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German report German report
by Euro Reporter
2011-05-09 09:28:59
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German economy minister rejects Greece exit from euro

Germany's economy minister rejected on Sunday speculation that Greece should abandon the euro zone and return to the drachma, arguing that this would only weaken Europe at a time when it needs to be strengthened. "I am not for that ... rather I am much more of the opposite opinion," Rainer Bruederle told Reuters on the sidelines of an internal parliamentary group meeting of the Free Democrats (FDP) in Berlin.

"Our goal instead must be to strengthen Europe." On Saturday, fellow FDP MP Frank Schaeffler said Germany should constructively support Athens should it choose to leave the euro zone. Schaeffler was joined by Ifo Institute President Hans-Werner Sinn, who told Sunday weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FASZ) that a Greek exits is preferable to permanent fiscal transfusions from German coffers. Moreover, by pursuing austerity simply to remain in the euro zone, Athens condemns its population to a brutal internal devaluation through ever lower spending and wages, potentially bringing.

"The country would then come close to a state of civil war," he told the paper, likening the situation to the fiscal crisis of Weimar Germany, when the deflationary policies of Chancellor Heinrich Bruening helped bring the Nazis to power. Clemens Fuest from the University of Oxford, who is also a senior advisor to the German finance ministry, argued for a restructuring before Athens considers abandoning the euro. "An exit is feasible in principle," Fuest told the FASZ. "But the first step to solve the debt problem within the euro zone must be a haircut. Then one can think about whether Greece wants to stay in the euro zone."


The moral bankruptcy of Germany’s Greens

We can judge if a nation is civilised by how seriously it takes cycling as a mode of transport. Germany scores well. As recompense for the indignity of turning 40, I have been treated to a two-wheel tour of Bavaria. Apart from being able to marvel at the Alps and the pride grown men take in donning lederhosen, the sojourn has filled with admiration for the state’s superb network of bike paths. Bavaria  is in many respects a role model for sane environmental policies.  Two of the world’s largest solar energy plants can be found here; at street level, bins have separate compartments for different types of waste and ordinary people appear to be careful not to put their used bottles and papers into the wrong sections.

Ecological awareness does not happen by accident; it results from decades of campaigning, often by people who were ridiculed as fantasists when they started out. I first learned about the necessity of protecting nature from the work of Germany’s Green Party a few years after they were formed in the 1980s.  The Greens were different to mainstream politicians, I was led to believe, because they were more interested in principles than power. While that may have been true once, it is certainly not now. After elections in Baden-Württemberg in March, the Greens are now the largest party in a state legislature for the first time in their history. Becoming part of the next federal government is the overriding objective of their leader, Cem Ozdemir, whose public relations handlers like to depict him as Germany’s equivalent to Barack Obama (Ozdemir is of Turkish ethnicity and the party has even used the inane slogan “Yes We Cem” to promote him). 

Given that Angela Merkel has declared multiculturalism “dead”, progressives can derive some satisfaction from Ozdemir’s popularity. Yet in other respects the Greens have become a deeply reactionary force. It is particularly galling that a party formerly wedded to pacifism has morphed into a bunch of war-mongers. When Merkel abstained from supporting the bombardment of Libya recently, her most strident critics were prominent Greens. Renate Künast, a Green parliamentary leader who covets the post of Berlin mayor, accused Merkel of political failure. Her erstwhile boss, Joschka Fischer, was even more scathing.

In a syndicated opinion column, Fischer intimated that Germany could be isolated unless it followed the example he set as foreign minister, when it agreed to participate in the US-led occupation of Afghanistan. He wrote: “Germany and other European countries went to Afghanistan in solidarity with a NATO partner – our most important security guarantor, the United States – after it had been attacked from there on 11 September 2001. And solidarity within NATO – a term all but shunned these days in official German circles – is mutual: left to its own devices, Germany could one day wake up in a very precarious situation.”

Hold on a second. The best evidence we have tells us that the 11 September atrocities were planned in Hamburg, not in Osama bin Laden’s Tora Bora hideaway. There would have been no justification for the US to bomb German cities in retaliation; there was even less justification for how America and its stooges invaded Afghanistan. As part of a sordid sucking-up exercise to the Bush administration, Fischer  gave his imprimatur to a war that widened inequality. Each week, the United States – a country that denies millions of its own people the right to health insurance - spends $2 billion on waging war on Afghanistan. Germany has helped “our most important security guarantor” to increase hardship in Afghanistan.  According to World Bank data, 36% of the Afghan population lived below the national poverty line in 2008; in 2005, the corresponding figure stood at 33%.

Just as the German Greens showed a callous indifference to the plight of Afghanistan’s poor, they acted as cheerleaders for austerity measures at home from 1998 to 2005, when they last belonged to the federal government. Gerhard Schröder, the country’s chancellor at the time, encountered stiff resistance within his own Social Democrat party to the welfare reforms he introduced – some of his colleagues even quit the party in protest. The Greens, on the other hand, defended him vigorously, supporting extreme cuts in public expenditure in the full knowledge that they would hurt the disadvantaged most.

The U-turns of the German Greens have been copied by their sister parties elsewhere. With his slightly dishevelled appearance, Daniel Cohn Bendit still poses as a radical. It is a long time, though, since he was a student rebel in the Paris of 1968. As leader of the Green group in the European Parliament, he has been a hawkish advocate of US-led military operations. Disgustingly, he has cited humanitarian reasons to defend wars designed primarily to ensure America’s control of oil and other prized resources. In the early 1990s, I was an active member of the Irish Greens. Although I knew several Green members of the Dublin parliament personally, I was delighted to see all of them losing their seats in the recent general election. Their willingness to accept public service cutbacks demanded by the IMF and EU amounted to treason.

Because climate change imperils our survival as a species, I am convinced that we need a genuine green movement, separate from any political party. Having a few politicians who claim to be green answering to the title “minister” is no substitute for people power.


Germany's family businesses reach out to global markets

About 95 percent of German businesses have a family at their helm. That conservative establishment is engaging global markets in surprisingly versatile ways. Their path forward is studded with pitfalls, though. Despite the globalized economic environment, Germany remains strikingly traditional in one respect. Around 95 percent of the country's businesses are family owned, or are controlled to a large degree by a family.

Some 2,700 of those companies turn over more than 50 million Euros per year. They include renowned companies like BMW, Miele and other international players like Bahlsen and Dr. Oetker. The German economy has relied on these companies for decades to provide domestic jobs, but international markets are becoming increasingly important to them.

Nine out of 10 large, family-operated German companies currently do business internationally. France is their biggest market, although that's likely to change in the next three years, when China is expected to surpass France, the United States and Russia as Germany's most significant export partner. "We already have the phenomena that small- and medium-sized companies are producing and distributing more in China than in their home market in Germany," Deutsche Bank board member Jürgen Fitschen told Deutsche Welle. "If this development in China continues for several years, then the number of those in the same situation will increase consistently."

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