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German report German report
by Euro Reporter
2011-11-29 07:17:44
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Police battle with 1000s blocking nuke train

The convoy taking the German waste on a 1,200-kilometre (750-mile) journey from a reprocessing centre in north-western France to a storage facility in northern Germany was stopped for 18 hours, including overnight, amid mass demonstrations. Thousands of activists swarmed the tracks along the route near the train's final destination in Dannenberg and boasted that the odyssey's duration had now topped the 92-hour record set during a shipment one year ago. Police said they detained about 1,300 people, including some who had chained themselves to the railway, requiring tricky and time-consuming operations to free them before the train could slowly rumble on.

Some 150 people were injured in clashes, most of them demonstrators, according to security forces quoted by German news agency DPA. The waste, produced in German reactors several years ago and then sent to France for reprocessing, began its journey in a yard operated by French nuclear company Areva in Valognes, Normandy Wednesday. The protestors argue that the shipment by train of spent fuel rods is hazardous and note that Germany, like the rest of Europe, has no permanent storage site for the waste, which will remain dangerous for thousands of years. They are also angry that a pledged German phase-out of nuclear power, hastily agreed this year in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, will take another decade to implement.

"It's like a friend telling you that he will stop smoking in 10 years," said Jochen Stay, spokesman for the anti-nuclear body Ausgestrahlt (Radiated), which has mobilised protesters against the shipment. "You are not going to congratulate them just yet." At the train's final destination of Dannenberg, the 11 containers of waste are due to be unloaded onto trucks for the final 20-kilometre leg of the journey by road to the Gorleben storage facility on the River Elbe. Organisers said about 23,000 protestors had gathered in Dannenberg, while police put the number at 8,000. About 20,000 police have been deployed along the train's German route.


Germany doubling its funding to Jewish community

Germany reportedly will double its funding to the Central Council of Jews in Germany. The decision, which broke last week in the mainstream news before being publicly announced, follows negotiations that began a year ago with the election of Dieter Graumann, a businessman based in Frankfurt, to head the council.  The German federal government will raise its allocation to the Central Council to 10 million euro, or about $13 million, from about 5 million euro, or $6.7 million. Speaking with young Jews at a youth congress in Weimar over the weekend, Graumann, 61, said he hopes especially to use the new funding to help the younger generation. He said that despite Europe's difficult economic climate, the timing was evidently right -- with the current government of Chancellor Angela Merkel still in power -- to ask for additional help.

Graumann said the council represents 110,000 Jews who are members of communities. According to the council, another 140,000 people who identify as Jews do not belong to communities. The great majority -- some 85 percent -- came to Germany from the former Soviet Union after German unification in 1990. Germany's Jewish population is more than five times as large as before fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Before Hitler came to power in 1933, there were about 500,000 Jews in Germany.

In 2003, the German government signed its first contract with the Central Council, putting it on a legal par with the Catholic and Protestant communities. At the time, the government pledged 3 million euro, or about $4 million, per year to help the Jewish community meet its infrastructure needs, before raising the allotment to its current levels in 2008.  In recent years, as the community has grown, there have been increasing demands on the council to fund additional programs, such as those that train teachers and rabbis for communities. Graumann has said his main concern as head of the council is to promote the continuity of Jewish life in Germany, with a special focus on youth and on the integration of former Soviet Jews in the communities. The Jewish youth congress in Weimar marked the first time that the event has been held concurrently with the meeting of the Central Council board. Participants had the chance to ask questions of the president in a special forum, and on Sunday they were to be represented at the board meeting. In a sign of support for Germany's growing Jewish community, the federal government


Merkel's fight for German stability

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, received support for her refusal to bail out weaker euro members from an unexpected quarter last week: the markets. Investors worried that Berlin might compromise its reputation for prudence by underwriting a pan-eurozone bond marked down the value of the country's debt severely. A country that has been seen as a safe haven, while peripheral nations struggled, suddenly lost its attraction. And the prospect of those countries' problems impacting on Germany means that economists believe Mrs Merkel will now find her economy back in recession.

With Italian bond yields back above 7 per cent – despite the change of government – and Portuguese yields exceeding 13 per cent after its bonds were downgraded to junk status, those governments are keen to create eurozone-wide bonds that would be backed by Europe's biggest and strongest economy. So keen have investors been for Germany's AAA-rated bonds that they have eagerly switched into them, even though they paid less than 2 per cent. But advocates of the eurozone bonds failed to realise that pooling the peripheral nations' debt with Berlin's would pull up German yields. The lesson came at the regular auction last week, when Mrs Merkel's government offered new debt to replace maturing bonds. Bids were received for only two-thirds of the issue. Rather than buy German bonds, investors became sellers.

Yields jumped to 2.23 per cent as money switched into countries that will not have to bail out Spain, Greece and the other troubled nations. Demand for UK government debt has become so strong that UK bond yields are now lower than Germany's. However, trouble in Europe, especially the likelihood of a return to recession, affects British companies, many of which have subsidiaries on the Continent and whose main export market is the eurozone.


Germany's Greens want to raise taxes on rich

Germany's opposition Greens party, with solid chances of returning to power after the next federal election in 2013, decided at a weekend party congress to push for higher taxes on the rich and eliminate some corporate tax breaks. The Greens have been riding high in opinion polls and could be well-positioned to form a coalition with their preferred partners, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), or Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives (CDU/CSU).

But the Greens have been adrift since the spring after Merkel's centre-right coalition robbed them of their signature issue by agreeing to shut the country's nuclear power plants by 2022. The Greens had led the anti-nuclear movement for decades. The 800 delegates to the party congress in the northern city of Kiel drafted a programme to raise taxes on the rich and companies as a remedy for the sovereign debt crisis. Higher taxes on the rich are likely to strike a chord with most voters.

They agreed to push for raising the top income tax bracket from 42 percent to 49 percent for those earning 80,000 Euros a year or more, and a wealth tax on all those with assets of more than 1 million Euros. Some wanted the top rate raised to 53 percent but failed to win a majority. The Greens called to eliminate tax breaks on company cars, remove many corporate energy tax breaks and end tax breaks for married couples -- a batch of left-leaning proposals that would make it hard to find common ground with the conservatives.

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