your relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel?

Kramp-Karrenbauer: If there is a sport that I'm not particularly fond of, then it is synchronized swimming. Of course, there has to be a joint basis for understanding between the general secretary and party leader. But the party also needs its own profile.


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when diesel is not a rock band...

The Nyegaard House on Hamburg's busy Max Brauer Boulevard was originally built as a place for destitute single women to live in peace and quiet, and aging matrons like Charlotte Lill still call it home. But these days, it's a far cry from quiet. "And clean air is a thing of the past," says the 70-year-old.

Each day, more than 20,000 vehicles thunder past the 117-year-old neo-Renaissance structure, with the boulevard considered to be one of the most polluted arterials in the city. It is only possible to open the windows at nighttime, says Lill, whose ground-floor apartment opens directly onto the four-lane thoroughfare. "We are emissions guinea pigs."

An air quality monitoring station within sight of the house provides the evidence: Emissions standards passed by the European Union in 2010 are regularly exceeded, essentially robbing residents of clean air to breathe. They have not, however, stayed quiet. Three years ago, 30 local residents launched a crusade against the city, demanding that traffic-calming measures be implemented and, ultimately, suing the city for inaction. In response, all they got were assurances that the city was looking into it or excuses that they didn't have enough staff to deal with the problem. "Nothing has happened," Lill says.

That could change on Thursday. The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig is set to consider whether vague plans to maintain clean air go far enough or whether problematic cities like Hamburg must ensure clean air as rapidly as possible, even if that means implementing driving bans. And there is plenty to indicate that the judges will prioritize health, just as lower courts in Düsseldorf and Stuttgart have done.


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training violates the nuclear non-proliferation...

US programs which train non-nuclear powers on how to use American tactical nuclear weapons violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.


READ MORE: Russia ‘threatens our ability to dominate’ – US general to Congress

Lavrov’s comments reiterate Russia’s critical stance regarding the US and its training of NATO allies. The US is training European states who do not possess nuclear arsenals of their own on how to use American nuclear weapons stationed there. Moscow considers it a breach of the NTP, the cornerstone of the current non-proliferation regime.

Lavrov criticized the US deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on European soil as well as the involvement of non-nuclear states in training programs, at a session of the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Wednesday.

“Everybody should understand that the US military are preparing the militaries of European states to use tactical nuclear weapons against Russia,” he stressed.

The US stores an estimated 200 of its B61 nuclear bombs in countries including Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey as part of NATO’s nuclear-sharing program. Russia considers the presence of American nuclear weapons in other nations as a hostile gesture. The US is currently upgrading the B61, making the weapon more flexible in use, claiming it is necessary to counter Russia’s arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons. Russia says its arsenal is necessary to protect it from NATO’s overwhelming superiority in terms of conventional arms.


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lurv or as they say in germany: Liebe...


After months of difficult talks between the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the alliance of the ruling party Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) led by incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany may finally get a coalition government.

According to the ZDF television, the majority of the SPD party members approved the establishment of a new coalition with the CDU/CSU alliance on Sunday.

The German broadcaster said that the result is obvious after nearly 80 percent of the voices of some 460,000 SPD members have been counted — the party started voting on February 20 and the outcome is due on March 4.


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enthusiasm is in short supply in berlin...


Germany's future cabinet could become the venue of a rather odd competition: Who can show the least amount of emotion, the chancellor or her deputy? Angela Merkel was born in Hamburg, a city known for its excruciating reticence. And her vice chancellor-designate, Olaf Scholz, has been the Social Democratic (SPD) mayor of Hamburg for years and has lived almost his entire life in the port city.

So far, Scholz would seem to have upper hand in ennui. On Sunday, after months of uncertainty surrounding Germany's next government, the SPD finally announced the results of its party-member vote as to whether to join yet another governing coalition with Merkel. The result was 66 percent in favor versus 34 percent opposed. But instead of relief, instead of joy, instead of enthusiasm, Scholz merely remarked: "We now have clarity." His face looked as though his hometown football team had just been relegated to the second division. "The SPD will join the next government."

To be sure, Scholz's Sunday morning disquisition was likely intentionally impassive. His party has endured extended turmoil in the wake of the September 24 election. Immediately after the first results came in last fall, then-SPD leader Martin Schulz promised not to join a coalition with Angela Merkel, a promise he was ultimately forced to jettison. As such, the party isdeeply divided and party leaders at SPD headquarters on Sunday morning were at pains to avoid appearing triumphant.


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See toon at top...


rumpelt in den Reihen...

Just over a week previously, an interview with Seehofer had appeared in the tabloid daily Bild in which he repeated a sentence that he has said dozens of times. Nobody really knows what it means in practice, but its simplicity has transformed it into a useful political weapon. "Islam," Seehofer said, "doesn't belong to Germany."



Why, for heaven's sake, must he offend 4.5 million Muslims in Germany right as Merkel's fourth term is getting started?

But as is so often the case when Merkel and Seehofer bicker, they didn't speak openly to each other, initially preferring to ignore the conflict instead. Last weekend, they spoke several times on the phone, but Seehofer's Islam quote only came up once, as a joking aside. As a result, it wasn't until Wednesday that Seehofer realized just how angry the chancellor was.

The Rebuke

Of course Germany has been molded by the traditions of Christianity and Judaism, she said in her speech before parliament. But millions of Muslims now live in Germany as well and, as such, their religion is also part of the country. And just to make sure that everyone was clear that she was publicly contradicting Seehofer, she then said: "I know that many have a problem accepting this concept." 

"Seehofer!" yelled an alert parliamentarian from the floor and Seehofer nodded in agreement from his spot on the government bench. He was apparently of no mind to hide his divergence with the chancellor. 

Has such a thing happened in Germany before? A chancellor using the first speech of a new term to reprimand an important minister? And an interior minister who is apparently unprepared to recognize the chancellor's precedence in defining government policy?


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one of them had already ordered the movers...

He never saw it coming. After 13 years as conservative floor leader in the German parliament, Volker Kauder figured he still had enough support to be re-elected to the position once again. After all, he still enjoyed the full support of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But it wasn't to be. A week ago on Tuesday, he failed to receive sufficient backing from lawmakers from the Christian Democrats (CDU) and from the center-right party's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Instead, Ralph Brinkhaus won -- and Kauder quickly left the parliamentary group meeting after briefly shaking hands with his successor. Longtime staff members were waiting for him in his office, some with tears in their eyes, according to someone who was at the meeting. One of them had already ordered the movers. After all, the rules hold that Brinkhaus, as the new floor leader, has the right to the large office Kauder has occupied for the last several years. The outgoing floor leader will also have to significantly downsize his staff, will no longer have a right to his own driver and will see his remuneration cut in half.

Kauder did his best to cut through the doom and gloom. "Calm down everybody. I'll survive." But everyone knows how important the job -- and the proximity to the chancellor - had been to Kauder. A friend of Kauder's in the Bundestag called his wife Elisabeth, a doctor in Stuttgart, and she tried to catch the last flight to Berlin. Meanwhile, Merkel kept sending text messages to make sure that Kauder had the support he needed. 

Merkel had little time to tend to Kauder herself. Following Brinkhaus's victory, she too left the meeting of conservative lawmakers and huddled with a couple of confidants to come up with a statement describing the catastrophe that had just taken place before her very eyes. What was there to say in the face of such an obvious defeat?


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