Scholz Succeeds Merkel As Chancellor, Vows ‘New Beginning’ For Germany

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz takes the oath from President of the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) Baerbel Bas during a session at the Bundestag in Berlin on December 8, 2021, to swear in the country’s next Chancellor.  John MACDOUGALL / AFP.

 

Olaf Scholz became Germany’s new chancellor on Wednesday after 16 years with Angela Merkel at the helm, pledging his centre-left-led coalition would offer a “new beginning” for Europe’s top economy.

Scholz was officially named the country’s ninth post-war leader by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who urged him to “ensure that the pandemic does not keep us firmly in its grip for another year” as a fourth wave of the coronavirus outbreak rages.

The former finance minister, who won 395 of the 707 votes cast in the Bundestag lower house, has vowed broad “continuity” with the popular Merkel while making Germany greener and fairer.

“It will be a new beginning for our country,” Scholz pledged as he officially assumed the office from Merkel and thanked her for her lengthy tenure.

“I will do everything to work towards that.”

Merkel wished Scholz luck as chancellor, urging him to “take this office and work in the best interest of our country”.

She then left office by motorcade for the last time as her staff looked on, applauding.

Scholz led his Social Democrats from a deep poll deficit to victory in the September 26 election.

The 63-year-old, who turned emulating Merkel in style and substance into a winning strategy, forged Germany’s first national “traffic light” coalition with the ecologist Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, nicknamed after the parties’ colours.

Their four-year pact sealed late last month is called “Dare for More Progress”, a hat tip to Social Democratic chancellor Willy Brandt’s historic 1969 pledge to “Dare for More Democracy”.

The alliance aims to slash carbon emissions, overhaul decrepit digital infrastructure, modernise citizenship laws, lift the minimum wage and have Germany join a handful of countries worldwide in legalising marijuana.

French President Emmanuel Macron congratulated Scholz, pledging “we will write the next chapter together” while EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said she looked forward to cooperation for a “strong Europe”.

Scholz’s office announced his first official visit would take him to Paris and Brussels Friday for talks with Macron, von der Leyen and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Vladimir Putin said Russia was offering “constructive ties” with the new government, while China’s Xi Jinping said Beijing was willing to work with Scholz to “promote bilateral ties to a new level”.

Gender Balanced

The new foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, has pledged a tougher line with authoritarian states such as Russia and China after the business-driven pragmatism of the Merkel years.

Greens co-leader Baerbock is one of eight women in Germany’s first gender-balanced cabinet.

“That corresponds to the society we live in — half of the power belongs to women,” Scholz, who describes himself as a “feminist”, said this week.

Scholz and his team promise stability just as France braces for a bitterly fought presidential election next year and Europe grapples with the enduring aftershocks of Brexit.

However, a vicious fourth Covid wave has already put the incoming coalition to the test.

“We have to make a fresh start while facing down the corona pandemic — those are the circumstances the new government is up against,” Scholz told reporters Tuesday.

More than 103,000 people have died with coronavirus in Germany while new infections have surged since the weather turned cold, filling intensive care units to breaking point.

Scholz has thrown his weight behind making jabs mandatory to get the pandemic under control, as Austria has done, as experts say the worst is still to come for the country’s struggling clinics.

‘Lessons Of History’

Merkel, 67, Germany’s first woman chancellor, is retiring from politics after four consecutive terms, the first post-war leader to step aside of her own accord.

Macron tweeted his gratitude to the outgoing leader.

“Thank you, dear Angela, for never forgetting the lessons of history, for having done so much for us, with us, to move Europe forward,” he said.

She leaves big shoes to fill, with large majorities of Germans approving of her leadership to the end.

Despite being from a rival party, Scholz tapped into that well of popular support in his bid to succeed Merkel while pledging to tackle the gap between rich and poor that widened under her.

Meanwhile, Greens supporters are banking on billions flowing toward climate protection and renewable energy, even as the government pledges to return to a no-new-debt rule by 2023.

Scholz Takes Over From Merkel For New German Era

A photo combination of Angela Merkel and Olaf Scholz  (Photo by Fabian Sommer / POOL / AFP)

 

Olaf Scholz will become chancellor of Germany on Wednesday, turning the page on 16 years with Angela Merkel at the helm as a new centre-left-led coalition takes the wheel of Europe’s top economy.

Scholz, who will be formally elected by the Bundestag lower house of parliament and then sworn in by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has pledged broad “continuity” with the popular Merkel while making Germany greener and fairer.

READ ALSOBiden Warns Putin Of ‘Strong’ Western Response To Any Ukraine Attack

The finance minister under Merkel led his Social Democrats to victory in the September 26 election — an outcome considered unthinkable at the start of the year given the party’s then festering divisions and anaemic support.

Scholz, 63, who turned to emulate Merkel in style and substance into a winning strategy, has now cobbled together Germany’s first national “traffic light” coalition with the ecologist Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, nicknamed after the parties’ colours.

Their four-year pact sealed late last month is called “Dare for More Progress”, a hat tip to Social Democratic chancellor Willy Brandt’s 1969 historic pledge to “Dare for More Democracy”.

“We have a chance for a new beginning for Germany,” Scholz told his party at the weekend as it gave its blessing to the coalition agreement with 99 percent support.

The alliance aims to slash carbon emissions, overhaul decrepit digital infrastructure, modernise citizenship laws, lift the minimum wage and have Germany join a handful of countries worldwide in legalising marijuana.

Gender Balanced 

The incoming foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, has also pledged a tougher line with authoritarian states such as Russia and China after the business-driven pragmatism of the Merkel years.

Greens co-leader Baerbock is one of eight women in Germany’s first gender-balanced cabinet.

“That corresponds to the society we live in — half of the power belongs to women,” Scholz, who describes himself as a “feminist”, said this week.

Scholz and his team promise stability just as France braces for a bitterly fought presidential election next year and Europe grapples with the enduring aftershocks of Brexit.

However, a vicious fourth Covid wave has already put the incoming coalition to the test.

“We have to make a fresh start while facing down the corona pandemic — those are the circumstances the new government is up against,” Scholz told reporters Tuesday, flanked by his designated finance and economy ministers, Christian Lindner and Robert Habeck.

More than 103,000 people have died with coronavirus in Germany while new infections have surged since the weather turned cold, filling intensive care units to the breaking point.

Scholz has thrown his weight behind Germany following Austria in making jabs mandatory to get the pandemic under control, as experts say the worst is still to come for the country’s struggling clinics.

He aims to have parliament vote on the issue before the year is out with a view to implementing the law in February or March.

 Merkel ‘Variant’ 

Merkel, 67, Germany’s first woman chancellor, is retiring from politics after four consecutive terms, the first post-war leader to step aside of her own accord.

She leaves big shoes to fill, with large majorities of Germans approving of her leadership, even if her own party, the conservative Christian Democrats, often bridled against her moderate course.

“For 16 years, Angela Merkel defined the political centre,” columnist Nikolas Blome said.

“If she were running again, she would win a fifth term,” he added, saying it was nevertheless time for new blood.

Despite being from a rival party, Scholz tapped into that well of popular support in his bid to succeed her.

The left-leaning daily Tageszeitung recently joked about the similarities between the two politicians on its front page, with the pandemic-era headline “Merkel Variant Prevails” and a picture of a grinning Scholz.

Her successor has however pledged to tackle the widening gap between rich and poor under Merkel.

The independent Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) said in an analysis of the coalition pact that lower-income Germans and parents stood to gain the most from its policy roadmap.

Meanwhile, Greens supporters are banking on billions flowing toward climate protection and renewable energy, even as the government pledges to return to a no-new-debt rule by 2023.

AFP

Awoniyi Scores Ninth League Goal As Union Berlin Beat Leipzig


Union Berlin’s Nigerian forward Taiwo Awoniyi (C) celebrates scoring the opening goal with his teammates during the German first division Bundesliga football match 1 FC Union Berlin v RB Leipzig in Berlin on December 3, 2021. Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

 

In-form Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi’s early goal set Union Berlin on the path to a 2-1 win over RB Leipzig on Friday, lifting them to fourth in the German Bundesliga.

This was Awoniyi’s ninth Bundesliga goal this season while the result leaves Leipzig still looking for an away win in the league.

Ahead of the rest of the weekend fixtures, Berlin climb to fourth on 23 points from 14 games.

READ ALSOBenzema Not Upset After Ballon d’Or Snub – Ancelotti

Awoniyi pounced at the far post on six minutes to put Union 1-0 but Leipzig midfielder Christopher Nkunku levelled with a speculative shot from outside the box that bounced over the diving keeper on 13 minutes.

Union then grabbed the winner just before the hour mark when a shot from Max Kruse was deflected off teammate Timo Baumgartl and into the goal.

Leipzig, who are eighth in the table, face Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday but their hopes of making the last 16 are already over.

The weekend’s major clash comes Saturday when Borussia Dortmund host Bayern Munich.

Star Bundesliga strikers Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski go head-to-head with one point between the sides.

Haaland has scored 10 Bundesliga goals for Dortmund so far this season while Lewandowski has 14 goals for Bayern.

AFP

Germany’s COVID-19 Death Toll Tops 100,000 As Infections Surge

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for administration at a vaccination clinic. Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

 

Germany announced record coronavirus fatalities and infections Thursday as the total death toll passed 100,000, with the nation’s most severe virus wave worsening just as a new government prepares to replace Angela Merkel’s coalition.

Germany weathered earlier bouts of the pandemic better than many other European countries, but has seen a recent resurgence, with intensive care beds rapidly filling up.

Europe’s largest economy recorded 351 Covid fatalities in the past 24 hours, bringing the official death toll since the start of the pandemic to 100,119, in what Bild daily called a “grim milestone”.

The weekly incidence rate also hit an all-time high of 419.7 new infections per 100,000 people, the Robert Koch Institute health agency said.

The escalating health crisis poses an immediate challenge to the new centre-left-led coalition government of Social Democrats, Greens and liberal Free Democrats set to take over from Merkel’s cabinet next month.

The country has been stuck in political limbo since the September 26 general election, with the popular former scientist Merkel governing in a caretaker capacity.

The spike in Germany comes as Europe has re-emerged as the pandemic’s epicentre, with the continent battling sluggish vaccine uptake in some nations, the highly contagious Delta variant, colder weather sending people indoors and the easing of restrictions.

An AFP tally of official figures showed Thursday that more than 1.5 million people have died from Covid-19 in Europe.

– ‘Thousands dying daily’ –

Merkel’s presumed successor Olaf Scholz began a presentation of his new government’s policy roadmap Wednesday by announcing new measures to tame the fourth wave.

These included forming a corona response task force based at his office and earmarking one billion euros ($1.12 billion) in bonuses for overstretched health workers on the front lines.

Greens co-leader Annalena Baerbock told public broadcaster ARD the incoming coalition would take 10 days, until early December, to decide whether “the protective measures go far enough”.

However, the new steps and nationwide restrictions announced last week to limit the unvaccinated from participating in public life have already been criticised as far too little and too late.

“The latest decisions are like announcing in a flooding catastrophe a plan to hire more swimming teachers and distributing a few water wings and rubber ducks,” Sueddeutsche newspaper fumed.

“The coalition has big plans, but what use are they if we are all locked down over Christmas with thousands dying each day?”

– ‘Acute overload’-

As the fourth wave rages, the German health sector has had to call on hospitals elsewhere in the EU for help.

Some clinics are already facing an “acute overload” that has seen Covid-19 patients sent abroad, according to Gernot Marx, head of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine.

Germany last week began requiring people to prove they are vaccinated, have recovered from Covid-19 or recently tested negative before they can travel on public transport or enter workplaces.

Several of the worst-hit areas have gone further, cancelling large events like Christmas markets and barring the unvaccinated from bars, gyms and leisure facilities.

The surge has ignited a fierce debate about whether to follow Austria’s example and make vaccination mandatory for all citizens, with Scholz voicing support for compulsory jabs for health staff.

Earlier this week, Merkel, who is retiring from politics after 16 years, summoned the new alliance’s top brass for emergency talks.

Germany’s Covid-19 crisis has in part been blamed on its relatively low vaccination rate of about 69 percent, compared to other Western European countries such as France, where it is 75 percent.

The country has urged all inoculated adults to get a booster to combat waning efficacy after six months, but that campaign has also been marred by supply and logistics snags.

Meanwhile Bayern Munich football club confirmed Wednesday that star midfielder Joshua Kimmich and back-up striker Eric Choupo-Moting — both of whom are unvaccinated — have tested positive for the virus.

Germany Records 50,196 New COVID-19 Cases In 24 Hours

FILE PHOTO: Testing staff of non-profit organisation Albatros receive people for a Covid-19 test before Friday prayer at the ‘Haus der Weisheit’ (House of Wisdom) Mosque in Berlin’s Moabit district. (Photo by Tobias Schwarz / AFP)

 

Germany registered a record of 50,196 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, according to health authorities.

It is the first time Germany has exceeded 50,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic and comes as infections and deaths have soared since mid-October.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel has described the rise in infections as “dramatic”.

“The pandemic is returning in a new spectacular fashion,” her spokesperson said, calling on regional authorities to take further steps to quell the outbreak.

Pressure is also building on hospitals, in an outbreak blamed on Germany’s relatively low vaccination rates of just over 67%.

READ ALSO: Berlin To Bar Unvaccinated Persons From Cinemas, Bars, Gyms

Several of the worst-hit states, including Saxony, Bavaria, and most recently Berlin, have introduced new restrictions aimed at non-vaccinated people, who have been the first to be affected by the rebound in cases.

As of Monday, Berlin will ban unvaccinated people from entering restaurants, terraces, bars, sports halls, and hairdressers.

Over 4.9 million people have been infected by COVID-19 in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic.

AFP

Berlin To Bar Unvaccinated Persons From Cinemas, Bars, Gyms

This handout picture taken on August 6, 2020 and provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund shows the vaccine against the coronavirus disease, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Handout / Russian Direct Investment Fund / AFP
This handout picture taken on August 6, 2020 and provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund shows the vaccine against the coronavirus disease, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Handout / Russian Direct Investment Fund / AFP

 

Germany’s capital Berlin will from Monday tighten the screws on unvaccinated people by denying them access to indoor dining, bars, gyms and hairdressers in an effort to contain a coronavirus resurgence.

Under new rules in the city-state, only fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 can enter leisure facilities and a list of other selected venues — a system known as “2G” in Germany.

The move comes in response to “the rising number of coronavirus cases and the increasing pressure on intensive care units”, the Berlin senate said in a press release on Wednesday evening.

Theatres, museums and outdoor events with more than 2,000 visitors such as football games will all be off-limits to unvaccinated adults.

Minors and people who can’t get jabbed for health reasons will not be affected by the new restrictions, for them, a negative test will suffice.

Companies were also encouraged to ask employees to work from home more, and to limit office attendance to 50 percent of staff.

The measures agreed by the Berlin senate are among the toughest yet in Germany, which in recent days has repeatedly shattered its record for new daily coronavirus infections.

The country added almost 40,000 cases on Wednesday, an all-time high, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

The surge has been blamed on Germany’s relatively low vaccination rate, with just over 67 percent of the population fully inoculated.

Some hospitals have started postponing non-urgent surgeries again to care for a rapidly growing number of coronavirus patients.

‘The virus doesn’t care’ 

Under Germany’s federal system, its 16 regional states have significant powers to shape their own coronavirus approaches, at times leading to a confusing patchwork of rules across the country.

The hard-hit eastern state of Saxony introduced stricter “2G” measures at the start of the week, while other states including Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg are also introducing tougher curbs on the unvaccinated.

The worsening pandemic comes with Germany in political limbo after a September general election.

The winning Social Democrats are in talks to form a new coalition government by early December with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz as chancellor.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, who remains in office for now, called for an urgent meeting between the federal government and regional leaders to agree coordinated measures.

“The virus doesn’t care that we have a caretaker government or that we’re in the middle of coalition negotiations,” she told a press conference.

Germany’s current vaccination rate “is sadly not high enough to prevent a rapid spreading of the virus”, she warned.

AFP

Germany Hit By Record Surge In COVID-19 Cases

Testing staff of non-profit organisation Albatros takes a swab sample for a coronavirus (Covid-19) from a person at the ‘Haus der Weisheit’ (House of Wisdom) Mosque in Berlin’s Moabit district on April 23, 2021. (Photo by Tobias Schwarz / AFP)

 

Germany on Thursday saw its biggest daily rise in Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) health agency showed.

The country recorded 33,949 new cases in the past 24 hours, the RKI said, beating the previous daily record of 33,777 on December 18, 2020.

Cases have been rising sharply over the past few weeks, with Health Minister Jens Spahn warning on Wednesday that a fourth wave was raging “with exceptional force”.

Ministers have blamed Germany’s relatively low vaccination rate for the surge, with just 66.9 percent of the population fully inoculated as of Thursday, according to official figures.

Health professionals say unvaccinated people account for the majority of patients in intensive care, with numbers rising rapidly.

“We are currently experiencing mainly a pandemic of the unvaccinated and it is massive,” Spahn said on Wednesday, warning that “in some regions in Germany intensive care beds are running out again”.

The Covid surge comes as Germany is in political limbo following September’s general election, with the winning Social Democrats hoping to have a new coalition government in place by early December.

The incoming coalition parties have so far ruled out mandatory jabs and said there will be no new lockdowns — at least not for the vaccinated.

However, under Germany’s federal system, regional states have significant powers to decide their own Covid approach, at times leading to a confusing patchwork of regulations.

Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun on Wednesday called for an urgent meeting between the caretaker government and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states to agree common rules.

Some states, including Baden-Wuerttemberg, Saxony and Bavaria, have already agreed or introduced tougher restrictions on the unvaccinated.

Mueller Apologises To Bayern Fans After Humiliating Defeat To Moenchengladbach 

(L-R) Bayern Munich’s German midfielder Serge Gnabry, Bayern Munich’s German midfielder Joshua Kimmich, Bayern Munich’s German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich’s German forward Thomas Mueller, Bayern Munich’s German midfielder Leon Goretzka react during the German Cup (DFB Pokal) 2nd round football match Borussia Moenchengladbach v FC Bayern Munich in Moenchengladbach, Western Germany, on October 27, 2021. Ina Fassbender / AFP

 

Bayern Munich veteran Thomas Mueller has apologised to their fans and admitted the 5-0 thrashing at Moenchengladbach in the German Cup was the worst defeat he has experienced during 13 years playing in the famous red shirt.

“We were picked apart from A to Z in the first half,” the 32-year-old Mueller, who made his Bayern debut in 2008 and is approaching 600 appearances for the Bavarian giants, told ARD.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced anything like that before in an FC Bayern shirt. We have to apologise to our fans.”

A full-strength Bayern team was pole-axed Wednesday when Gladbach took the lead at Borussia Park with barely a minute gone.

After Kouadio Kone’s early goal, Algerian defender Ramy Bensebaini netted twice to make it 3-0 at half-time.

Bayern’s bright start to the second-half was obliterated when Swiss striker Breel Embolo scored two rapid-fire goals.

Furious Bayern sports director Hasan Salihamidzic described the visitors’ performance as “a collective blackout — we simply didn’t turn up”.

Gladbach fans started celebrating long before the final whistle as the song ‘Oh, wie ist das schoen’ (Oh, how beautiful this is) echoed around the stands.

“Of course, this was a disgrace for us,” added Mueller who said the Bayern team sat stunned in the dressing room afterwards.

“We had a lot planned. We tried to somehow pick ourselves up, but I don’t think you saw that on TV.”

READ ALSOBarcelona Sack Ronald Koeman As Coach

Moenchengladbach’s Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer (R) and his teammates react after the German Cup (DFB Pokal) 2nd round football match Borussia Moenchengladbach v FC Bayern Munich in Moenchengladbach, Western Germany, on October 27, 2021. Ina Fassbender / AFP

 

Bayern had plenty of off-field distractions in the build-up.

Head coach Julian Nagelsmann was sidelined at home, isolating after testing positive for Covid-19.

Defender Lucas Hernandez discovered the morning of the second-round cup tie that he will escape jail in Spain despite violating a restraining order in 2017.

Midfielder Joshua Kimmich has been heavily criticised in the German media after opting against being vaccinated for Covid-19.

Nevertheless, those factors do little to explain a dreadful team performance as Bayern suffered their heaviest cup defeat in club history.

A backlash is expected away on Saturday in the Bundesliga when Bayern play at Union Berlin, who are unbeaten in their last 21 home league games.

“People are used to us showing a reaction after negative experiences. But that’s easy to say,” said Mueller.

“Normally, we are also used to reacting differently after falling behind.”

Nagelsmann’s assistant coach Dino Toppmoeller promised improvement.

“We will certainly have to live with gloating and ridicule in the next day or two. That’s the business,” he said.

“But we have to brush ourselves off and show a reaction on Saturday. That will come — for sure.”

AFP

FG Hails German Govt On Repatriation Of Benin Bronzes

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed receives the German Government delegation on the repatriation of the Benin artefacts from Germany. Credit: FG

 

The Federal Government on Wednesday hailed the German Government for the repatriation of Benin artefacts from the European country.

About 1,130 pieces of Benin Bronzes are expected to be returned to Nigeria next year, with Germany expressing its readiness to willingly decide to return the items, thus becoming the first country to do so.

As part of moves to achieve this, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, received the German government delegation that came to Nigeria for the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding.

According to a statement issued by Segun Adeyemi, the spokesman of the Minister, Mohammed said the MoU “marked the beginning of efforts that will culminate in the signing, in December 2021, of the agreement on the repatriation of the Benin Bronzes.”

This is even as he described the MoU signed between Nigeria and Germany in Abuja as a major step toward the repatriation of hundreds of Benin Bronzes from Germany next year.

“The German Government and the German people have taken a bold step by agreeing to voluntarily, without too much coercion on the part of Nigeria to return these artefacts. Because what the return of the artefacts will do is that it’s going to really cement further the relationship between Nigeria and Germany. Culture today has become one of the effective tools for soft diplomacy,” the Minister said.

“The return of the artefacts should not be an end of an era but rather the beginning of further cooperation between the two parties.”

Mohammed said a team of experts will leave Nigeria very soon to engage with stakeholders in Germany on the repatriation of the artefacts.

Although Germany acquired the artefacts through global trading in artefacts, the Minister explained that it had voluntarily agreed to relinquish them in order to further strengthen the bilateral ties between Nigeria and Germany.

He added: “A team of experts will be visiting some museum in Germany very soon and the whole idea is again confidence building to especially assuage their feeling of loss and make it lighter and easier for them and to also make their position more tenable with the people.”

In his remarks, the Director-General for Culture and Communication of the German Federal Foreign Office, Dr. Andreas Gorgen, said the release of the artefacts is part of a cultural policy that will contribute to healing the wound inflicted by the looting of the artefacts from Nigeria and to establishing a new relationship between Germany and Nigeria.

He commended the efforts of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments and said the signed MoU was based on what the Minister initiated during his visit to Germany earlier in the year.

Members of the German delegation included the Director of the Museum at Rothenbaum, Prof. Barbara Plankensteiner; President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Prof. Hermann Parzinger and the German Ambassador to Nigeria, Birgitt Ory.

Germany Become First Team To Qualify For 2022 World Cup

Germany players celebrate after winning the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification Group J football match between North Macedonia and Germany at the Toshe Proeski National Arena in Skopje on October 11, 2021. Nikolay DOYCHINOV / AFP

 

 

Germany continued their spotless record under new coach Hansi Flick and secured qualification for the 2022 World Cup as Chelsea striker Timo Werner scored twice in a 4-0 rout of North Macedonia on Monday.

Just months after they slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat to the same opponent on home soil, Germany cruised to a dominant win in Skopje to increase their lead at the top of Group J to eight points and secure their berth at next year’s tournament in Qatar.

Werner’s Chelsea team-mate Kai Havertz also got on the scoresheet and Jamal Musiala scored his first international goal as Germany made it five wins out of five under Flick, who took over from Joachim Loew after Euro 2020.

The 56-year-old coach said 2014 World Cup winners Germany still had “a long way to go”, but insisted his team could compete with the best in the world.

“Our players have the quality to rival France, Italy and Belgium. I am very optimistic,” he said.

Midfielder Leon Goretzka also backed Flick to take Germany back to the top of the world game after failing to make it past the first two rounds at both of their last two major tournament appearances.

“We still need to improve to get back to the top, but there are few people better placed than Hansi to do that,” he told RTL.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Para Powerlifter Banned For 30 Months

Goalscorer Werner added that Flick’s faith in him had helped him to shrug off growing criticism of his form in recent months.

“When a coach likes you and trusts you, then it helps every striker, especially me. I need that trust, and Flick gives that to me 100 percent,” he said.

Germany were wasteful in the first half, with striker Werner squandering several chances and Joshua Kimmich and Serge Gnabry forcing saves from North Macedonian goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.

Havertz finally opened the scoring just after the break, slotting into an empty net after a lightning counter-attack.

Werner doubled the lead with a sharp volley on 70 minutes, before curling a third into the bottom corner a few minutes later.

Seven minutes from time and shortly after coming on to replace Werner, Musiala fired a low shot past Dimitrievski.

The goal made him Germany’s youngest scorer since 1910 at just 18 years and 227 days.

“Jamal is very cool in front of goal for a player his age,” said Flick.

AFP

100-Year-Old Ex-Nazi Camp Guard Tells Court He’s ‘Innocent’

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

A 100-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person charged with complicity in the murder of thousands of detainees, told a German court on Friday that he was not guilty.

“I am innocent,” said Josef Schuetz, who stands accused of “knowingly and willingly” assisting in the murder of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.

When asked about his work at the camp, he insisted that he “knows nothing” about what happened there and that he did “absolutely nothing”.

“Everything is torn” from his head, he said, complaining that he was the only one in the dock.

Allegations against Schuetz include aiding and abetting the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B”.

The Sachsenhausen camp detained more than 200,000 people between 1936 and 1945, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and gay people.

Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labour, murder, medical experiments, hunger or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

‘No man like you’ 

Schuetz’s defence had said at the opening of the case on Thursday that he would not speak about his time at the camp, but would only provide details about his personal life.

Arriving alone at the hearing with his walking aid, Schuetz recounted in detail his past, including his work at his family’s farm in Lithuania with his seven siblings before his enrolment in the army in 1938.

After the war, he was transferred to a detainees camp in Russia before he was sent to Brandenburg state in Germany where he worked as a farmer and later as a locksmith.

Speaking with a clear voice, he spoke about his past birthdays with his daughters and grandchildren, or about his late wife.

“My wife always said that ‘there’s no other man in the world like you’,” said the widower since 1986.

Schuetz remains free during the trial. Even if convicted, he is highly unlikely to be put behind bars given his age.

More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving Nazi perpetrators to justice.

The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk, on the basis that he served as part of Hitler’s killing machine, set a legal precedent and paved the way to several of these twilight justice cases.

Since then, courts have handed down several guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly linked to the individual accused.

Among those brought to late justice were Oskar Groening, an accountant at Auschwitz, and Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at Auschwitz.

Both were convicted at the age of 94 of complicity in mass murder, but died before they could be imprisoned.

Most recently, former SS guard Bruno Dey was found guilty at the age of 93 last year and was given a two-year suspended sentence.

Separately in the northern German town of Itzehoe, a 96-year-old former secretary in a Nazi death camp is on trial for complicity in murder.

She dramatically fled before the start of her trial, but was caught several hours later. Her trial resumes on October 19.

AFP

Merkel Meets Pope, Draghi In Farewell Visit To Rome

This photo taken and handout on October 7, 2021 by the Vatican media shows Pope Francis and German chancellor Angela Merkel during a private audience at the Vatican. Handout / AFP / VATICAN MEDIA

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed climate change and clerical abuse with Pope Francis Thursday in a farewell trip to Rome that included talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Merkel, who is bowing out after 16 years in power, also visited St Peter’s Basilica and will lunch at a restaurant in central Rome before giving a speech at a peace conference at the Colosseum.

She was honoured with a ceremonial welcome by the Swiss Guards at the Vatican before meeting and exchanging gifts with the pope, whom she has met several times before.

She said afterwards they discussed climate change — an issue on which Francis has been outspoken — and the sexual abuse by children of clergy, a problem that has rocked the Catholic Church in Germany and elsewhere.

“We had important discussions about child abuse,” Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman, told reporters.

“I wanted to underline with my visit that we think that the truth must come to light, and the topic must be dealt with.”

Earlier, Merkel visited the site of a new institute within the Vatican’s Gregoriana university dedicated to child protection and met with Hans Zollner, the Vatican’s leading expert on measures to safeguard minors.

She was later due to meet with Draghi, with whom she has worked closely for years, notably when he was head of the European Central Bank — and where they did not always see eye-to-eye.

Merkel will stay on in a caretaker capacity as her successors haggle over forming a coalition.

Germany is inching towards a government led by Olaf Scholz after the Greens and the liberal FDP party said Wednesday they would try for a three-way tie-up with his Social Democrats while shunning Merkel’s conservatives.

The two kingmaker parties’ decision sends the CDU-CSU bloc closer to the opposition, in a major shift for the country after a decade and a half of Merkel’s centre right-led government.

AFP