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German report German report
by Euro Reporter
2010-02-25 07:48:49
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Bishop resigns over driving drunk

The head of the Lutheran Church in Germany, Margot Kaessmann, announced her resignation at a press conference after being pulled over for drunken driving days before. "One of my advisers said stick to what your heart tells you to do," Kaessmann told reporters. "And my heart tells me clearly that I cannot stay in office without losing much of the authority I'd need for the post."

Her resignation as head of Germany's Protestants and Hanover's bishop is effective immediately, but she will remain a pastor in the local Hanover church. Kaessmann's decision to resign came despite a vote of confidence from fellow Protestant leaders.

Police had stopped the 51-year-old, who was driving a car provided by the Church, for running a red light in Hanover on Saturday night. A test showed her blood alcohol level to be 0.154 percent, three times the legal limit for driving in Germany, prosecutors said. "I am shocked at myself for committing such a grievous error," Kaessmann had told Bild newspaper. "I am aware how dangerous and irresponsible it is to drink and drive. I will accept the legal consequences."

She will face criminal proceedings for drunk driving, which could include a fine of one month's salary and loss of driving privileges for up to a year, prosecutors said.


Germany violates EU deficit rules

Newly released data from the Federal Statistics Office showed that state spending, boosted by efforts to fighting the economic and financial crisis, pushed the deficit to 79.3 billion Euros ($107.2 billion). That's 3.3 percent of gross domestic product. This means Germany has overstepping the budget-deficit limits set for EU countries by the Maastricht Treaty at 3 percent of GDP for the first time since 2005.

The deficit-limit rule is aimed at securing the stability of the euro currency. Statistics for 2009 first published in January had shown a deficit of 77.2 billion Euros, or 3.2 percent of GDP. The poor result was expected, since the economic stimulus package, government subsidies for short-time employment, and falling tax revenues have all been a burden on public spending. The German central bank is predicting even more red ink - a budget deficit of 5 percent - for 2010.


To cut subsidies for solar energy

The center-right German government is proposing legislation to severely reduce state subsidies to solar power in an attempt to prevent market saturation and save money. The draft law, which both the German parliament and Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet are to consider in the coming weeks, would cut state-guaranteed prices by 15 percent for energy produced by solar panels on open ground.

It would also cut prices by 16 percent for solar panels on roofs, where 80 percent of solar panels in Germany are, and eliminate subsidies for panels placed on arable land. A previous plan by Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen was criticized for not going far enough. "There must be no more panels installed on arable land," said Peter Altmaier, a member of Merkel's Christian Democrat Union (CDU) who follows the solar energy sector. "The objective is to reduce excessive stimulation without hindering an expansion of green energy."

Experts have criticized solar energy subsidies in Germany for failing to spur competition in the industry, which accounts for less than one percent of all German electricity production. The subsidies have also had several unintended consequences: Farmers have installed solar panels on their arable fields; also, the global market has greatly increased, helping manufacturers in China, where labour is cheaper.

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