BERLIN, July 14, 2018 (News Wires) - German business groups have urged their members to step up preparations for a hard Brexit that would see Britain crash out of the European Union next year without negotiating a deal.
British Prime Minister Theresa May secured a cabinet agreement last week for "a business-friendly" proposal to leave the EU, aimed at spurring stalled Brexit talks. But the hard-won compromise has come under fire from within her governing Conservative Party and may yet fall flat with EU negotiators.
"Even if the British government is moving now, companies must plan for the scenario in which there is no agreement," Joachim Lang, managing director of the BDI, Germany's biggest industry lobby, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
Thilo Brodtmann, managing director of the VDMA engineering association, told the same paper: "It is urgent to prepare for Brexit and to expect the worst case scenario."
German industry is concerned about increased friction in trade with Britain after Brexit. Britain is the second-biggest export market for German car manufacturers.
But Lang said some German businesses were only just starting to analyse what Brexit would mean for them, adding: "At least that has moved us forward from a few months ago."
Brodtmann warned engineering firms against being lured into a sense of complacency by stable business in Britain now.
"Brexit is such a big nonsense that many companies still hope it will not be that bad because the EU will not allow a hard landing for the economy. But I can only warn against that," he said.
BERLIN, July 14, 2018 - German authorities are investigating carmaker Opel as part of an inquiry into the “dieselgate” scandal that saw major manufacturers such as Volkswagen fined billions of euros for cheating emissions tests, the transport ministry said Saturday.
A ministry spokesman told AFP it was looking into Opel’s Euro 6 diesel models but stressed “nothing definitive” could be concluded until the probe was complete.
According to the mass-selling tabloid Bild, Opel’s Cascada, Insignia and Zarifa models are under investigation, totalling 60,000 vehicles.
Without citing its sources, the paper said Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) had “strong evidence” to suggest exhaust management systems in some models had been totally deactivated during normal driving.
If that were the case, it suggested Opel’s diesel models would exceed emission limits “by more than 10 times”.
Bild quoted an Opel source as saying that models currently in production were not part of the investigation.
Opel, a subsidiary of France’s PSA group of carmakers, said in 2016 that it has never installed devices used to cheat emission tests in its vehicles.
“Our cars comply with legal norms,” Bild quoted the firm as saying.
The dieselgate crisis started when the Volkswagen group admitted in 2015 to installing so-called “defeat devices” in some 11 million diesels worldwide that made them seem less polluting in lab tests than they actually were on the road.
It has so far cost the VW group more than €25 billion ($29 billion) in buybacks, fines and compensation, mainly in the United States where the cheating scam was first uncovered.
BRUSSELS, July 12, 2018 (News Wires) — President Donald Trump renewed his pressure tactics on fellow NATO nations to increase their defence spending on Thursday, hammering US allies on Twitter as he attended a second day of meetings with leaders of the military alliance.
Trump, in a series of tweets from Brussels, said that, "Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia."
He complained the United States "pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidise Europe" and demanded that member nations meet their pledge to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence, which "must ultimately go to 4 Per cent!"
Trump has taken an aggressive tone during the NATO summit, questioning the value of an alliance that has defined decades of American foreign policy, torching an ally and proposing a massive increase in European defence spending.
Under fire for his warm embrace of Russia's Vladimir Putin, Trump on Wednesday turned a harsh spotlight on Germany's own ties to Russia, alleging that a natural gas pipeline venture with Moscow has left Angela Merkel's government "totally controlled" and "captive" to Russia.
He continued the attack on Thursday, complaining that, "Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia."
"Not acceptable!" he railed before arriving late at NATO headquarters for a morning of meetings that will include talks with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Romania, Ukraine and Georgia. In the afternoon, he heads to his next stop: the United Kingdom.
Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, echoed Trump's rhetoric, telling Fox Business Network that "Germany is a tremendous problem, both for Europe itself, and for the United States in this sense."
"What's more surprising, the fact that the President Trump is calling them out on that or that previous presidents haven't?" he asked. "It's really extraordinary that Donald Trump has to be the person to point out that the emperor in Europe has no clothes."
The tough rhetoric against a core ally comes just days before Trump is set to meet one-on-one with Putin in Finland.
With scorching language, Trump questioned the necessity of the alliance that formed a bulwark against Soviet aggression, tweeting after a day of contentious meetings: "What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy?"
During the meetings, he demanded via tweet that NATO countries "Must pay 2 per cent of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025" and then rattled them further by privately suggesting member nations should spend 4 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence — a bigger share than even the United States currently pays, according to NATO statistics.
It was the most recent in a series of demands and insults that critics fear will undermine a decades-old alliance launched to counterbalance Soviet aggressions. And it comes just days before Trump sits down with Putin at the conclusion of his closely watched European trip.
Trump has spent weeks berating members of the alliance for failing to spend enough of their money on defence, accusing Europe of freeloading off the US and raising doubts about whether he would come to members' defence if they were ever attacked.
He described the current situation as "disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States."
From Brussels, Trump heads to England, where May's government is in turmoil over her plans for exiting the European Union.
Although administration officials point to the long-standing alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom, Trump's itinerary will largely keep him out of central London, where significant protests are expected.
Instead, a series of events — a black-tie dinner with business leaders, a meeting with May and an audience with Queen Elizabeth II — will happen outside the bustling city, where Mayor Sadiq Khan has been in a verbal battle with Trump.
Woody Johnson, the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom, dismissed the significance of the protests, telling Fox News that one of the reasons the two countries are so close "is because we have the freedoms that we've all fought for. And one of the freedoms we have is freedom of speech and the freedom to express your views. And I know that's valued very highly over here and people can disagree strongly and still go out to dinner."
He also said that meeting the queen would be an experience that Trump "will really cherish."
BRUSSELS, July 11, 2018 (News Wires) - In a combative start to his NATO visit, President Donald Trump asserted Wednesday that a pipeline project has made Germany “totally controlled” by and “captive to Russia” and blasted allies’ defence spending, opening what was expected to be a fraught summit with a list of grievances involving American allies.
Trump, in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, took issue with the US protecting Germany as it strikes deals with Russia.
“I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia,” Trump said at breakfast with Stoltenberg. “We’re supposed to protect you against Russia but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that’s very inappropriate.”
The president appeared to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring gas from Russia to Germany’s northeastern Baltic coast, bypassing Eastern European nations like Poland and Ukraine and doubling the amount of gas Russia can send directly to Germany.
The vast undersea pipeline is opposed by the US and some other EU members, who warn it could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe.
Trump said “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia” and urged NATO to look into the issue.
Stoltenberg pushed back, stressing that NATO members have been able to work together despite their differences.
It was an unusual criticism coming from Trump, who has appeared eager to cozy up to Putin and who has dismissed the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russia tried to
undermine Western democracy by meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help Trump win. During the campaign, Trump often resorted to the tactic of falsely accusing his
opponents of things he had been criticised for doing.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced hours after the tit-for-tat over Germany that Trump would meet later Wednesday with Merkel, as well as with French
President Emmanuel Macron. Journalists will not be allowed to cover either meeting, she said.
The dramatic exchange set the tone for what was already expected to be a tense day of meetings with leaders of the military alliance. Trump is expected to continue hammering
jittery NATO allies about their military spending during the summit, which comes amid increasingly frayed relations between the “America first” president and the United States’
closest traditional allies.
“The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough, especially some. So we’re going to have a meeting on that,” Trump said as he arrived at the
breakfast, describing the situation as “disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States and we’re going to make it fair.”
“They will spend more,” he later predicted. “I have great confidence they’ll be spending more.”
BERLIN, July 10, 2018 (News Wires) - Germany's top security official on Tuesday unveiled his new plan on controlling and limiting migration, which he called a "turning point" in the country's asylum policy.
The main goals of the 63-point "migration master plan" include the quick deportation of people living in Germany whose asylum applications have been rejected, who already registered for asylum in another European country or who have a criminal record, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told reporters in Berlin.
Seehofer, who has long pushed Chancellor Angela Merkel to take a harder line against migrants, said the new plan also envisions placing all asylum-seekers in big centers to have their applications processed there. Asylum-seekers currently are mostly distributed to small asylum homes across the country, though some states have already introduced centers where hundreds of applicants need to stay for months while awaiting decisions.
The new plan also foresees that asylum applicants who previously registered in another EU country will be taken directly back to where they first entered the EU - primarily Greece and Italy.
That issue had led to a clash between Seehofer and Merkel, who repeatedly insisted that Germany shouldn't act unilaterally by sending back asylum seekers to other European countries that would then have to bear the biggest burden of the influx. The controversy ended last week with a compromise in which Germany will have to make agreements with affected countries before sending back asylum seekers there.
"We prefer European solutions, but national solutions are not necessarily superfluous," Seehofer said.
More than 1 million migrants entered Germany in 2015-2015, most of them from war-torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. While they initially received a friendly welcome in the country, the mood has turned and led to a backlash against migrants and helped fuel the rise of the nationalist Alternative for Germany. In the last two years, however, the numbers of newly arriving migrants in Germany have gone down sharply.
Seehofer's office reported Tuesday that the country saw a 16.4-percent decline in asylum applications in the first half of 2018 over the same period last year.
There were 93,316 formal applications from January through June, 18,300 fewer than in the first half of 2017. The largest group seeking asylum was from Syria, with 22,520 applications, followed by Iraq with 9,015 applications and Afghanistan with 6,222.
In the first six months, German authorities decided on 125,190 applications, down nearly 70 percent from the same period of 2017, an indication that the backlog of cases is starting to be cleared.
About 40,000 people were granted asylum or related protection, 45,000 were rejected and 40,000 cases were otherwise resolved, such as being withdrawn or sent to another European country for review.
HAMBURG, July 9, 2018 (News Wires) - China has agreed to reopen its market to imports of German poultry meat, German agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner said on Monday.
China had stopped imports of German poultry meat after an outbreak of the bird flu disease in Germany.
Kloeckner said in a statement after talks in Berlin with Chinese agriculture minister Han Changfu that "the Chinese side has come to the conclusion that there is no reason for concern" about German poultry meat.
A Germany/China government summit is taking place in Berlin this week.
China is one of Germany´s largest markets for meat exports, especially pork.
Kloeckner said she also pressed China not to impose a complete ban on German pork should the African swine fever disease be found in the country, but to take a more regional view of the problem.
The rapid spread of the disease in east Europe is causing concern in Germany in case export bans should be imposed by Asian importers.