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German report German report
by Euro Reporter
2011-01-23 10:45:34
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Euro Group leader exhorts Germany to expand rescue fund

The influential head of the Euro Group of 17 countries that have adopted Europe's common currency is warning that Germany must move to expand the money available in the EU rescue package to save the euro. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker says he is "angry" about the tone of the discussion of the euro rescue in some parties.

Jean-Claude Junker, the prime minister of Luxembourg and president of the Euro Group, has warned the German government that it must take part in the planned reform of the European Union's euro rescue package. “It is now inevitable that we will have to effectively make available the €440 billion ($598 biillion) that we tentatively promised last May," Juncker told Spiegel magazine in an interview to be published on Monday. "I am confident the (German) government will not ignore this common European goal."

Germany is not the only country that must take on additional burdens, Juncker added. "To make the rescue package more efficient, other countries like the Netherlands, Austria, Finland and Luxembourg must also contribute their share." Juncker said it was conceivable that the euro rescue fund could purchase debt from troubled EU countries. "It would be wrong to create taboos," he said. Last week, several leading politicians in the German government, comprised of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), rejected calls to change the current euro rescue package.


Cost of food rose faster than inflation in Germany last year

The cost of food in Germany rose faster than overall inflation last year, according to official figures published Thursday at the start of the Green Week, one of the world's largest agricultural fairs held annually in Berlin. In 2010, consumers had to pay an average of 1.6 per cent more than the previous year's prices, according to the national office for statistics. Overall inflation stood at 1.1 per cent. Food producers warned that prices would continue to increase.

'Our expenses for energy, fertilizer and equipment have risen enormously. We need these price rises,' Farm Association President Gerd Sonnleitner said. Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner warned against bargain hunting when it came to food, stressing that shoppers should focus more on quality. At the same time, she expected producers to do their part too. 'I know that many people in Germany really need to spend every cent wisely,' Aigner said. 'This is why it is important for me that everything is safe, as well as affordable.'

Her comments came after the German meat and egg industry were tainted by revelations that animals were fed with fats contaminated with high levels of the carcinogen dioxin, which then passed into food.  Later in the day, Aigner was to formally open the Green Week, which is attended annually by agriculture ministers and industry heavyweights from around the world. Food price hikes are expected to be a key topic. In 2010, the cost of butter rose by almost a quarter in Germany, while fruit and vegetable increased by more than 5 per cent. Fish was 3.6 per cent more expensive than in 2009.

Confectionery, on the other hand, experienced a 1-per-cent price drop while the cost of sugar fell by 11.6 per cent. The price of bread and cereals remained almost level, while fish, meat, dairy products and egg rose by a minimal 0.4 per cent. Overall, food costs have risen by 13 per cent since 2005 in Germany, compared to overall inflation of 8.2 per cent.


A miserable week for Germany's Defense Minister

A mysterious shooting in Afghanistan and an alleged "mutiny" in the Atlantic may not have much in common, but both are causing headaches for Germany's defense minister. With details only emerging of the incidents this week, the opposition has cried "cover-up" and the press wonders if Guttenberg is still in control of the military. The most popular member of the German government has had a tough week. Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has faced attacks from the opposition that he was not forthcoming enough about troubling incidents within the armed forces in recent months.

While the details are only now emerging of an alleged "mutiny" on a training ship for navy officers that took place in November, the minister is also facing criticism for not revealing the full details of a fatal accidental shooting of a German soldier in Afghanistan in December. This is all hot on the heels of allegations earlier in the week that mail sent home by troops based in Afghanistan had been opened.  On Wednesday, the parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, Hellmut Königshaus, released a report into a dispute onboard the three-masted training ship Gorch Fock that followed the deadly fall from a mast in November of a young female cadet. After the incident, the ship's crew is said to have staged what the German press has described as a "mutiny," refusing to climb the rigging despite orders and "great pressure" to do so. But the report also includes accusations of massive intimidation of cadets on the vessel, including sexual harassment. The ship has interrupted its current voyage and is at anchor in Argentina, where German Bundeswehr armed forces investigators are to arrive soon.

Meanwhile, the death of a solider at a German army outpost in Afghanistan in December has also come in for closer scrutiny. Initially it was assumed that the young man died after his gun went off while he was cleaning it. It has now emerged that he may have been shot during horseplay with another soldier, as the two were posing with their guns. Prosecutors are investigating the incident.

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