Secession as a Point of Leverage (II)

LONDON/BERLIN (Own report) – Scotland has established an investment center in Berlin, thereby reinforcing its economic ties to the EU and causing – with German support – new tension in Great Britain. According to critics, in its intended secession from the United Kingdom, for which it must establish economic security, the Scottish government is relying on German help. In fact, to increase the pressure on London to achieve the “softest” Brexit possible, Berlin and Germany’s regional governments are going out of their way to strengthen relations with Edinburgh. This is considered essential to German interests. Government advisors in Berlin are recommending using Ireland for obtaining influence in the negotiations concerning the borders between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. In the event of a “hard” Brexit, this border would be a particularly sensitive point. Berlin is also using EU foreigners, residing in the United Kingdom, as an additional bargaining chip. Chancellor Angela Merkel has refused to have their rights of residence clarified beforehand. Continue reading

Germany warns of dangers of new arms race with Russia as conflict in Ukraine intensifies

Sigmar Gabriel meeting Vladimir Putin

Sigmar Gabriel made his first visit to Moscow as Foreign Minister [Getty]

 

GERMANY’S foreign minister has warned of the dangers of engaging in a new arms race with Russia, calling on all sides to work together to end the violence in eastern Ukraine.

Sigmar Gabriel has used his first visit to Moscow as foreign minister to underscore his concerns about Russia’s military buildup in the Baltic region and its western borders.

He also expressed concerns about the conflict’s resulting “exorbitant military spending increases”. Continue reading

Russian missiles pose new threat to Europe

Russian armour on parade in Moscow in 2015 (Photo: Dmitriy Fomin)

 

The US and Germany have criticised Russia over new missile deployments that posed a threat to Nato and Europe.

“The Russians have deployed a land-based cruise missile that violates the spirit and intent of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces [INF] treaty,” Paul Selva, a senior US general who advises the White House, told a House committee in Washington on Wednesday (8 March), referring to a Cold War-era agreement.

“The system … presents a risk to most of our facilities in Europe and we believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to Nato and to facilities within the Nato area of responsibility,” he added. Continue reading

Merkel yields to Trump: Germany should meet defense spending obligation

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

 

U.S. President Donald Trump is actively pressuring NATO allies to increase their defense spending. Germany currently spends about 1.2 percent of GDP on defense, which Merkel vows to change if she is elected for a fourth term in office this September.

“Obligations have to be fulfilled,” Merkel said at a campaign rally on Feb. 25. “And, others in the world will demand that of us. And, I think they’re right that Germany must uphold its obligations.” Continue reading

China overtakes US and France to become Germany’s most important trading partner

China became Germany’s most important trading partner as imports and exports rose to €170 billion (GETTY)

 

CHINA for the first time became Germany’s most important trading partner in 2016, overtaking the US and France.

German imports from and exports to China rose to €170 billion (£143billion) last year, Federal Statistics Office figures reviewed by Reuters showed.

The development is good news for the German government, which has made it a goal to safeguard global free trade after US President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on imports and his top adviser on trade accused Germany of exploiting a weak euro to boost exports. Continue reading

Driven into their Arms

MEXICO CITY/BERLIN (Own report) – The Mexican government is pushing to rapidly modernize its free trade agreement with the EU and has declared its “close affinity” to Germany, following US President Trump’s threats of massive reprisals by building a wall at the border and imposing punitive tariffs. Because of its extreme dependence on the USA, Mexico can only hold its ground by intensifying its relations with other countries, according to Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray. Mexico’s enticements are greeted with sympathy by German business circles. The majority of German firms active in Mexico had already decided on new investments and is planning to carry these out, despite expected disadvantages from the projected US trade policy. Experts assume that the US administration cannot afford excessive punitive tariffs or other exorbitant escalations. At an appearance last week in Mexico, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser ostentatiously announced investments worth US $200 million and signed an agreement of intent with Mexico’s Minster of Economics for infrastructure and industrial projects with a possible volume of up to US $36 billion. Continue reading

On a Par (II)

MUNICH (Own report) – At the Munich Security Conference last weekend, the German government assumed the role of an ally “on a par” with the United States. The chancellor and several ministers of Germany formulated conditions for continued cooperation with the US government, while holding out the prospect of a “stronger Europe,” which, according to Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, should be capable of independently “coping successfully” with the “reality of crises and wars outside the bounds of the European Union.” Appropriate rearmament measures are being prepared. The chancellor conceives of a military budget increase of around eight percent annually, while the discussion on German-European nuclear arms is continuing. Publicists are hinting at the possibility of Berlin sharing influence over the Force de Frappe through co-financing France’s nuclear arms arsenal. Berlin is still relying on the alliance with Washington, at least for the time being, because rearmament and access to nuclear arms take time. Continue reading

Russia seeks ‘post-West’ order as US vows loyalty to allies

Russia Saturday called for an end to what it said was an outdated world order dominated by the West after US Vice President Mike Pence pledged Washington’s “unwavering” commitment to transatlantic allies in NATO.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered a diametrically opposed global vision, just hours after Pence vowed to stand with Europe to rein in a resurgent Moscow.

“I hope that (the world) will choose a democratic world order — a post-West one — in which each country is defined by its sovereignty,” said Lavrov. Continue reading

Ascending and Descending Powers

BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) – While Sigmar Gabriel was making his first official visit as Germany’s Foreign Minister to Washington last week, the dispute over Washington’s likely ambassador to the European Union was escalating. The candidate for that post in Brussels, Ted Malloch, does not rule out the collapse of the euro in the 18 months to come. He also conceives of a possible dismantling – or even collapse – of the European Union and has announced that Washington will negotiate more with individual countries, than with Brussels. This could lead to a further accentuation of the existing rifts in the EU. Thus, Berlin is trying hard to prevent Malloch’s nomination. The leaders of several European Parliamentary groups are demanding that his accreditation be blocked – until recently, an unimaginable affront. At the same time, Berlin seeks to position itself as the corrective counterpart to Trump’s Washington in the escalating transatlantic power struggle. Last week in Washington, Foreign Minister Gabriel staged an unprecedented appearance as headmaster on the subject of democracy and human rights. Some members of the German establishment are expecting the EU’s ascent parallel to the United States’ descent on the world stage. Continue reading

Germany’s Gabriel says EU break-up no longer unthinkable

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel addresses a news conference in Berlin Germany, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

 

Germany’s insistence on austerity in the euro zone has left Europe more divided than ever and a break-up of the European Union is no longer inconceivable, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Der Spiegel magazine.

Gabriel, whose Social Democrats (SPD) are junior partner to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in her ruling grand coalition, said strenuous efforts by countries like France and Italy to reduce their fiscal deficits came with political risks. Continue reading

Reversal of Trend in Business with Russia

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Own report) – German business circles are discerning a clear reversal of trend in business with Russia, despite the EU’s alleged prolongation of sanctions against Moscow. In the third quarter of 2016, German exports to Russia have increased for the first time since sanctions were imposed. German investments in Russia are again growing already reaching a volume of two billion Euros this year. The Daimler Group, for example, is currently planning to construct a plant worth 300 million Euros near Moscow. The gradual growth in business relations is flanked by negotiations at the state secretary level, with the preliminary groundwork being laid by leading think tanks. However, that President-elect Donald Trump, who, together with his designated Foreign Minister, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, intends to change course and cooperate more closely with Russia, at least on a punctual basis, is not seen very favorably from the German perspective. It would undermine the traditional division of labor among western countries in relationship to Russia that had been to Germany’s advantage. While Washington was usually exerting massive pressure on Moscow, Berlin could often assume an advantageous mediator role – with a consensus on exerting pressure on Moscow to submit to western policy, while enhancing its own business relations. Continue reading

Germany in China-bashing mode over strategic takeovers

Sectors of the government in Berlin are calling bluntly for an intervention of the European Union (EU) to protect its members against unfair investment practices from Chinese state-owned and private companies. While both EU institutions and member states are sending mixed signals over this German proposal, hawkish supporters of Brexit – Britain’s exit from the EU – are pushing for their leaders to seize on the “China-bashing” that is taking place across the Channel.

Berlin fears that the rise in China’s takeovers of German national assets, notably in the dual-use (i.e. civil and military) hi-tech industry, is driven in large part by the Chinese undisguised desire to buy up Western know-how and intellectual properties, something that will negatively affect the country’s security. Continue reading

Siemens signs Iran rail contract as Germany drums up business

Germany’s Siemens signed a contract to upgrade Iran’s railway network on Monday, one of several deals agreed by German firms during a two-day visit to Tehran by Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Gabriel has flown to Iran with a planeful of 120 managers who are keen to re-establish business relations with the Islamic Republic after it reached a landmark deal with world powers last year to scale back its disputed nuclear program.

But political concerns, and a range of U.S. sanctions still in place, have so far held back a hoped-for business boom. Continue reading

Leading from the Center

BERLIN (Own report) – The Berlin office of an EU-wide think tank, is warning of how the “frustration over German dominance” is growing among EU member countries. Over the past ten years, the Federal Republic of Germany has become the EU’s undisputed strongest power, according to a recent analysis of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). The “EU partners” must now “decide how to handle Germany’s power.” Some have expressed resentment; others have “centered their EU strategies around Germany,” and look for “ways to influence Berlin’s policy machinery.” None of this leaves any doubt that “Germany’s political class” continues to see the EU as “the best available framework for the articulation of its national interest.” Whereas the ECFR’s analysis concentrates its attention primarily on the political establishment of the other EU countries, the supplementary question to be raised in how to deal with German dominance is becoming increasingly urgent. Berlin is impelling the militarization of foreign policy as well as domestic surveillance and repression, measures, serving the preparation for war – a concern of everyone.

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Germany says EU ‘will not be blackmailed’ as Turkey threatens to ditch refugee deal over visa-free travel

President Erdogan says: ‘You cannot demand the refugee agreement without fulfilling obligations’

Europe “will not be blackmailed” into granting Turkey visa-free travel by the threat to back out of a deal on refugees, Germany’s Vice Chancellor has said.

Talks on the issue and Turkey’s possible accession to the EU have been strained amid a continuing crackdown following the failed attempt to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Continue reading