German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not rule out consequences for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project if Russia fails to thoroughly investigate the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, her spokesman said Monday.
Asked whether Merkel would protect the multi-billion-euro pipeline from Russia to Europe if Germany were to seek sanctions over the Navalny case, spokesman Steffen Seibert said: “The chancellor believes it would be wrong to rule anything out from the start.”
Nord Stream 2, a 10-billion-euro ($11-billion) pipeline near completion beneath the Baltic Sea, is set to double Russian natural-gas shipments to Germany, Europe’s largest economy.
It has long been in the crosshairs of the United States, which has criticised European countries for their reliance on energy from Russia.
US President Donald Trump has signed legislation that targets contractors working on the project, meaning that German companies face sanctions for even small investment.
Even within the European Union, there are voices against the pipeline.
Poland and other former Eastern Bloc states are wary of the EU becoming too reliant on Moscow, while non-EU member Ukraine fears that the new pipeline would cut it out of the gas supply business and allow Moscow to ratchet up pressure.
Germany, despite political differences with Russia, however sees Nord Stream 2 as ensuring a more stable and cleaner source of energy as it pivots away from coal and nuclear power.
As well as Russian giant Gazprom, which has a majority stake, the international consortium involved in the Nord Stream 2 project includes huge European players like Germany’s Wintershall and Uniper groups, the Dutch-British Shell, France’s Engie and Austria’s OMV.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday condemned as “shameful” an attempt by protesters angry at coronavirus restrictions to storm parliament, saying they had abused the right to demonstrate peacefully.
Several hundred people tried to get into the Reichstag building during a rally against coronavirus rules in Berlin on Saturday.
“This right to demonstrate peacefully is of course a very valuable asset even during a pandemic,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said at a government press conference in Berlin.
However, he said their actions were “a clear abuse”.
“The result was disgraceful images at the Reichstag which are unacceptable, anti-democrats trying to make themselves heard on the steps of our democratic parliament,” he said.
Police estimated 38,000 people, double the number expected, gathered in Berlin on Saturday to protest at restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, such as wearing masks and social distancing.
Several hundred broke through barriers and a police cordon to climb the steps leading to the entrance to the Reichstag.
They were narrowly prevented from entering the building by police, who used pepper spray and arrested several people.
Merkel praised as “quick-witted and brave” three police officers who were seen pushing back crowds from the entrance to the Reichstag alone until reinforcements arrived.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday invited the officers to Berlin’s Bellevue Palace to thank them for their work.
Steinmeier described the protesters’ actions as “despicable”, adding: “We will not tolerate any anti-democratic smear campaign or disparagement of the Federal Republic of Germany at the Bundestag.”
About 300 people were arrested in scuffles with police, in front of the Reichstag but also outside the Russian embassy, where protesters pelted police with bottles.
Resistance to coronavirus restrictions in Germany has gathered pace in recent weeks with demos attracting a diverse crowd of conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers and far-right or far-left activists.
Health Minister Jens Spahn was spat on at the weekend as he tried to talk to protesters in the northern city of Bergisch Gladbach.
Seibert condemned the incident, saying it was “certainly not democratic dialogue”.
French President Emmanuel Macron received German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his Mediterranean holiday retreat on Thursday to discuss a long list of burning issues including the coronavirus pandemic, post-election unrest in Belarus and growing tensions with Turkey.
The pair have a packed agenda for their meeting at the Fort de Bregancon, with challenges raised by Britain’s departure from the European Union, climate change, the coup d’etat in Mali, and the consequences of the devastating blast in Lebanon also set to loom large.
Macron welcomed Merkel for her first-ever visit to the presidential summer residence with a Namaste-style greeting, palms pressed together and bending at the waist, in observance of social-distancing guidelines against coronavirus spread.
According to the Elysee Palace, a priority of the talks will be to push ahead with a coronavirus recovery fund for Europe which the pair had piloted and was agreed at an EU summit last month.
“The international agenda is particularly full,” the French presidency said ahead of the talks which are to be followed by a news conference and a working dinner.
It added that Paris and Berlin shared “a high level of convergence” on the issues.
The allies will look to coordinate policy on the mass protests in Belarus following President Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election win which the opposition had denounced as a fraud.
– ‘Destabilising factor’ –
They will also discuss mounting tensions between Greece and Turkey over disputed Mediterranean waters, with Macron taking a tough line against Ankara.
In an interview with Paris Match published earlier Thursday, the French president said his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan was conducting an “expansionist policy that mixes nationalism and Islamism, which is not compatible with European interests”.
He also accused Turkey of being a “destabilising factor”.
Germany, for its part, is seeking to mediate between Turkey and Greece in a growing row over gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.
Also on this issue, “there is no contradiction on the substance” between Paris and Berlin, said the Elysee.
Macron and Merkel last saw each other at a marathon five-day EU summit that ended on July 21 with member states agreeing to a 750-billion-euro ($858-billion) rescue plan for economies left shattered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Germany and France strongly backed the package, which enables joint borrowing by the 27 members of the bloc to help virus-hit countries, particularly Spain and Italy.
The deal was a special victory for Macron, who came to office in 2017 committed to strengthening the European Union but has struggled to deliver.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday said she “couldn’t imagine” delaying an agreement on a recovery plan worth 750 billion euros ($843 billion), given the urgency of lifting the European economy.
“We need to reach an agreement over the summer, I absolutely cannot imagine any other option,” said Merkel, whose country has just taken over the rotating EU presidency for six months.
The leaders of the 27 EU member states will meet in Brussels on July 17, their first physical summit since the coronavirus lockdown began, to discuss the plan.
A group of countries, a so-called “Frugal Four”, are trying to rein in spending, which is earmarked mainly for the poorer countries of southern Europe hardest hit by the COVID-19 epidemic.
The Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden insist that loans with tough conditions attached, rather than grants, should be the preferred method of rescue and are not in a rush to make a deal.
Other countries argue that the commission’s plan misallocates the money, giving too much to eastern Europeans who were never on the front lines of the pandemic.
“Every day counts” and “to succeed in this gigantic task, each member state must look beyond its own small interests”, EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said at a press conference with the German leader by video link.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel sharply condemned a violent rampage in Stuttgart, her spokesman said Monday, calling the brutal attacks against police officers and the looting of shops by hundreds of people “abhorrent”.
“Whoever has done this has turned against their city, against the people with whom they live and against the laws that protect us all,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said of the riots that erupted over the weekend.
German authorities have expressed shock over the rampage of an “unprecedented scale” in the early hours of Sunday in the city centre of Stuttgart, where hundreds of partygoers ran riot, attacking police and plundering stores after smashing shop windows.
Two dozen people, half of them German nationals, were arrested provisionally, as police reported at least 19 colleagues hurt.
Tensions built up shortly after midnight when officers carried out checks on a 17-year-old German man suspected of using drugs, Stuttgart deputy police chief Thomas Berger said.
Crowds who were milling around at the city’s biggest square, the Schlossplatz, immediately rallied around the young man and began flinging stones and bottles at police.
The groups of mostly men also used sticks or poles to smash windows of police vehicles parked around the square, which is next to the regional parliament of Baden-Wuerttemberg as well as the state’s finance ministry.
At the height of the hours-long clashes, some 400 to 500 people joined in the battle against police officers and rescue workers.
In a speech on Monday, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said perpetrators of the rampage must be “prosecuted and punished with all the severity of the law”.
“We must resolutely oppose anyone who attacks police officers, who shows contempt for them or gives the impression that they should be ‘disposed of’,” said the president.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is due to visit Stuttgart along with his state interior minister Thomas Strobl to take stock of the trail of destruction left behind in the rampage.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday urged the European Union to reach an agreement on a recovery plan worth 750 billion euros ($843 billion) by the end of July to kickstart an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It would be best if we could reach an agreement before the summer break,” Merkel said, calling for compromise from member states to enable the deal to be ratified by the end of the year.
“We must act quickly and decisively,” she said.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen proposed the huge fund to help the EU out of its deepest-ever recession, but the plan was immediately met with fierce opposition from fiscally conservative member states including Austria and the Netherlands.
The proposed package consists of 500 billion euros in grants and 250 billion euros in loans, but requires unanimous EU approval.
“The starting position is far from easy but I hope that all member states will act in a spirit of compromise in the face of this unprecedented situation,” Merkel said.
“Cohesion and solidarity have never been more important than today. The crisis can only be overcome if we act for and with each other,” she said.
The European Council is due to hold a video summit on June 19 on the controversial stimulus package, the EU’s largest to date.
However, a decision is not expected until the leaders have met in person, said Merkel, whose country assumes the EU presidency in July.
The German chancellor had in late May stunned observers by proposing along with French President Emmanuel Macron the plan for 500 billion euros in grants to help the hardest hit EU members to get their economies back on track.
That proposal, now making up the bulk of von der Leyen’s package, shattered a long-standing German taboo as it included taking on shared debt, a dramatic U-turn after years of obstinate German opposition to joint borrowing.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been praised at home and abroad for her reaction to the coronavirus crisis, but as voices of discontent grow louder, support for the government’s strategy could be on the wane.
Though Germany began to lift lockdown measures last week, Merkel has urged caution and slammed growing impatience to shake off the curbs on public life introduced a month ago to slow contagion.
The measures have proved successful so far, with Germany maintaining a mortality rate of just 3.7 percent in the pandemic, far lower than major European neighbours.
The restrictions have also met with public approval. Almost three quarters of the population said they supported them in a Kantar poll published Friday.
In full-blown crisis just a few months ago, Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative alliance has meanwhile rebounded in the polls, jumping ten points in the last two weeks to 38 percent.
– ‘Life and death’ –
Yet the mood could be about to change.
Wolfgang Schaeuble, an elder statesman of German politics and current president of the Bundestag lower house, warned that extended restrictions would impinge on fundamental citizens’ rights.
“When I hear that protecting lives should come above everything else, I don’t think that is absolutely true,” he told Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel on Sunday.
Merkel also provoked the ire of regional leaders when she suggested last week that they had been too eager to relax restrictions.
Armin Laschet, state premier for Germany’s most populous region North-Rhine Westphalia and a candidate to succeed Merkel as CDU leader, protested that the discussion over how to lift lockdown measures was “appropriate”.
“It is of course still a question of life and death,” he told public broadcaster ARD on Sunday night.
Yet he insisted that the negative effects of lockdown must also be “weighed up”, pointing in particular to children “who have had to stay at home for the last six weeks”.
He also attacked what he saw as the pessimistic predictions of some medical experts, pointing out that “40 percent of intensive care beds are empty” in his state.
Germany’s most popular newspaper Bild echoed Laschet’s words in a scathing editorial on Monday, accusing Merkel of being “stubborn, pig-headed and bossy”.
– ‘End of national unity’ –
Largely muted in the crisis until now, Germany’s opposition parties are also beginning to grow more critical of the government’s course.
The Greens, still the highest polling opposition party despite a recent slump, have urged more caution. On Sunday, co-leader Annalena Baerbock slammed plans to allow Bundesliga football to resume without spectators from next month.
The leader of the liberal FDP Christian Lindner warned that consensus over coronavirus measures was breaking down, declaring the “end of national unity”.
His party’s concern over both the fate of small and medium-sized businesses, as well as the erosion of civil liberties, is also shared by more extreme groups.
Far left and far right protesters have assembled in Berlin every Saturday in recent weeks, calling for “democratic resistance” against what they claim are authoritarian and unconstitutional coronavirus restrictions.
Police arrested around 100 of an estimated 1,000 protesters last Saturday and a further demonstration is planned for May 1.
The far-right AfD, Germany’s largest opposition party by number of MPs, has also declared its opposition to lockdown.
“The absolute shutdown was avoidable and (the government) is now missing a chance to end it,” claimed AfD lawmaker Sebastian Muenzenmaier, adding that “all shops must be opened: give the people back their liberty!”.
Weekly newspaper Die Zeit warned the AfD could “profit from the long term consequences” of the virus such as mass unemployment.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was on Sunday in quarantine after meeting a doctor who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, as Germany further tightens rules on public gatherings and plots a taboo-breaking package of support for Europe’s top economy.
News of Merkel’s potential exposure to the virus came minutes after she announced a ban on public gatherings of more than two people and further infection control measures.
“The Chancellor has decided to quarantine herself immediately at home. She will be tested regularly in the coming days… (and) fulfil her official business from home,” spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.
Merkel had been slated to lead a cabinet meeting Monday to sign off on a 822-billion-euro ($882 billion) slew of measures to support Europe’s top economy through the shutdowns of public life designed to slow the infection’s spread.
The infected doctor visited Merkel on Friday to vaccinate her against the pneumococcus bacteria.
It could take some days to determine whether the 65-year-old chancellor is herself infected as “a test would not yet be fully conclusive,” Seibert said.
Merkel showed no apparent symptoms of ill health in Sunday’s televised press conference.
– Robust health –
During her 15-year term in office the chancellor has largely enjoyed robust health, although she suffered repeated shaking spells in public appearances during a summer 2019 heatwave that were never fully explained.
In response to the tremors, she chose to sit on a chair when receiving guests with military honours outside the chancellor’s office in Berlin.
Previously the veteran leader broke her pelvis in a cross-country skiing accident in 2014.
It was not immediately clear whether Merkel will isolate herself in a rarely-used official residence in the top floor of the chancellery building or at her personal flat in Berlin’s museum district.
Wearing one of her trademark block-colour blazers, she had been seen doing her own shopping at a local supermarket late Saturday, buying items including wine and toilet paper.
If conservative leader Merkel were incapacitated, her role would be filled by vice-chancellor and finance minister Olaf Scholz of her junior coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Scholz last week isolated himself at home with a heavy cold, but tweeted a day later that he had tested negative for the coronavirus.
– Infection control –
Earlier Sunday, Merkel had announced still-tighter restrictions on public gatherings after a telephone conference with regional leaders that aimed to get Germany’s 16 federal states into a common policy.
The closure of schools and non-essential shops had already been announced.
Businesses like massage studios and hairdressers where people come into close contact will also be shut.
And restaurants will be closed across Germany except for takeaway food.
The measures slated to last initially for two weeks, will be imposed by individual states, which will decide when to roll them out.
Merkel appealed to citizens’ “reason and empathy” in implementing the contact restrictions, saying she had been “very moved” by how closely people had stuck to less stringent measures implemented in recent days.
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control authority, said early Sunday the number of confirmed coronavirus cases had grown by almost 2,000 in the previous 24 hours, to 18,610.
So far 55 Germans have died of the disease.
– Economic riposte –
Germany’s all-out support to the economy on the cabinet agenda Monday includes hundreds of billions of euros in potential support for companies and workers.
Much of it will come in the form of state guarantees for bank loans to business and easier access to short-time working and unemployment benefits.
But Berlin also plans to blow through a constitutional rule that limits the size of the federal budget deficit in any one year, with around 156 billion euros in new borrowing.
Ending the crisis “comes first”, Merkel has said, adding “we will see at the end of that where our budget stands”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday offered Britain’s Boris Johnson close cooperation and friendship, after the Tory leader scooped a decisive general election victory.
“Congratulations, Boris Johnson, for this clear election win. I look forward to our further cooperation towards the friendship and close partnership of our countries,” said Merkel in a statement posted by her spokesman on Twitter.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that the UK poll result showed that the British prime minister now “has a clear mandate to bring about Brexit.”
“It is now very possible that an orderly exit will happen at the end of January,” Maas told the Funke newspaper group.
Maas underlined however that Britain could still return to the EU if it wishes to one day.
“The doors of the EU remain obviously open to Britain,” he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday took note of the decision by British Prime Minister Theresa May to resign “with respect”, saying that they shared a “good and trusting” working relationship.
Pledging to keep working with May in the same spirit as long as she is in office, Merkel noted that Berlin “wishes to maintain close cooperation and a close relationship with the British government,” the German leader’s spokeswoman Martina Fietz said.
Fietz declined to comment on how May’s decision could affect Brexit, as “the development depends essentially on domestic political developments in Britain.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to arrive in Buenos Aires on Friday evening, far later than planned but still in time to attend a G20 dinner after “serious” technical problems forced her plane to make an emergency landing.
The government Airbus A340-300 made an unscheduled landing in Cologne shortly after leaving Berlin on Thursday, causing a delay that means Merkel will miss the start of the two-day G20 summit in the Argentine capital.
“It was a serious malfunction,” Merkel, who had to spend the night in a hotel in nearby Bonn because no replacement plane was immediately available, told reporters.
German media reports said the plane suffered a complete breakdown of the on-board communication system, a problem described as extremely rare.
The German air force ruled out sabotage, with a spokesman saying “there is absolutely no indication of a criminal act.”
Merkel will now travel to the G20 with a vastly slimmed-down delegation.
The group flew to Madrid in a German air force plane in the early morning, a government spokeswoman told DPA.
From there, the delegation is set to board a regular commercial flight to Buenos Aires.
Merkel was due to hold bilateral meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and US leader Donald Trump on the sidelines of the summit on Friday, but her delayed arrival has thrown her schedule into disarray.
She will also miss the traditional G20 “family photo” of attending heads of state and government, according to DPA.