Merkel To Visit Flood-Ravaged Western Germany 

A man stands in front of a destroyed house after floods caused major damage in Schuld near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, western Germany, on July 17, 2021. PHOTO: CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit flood-ravaged western Germany on Sunday, where the worst rainfall in living memory has caused huge destruction and left more than 130 people dead, regional officials said.

Merkel will travel to the hard-hit town of Schuld in Rhineland-Palatinate state, a spokeswoman for the regional interior ministry told AFP on Saturday, confirming earlier media reports.

The visit is set to take place in the afternoon, the spokeswoman said.

Merkel has called the flooding a national “tragedy” and promised support from the federal government to help the affected areas rebuild and recover.

READ ALSO: Europe Reels From Worst Floods In Years As Death Toll Nears 130

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier toured the town of Erftstadt in the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia on Saturday, to survey the damage from a massive landslide caused by the extreme weather.

The main candidates in the race to succeed Merkel at September’s general election have all travelled to the stricken areas in recent days.

Merkel’s visit has been delayed because she only returned on Friday from a high-profile trip to Washington, her last official visit as chancellor.

Speaking alongside US President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday, Merkel said her “heart goes out to all of those who in this catastrophe lost their loved ones”.

AFP

Germany To Hold General Election, Choose Merkel’s Successor By Sept 2021

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. PHOTO/AFP

 

The German government on Wednesday agreed on September 26 next year for the general election to choose a successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, a government spokeswoman said.

Merkel has said she will not stand for a fifth term and will retire from politics next year after 16 years at the helm of Europe’s top economic power and the EU’s most populous country.

Her departure will mark a new, less certain phase in German politics and at the heart of the European Union, whose rotating presidency Merkel currently holds.

The government “proposes to the federal president the date of Sunday, September 26, 2021 for the election of the 20th Bundestag (lower house of parliament),” spokeswoman Martina Fietz told reporters.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier must still give his official approval.

The race to fill Merkel’s shoes still looks wide open, as her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party remains embroiled in an increasingly bitter leadership battle that has been extended by the pandemic.

There are currently three hopefuls for the top job in Germany’s biggest party, with a twice-delayed election for a new chief now scheduled for mid-January.

North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Armin Laschet, corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz and foreign affairs expert Norbert Rottgen are vying for the post.

The candidates have proposed an online congress if meeting in person were to be impossible because of restrictions to curb coronavirus transmission.

 

– Pandemic uncertainty –

The chief of the CDU traditionally leads it and its smaller Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union to the polls.

However given the failure of any of the Christian Democrat candidates to create real momentum at this early stage, CSU chief and Bavarian premier Markus Soeder has been the focus of ardent speculation about a possible run.

Bavaria has been among the states hardest hit by coronavirus infections and Soeder’s robust response to the outbreak has won praise and given him an intense national spotlight.

He leads opinion polls against all three CDU candidates when Germans are asked who they would like to see as their next chancellor.

Yet Germany’s complex coalition maths, the uncertainty created by the pandemic and the absence of Merkel as a foregone conclusion in a German general election could well throw up other surprises.

The Social Democrats (SPD), the country’s oldest party and junior partners in the “grand coalition” government, have haemorrhaged support as the centrist Merkel occupied and helped define the middle ground of Germany’s consensus-oriented politics during her long tenure.

However, pollsters say a more conservative CDU leader could drive some Merkel voters into the arms of the SPD, or the ecologist Greens, in opposition since 2005.

The Greens have benefited from growing concern about the climate, particularly among young voters, while making lasting inroads among urban, affluent Germans.

Polls show increasing openness to a CDU-Greens coalition, which would be a first at the national level in Germany.

The pro-business Free Democrats, frequent kingmakers in German post-war politics, are currently polling in the single digits, as is the far-left Linke.

Meanwhile, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has about 10-percent support and is currently the biggest opposition force in the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

But the mainstream parties have ruled out joining forces with it in government.

AFP

German Claim Of Russian Contract Killing ‘Unfounded’ – Ambassador

Angela-Merkel
File: Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel disembarks from an aeroplane upon landing at the Biarritz Pays Basque Airport in Biarritz, south-west France on August 24, 2019, on the first day of the annual G7 Summit attended by the leaders of the world’s seven richest democracies, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
Bertrand GUAY / AFP

 

German prosecutors on Thursday accused Russia of ordering the murder of a Georgian man in a central Berlin park, as they charged a suspected contract killer over the crime that has frayed ties.

The accusation was swiftly dismissed as “unfounded” by the Russian ambassador in Berlin.

The German government warned of sanctions against Moscow as the diplomatic row between the two countries heated up over the case that has been likened to the poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal in Britain in 2018.

“At an unknown date before 18 July 2019, the accused received the order from authorities at the central government of the Russian Federation to liquidate the Georgian national of Chechen origin, Tornike K.,” said federal prosecutors in a statement that named the killer as Vadim K., alias Vadim S.

The victim, a former Chechen commander, was shot twice in the head at close range in Kleiner Tiergarten park, which lies minutes away from the German parliament and chancellery.

Riding a bicycle, the suspect approached the man from behind, firing a Glock 26 pistol equipped with a silencer at the side of Tornike K.’s torso, German prosecutors said.

After the victim fell to the ground, the accused fired another two shots at his head that killed the Georgian on the spot.

– ‘Unjustified and unfounded’ –

Speaking in Vienna, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his ministry “has today again called in the Russian ambassador to once again make our position clear to the Russian side”.

However Russia’s ambassador in Berlin, Sergei Nechayev, denied Moscow ordered the killing.

“We consider these accusations to be unjustified and unfounded,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the victim as a “fighter, very cruel and bloody” who has fought with separatists against Russian’s forces in the Caucasus and also been involved in bombing attacks on the Moscow metro.

Moscow has also said it had been seeking his extradition.

In an immediate reaction to the charges filed by the prosecutors, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government said it could take further action against Russia.

“The government reserves the right to take further steps,” a spokesman said in a statement, adding that Berlin took the case “very seriously”.

– Relations in deep freeze –

The Tiergarten assassination has been likened to the killing of Skripal with a Soviet-era nerve agent, which plunged relations between London and Moscow into a deep freeze.

Germany in December kicked out two Russian diplomats after prosecutors said preliminary investigations suggested that Moscow could be behind the killing.

Calling Germany’s accusations against Moscow “groundless and hostile”, Russia expelled two German diplomats in a tit-for-tat move..

Investigative website Bellingcat named the suspect as 54-year-old Vadim Krasikov, who grew up in Kazakhstan when it was part of the Soviet Union before moving to Siberia.

Russia has for years drawn the anger of Western powers, from annexing Ukraine’s Crimea to meddling in elections and backing Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.

Merkel has walked a fine line, stressing the importance of dialogue even while making clear her disapproval of Russian moves on the world stage.

However, relations have worsened of late, triggered in part by the Tiergarten murder, as well as several hacking attacks that Berlin believes were carried out by Russia.

Merkel revealed in May that Russia had targeted her in hacking attacks, saying she had concrete proof of the “outrageous” spying attempts.

Referring to the Chechen murder then, she also said the killing “disrupts a cooperation of trust”.

Report: Average 10 Attacks Daily On Germany Migrants

Report: Average 10 Attacks Daily On Germany MigrantsThe Interior Ministry in Germany says nearly 10 attacks were made on migrants in the country every day in 2016.

According to the figures released, a total of 560 people were injured in the violence, including 43 children.

The preliminary statistics were released on Sunday in response to a parliamentary question.

Three-quarters of the attacks targeted migrants outside of their homes, while about 1,000 attacks were carried out in their homes.

Sources said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open up Germany to people fleeing conflict and persecution has polarised the country and boosted hate crime.

Germany has been contending with a backlog of asylum applications amid fears about security, following a series of terrorist attacks across Europe.

The issue is expected to feature prominently in the September parliamentary elections.

Syria Conflict: German MPs Vote On Anti-ISIS Military Mission

Anti-ISIS Military MissionGermany’s parliament has voted to send German military support to the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria.

MPs approved the controversial plan for a German non-combat role.

Tornado Reconnaissance Aircraft, a naval frigate and a 1,200 soldiers will now be sent to the region.

The vote came after a French appeal following last month’s Paris attacks. Ministers believe Germany is now an ISIS target too.

On Thursday, British warplanes carried out first air strikes on ISIS targets in Syria after the country’s parliament authorised the military operation.

Chancellor Angela Merkel relied on MPs from the ruling CDU/CSU coalition to back the motion for military involvement.

Germany’s opposition party rejected the mission, while most of the parliament’s Green MPs also voted no, according to reports.

Ahead of the vote, Green Party Chairwoman, Simone Peter, expressed concern about the legal basis for the mission without a specific UN resolution authorising it.

But Justice Minister, Heiko Maas, told Tagesspiegel newspaper on Friday that he had no doubts about the legal legitimacy.

Germany To Release Funds To Help Migrants

germanyGermany’s coalition government says it will release 6 billion euros (£4.4m) to help states cope with record numbers of migrants and other measures to deal with the inflow.

This announcement is coming after talks between the two parties which make up Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition.

Over the weekend, about 18,000 migrants arrived after an agreement with Austria and Hungary to relax asylum rules.

Migrants are continuing to arrive at Munich station.

Meanwhile, critics in Germany have accused Chancellor Merkel of creating a dangerous example by opening Germany’s borders.

BBC had quoted the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, as saying “as long as we can’t defend Europe’s outer borders, it is not worth talking about how many people we can take in”.

On Saturday, Austria and Germany opened their borders to thousands of exhausted migrants, who had travelled to the Hungarian border after efforts by a right-wing government to stop failed.

After days of confrontation and chaos, Hungary’s government deployed over 100 buses overnight to take thousands of migrants to the Austrian frontier.

 

German MPs Debate Bailout Over Greece Dept Crisis

greece-bailoutGerman MPs have started debating a motion on whether to allow negotiations on Greece’s €86bn (£60bn) bailout deal.

Germany is one of several Eurozone states that must Approve the bailout before the rescue deal can go Ahead.

Opening the debate, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of “predictable chaos” if deputies did not back the plan.

The deal is expected to be passed despite opposition from the left and some members of her conservative party.

Greek MPs have already voted in favour of hard-hitting austerity measures required for a third bailout deal.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank (ECB) raised the level of emergency funding available. This has paved the way for Greek banks, which shut nearly three weeks ago, to reopen on Monday.

But credit controls limiting cash withdrawals to €60 a day would only be eased gradually.

Eurozone ministers have also agreed a €7bn bridging loan from an EU-wide fund to keep finances afloat.

Chancellor Merkel told MPs ahead of Friday’s vote that the deal was hard for all sides, but said it was the “last” attempt to resolve the crisis.

“We would be grossly negligent, indeed acting irresponsibly if we did not at least try this path,” she said.

A number of Eurozone countries require parliamentary approval to go ahead with bailout talks, including Austria, which is also voting on Friday. Both the French and Finnish parliaments have already backed the deal.

Meanwhile, there have been fresh calls for Greek debt relief measures from International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde, echoing a call from Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras.

Security: Buhari Seeks Greater Support From France, Others

Muhammadu-Buhari-and-Francois-HollandeNigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has expressed his commitment to ending the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east, saying his administration is ready to accept greater support from France and other friendly nations.

At a meeting with the President of France, Francois Hollande, on Monday in Elmau, Germany, the Nigerian leader was optimistic the insurgency would end in the shortest possible time.

The meeting was held after his participation in Monday’s G7 Outreach Programme.

“We are already taking concrete action to build a more efficient and effective coalition of Nigeria and neighbouring countries against Boko Haram,” President Buhari said, referring to his meeting last week with the leaders of neighbouring Niger Republic and Chad.

“Nigeria will appreciate more intelligence on the terrorist group’s links with ISIS, movements, training and sources of its arms and ammunition to facilitate the perfection of fresh tactics and strategies being evolved to overcome terrorism and insurgency in the country and its sub-region,” he said.

A spokesman for the President, Garba Shehu, said President Buhari reiterated at the talks with the French President that there was absolutely no link between religion and the atrocities of Boko Haram.

“There is clearly no religious basis for the actions of the group. Their atrocities show that members of the group either do not know God at all or they don’t believe in him,” President Buhari said.

Support Against Terrorism

President Hollande commended President Buhari’s concerted efforts to galvanise Nigeria’s armed forces, security agencies and neighouring countries for more decisive action to eradicate Boko Haram.

The French leader assured President Buhari that France would give Nigeria and its coalition partners’ greater support against terrorism and insecurity, including military and intelligence cooperation, to help them overcome the security challenge posed by Boko Haram and its global terrorist allies as quickly as possible.

He also called for greater bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and France in other areas, including trade, economic and cultural relations.

President Buhari also received similar pledges of enhanced support from Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and Chancellor Angela Merkel who he also held talks with before departing from the venue of the G7 2015 Summit.

The President is due back in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, early on Tuesday.