German jobless claims rise by 9,000 in June

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Investing.com – The number of unemployed people in Germany rose for the second consecutive month in June, while the country’s jobless rate held steady at a record low, official data showed on Tuesday.

In a report, Germany’s Federal Statistics Office said the number of unemployed people increased by a seasonally adjusted 9,000 last month, disappointing expectations for a drop of 10,000. Jobless claims in May rose by 25,000.

The report showed that Germany’s unemployment held steady at 6.7% in June, in line with expectations and unchanged from May.

Following the release of the data, the euro was lower against the U.S. dollar, with EUR/USD shedding 0.02% to trade at 1.3690.

Meanwhile, European stock markets remained higher. Germany’s DAX eased up 0.1%, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 tacked on 0.1%, France’s CAC 40 advanced 0.35%, while London’s FTSE 100 added 0.35%.

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German manufacturing PMI rises less than forecast in June

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Investing.com – Manufacturing activity in Germany expanded at a slower rate than expected in June, dampening optimism over the health of the euro zone’s largest economy, preliminary data showed on Monday.

In a report, market research group Markit said that its preliminary German manufacturing purchasing managers’ index rose to a seasonally adjusted 52.4 this month from a final reading of 52.3 in May. Analysts had expected the index to inch up to 52.5 in June.

Meanwhile, the preliminary services purchasing managers’ index weakened to a three-month low of 54.8 this month, down from a reading of 56.0 in May. Analysts had expected the index to ease down to 55.7 in June.

A reading above 50.0 on the index indicates industry expansion, below indicates contraction.

Commenting on the report, Pollyanna De Lima, Economist at Markit said, “The economic recovery remained broad-based by sector, as robust data were registered across the manufacturing and service sectors.”

Following the release of the data, the euro turned lower against the U.S. dollar, with EUR/USD shedding 0.06% to trade at 1.3593, compared to 1.3601 ahead of the data.

Meanwhile, European stock markets added to losses. The Euro Stoxx 50 dipped 0.8%, France’s CAC 40 declined 0.6%, London’s FTSE 100 slumped 0.45%, while Germany’s DAX fell 0.85%.

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German CPI -0.1% vs. -0.1% forecast

Investing.com – German consumer price inflation fell last month, official data showed on Friday.

In a report, Federal Statistical Office Germany said that German CPI fell to a seasonally adjusted -0.1%, from -0.1% in the preceding month.

Analysts had expected German CPI to fall -0.1% last month.

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German CPI falls to 0.9% in May

Investing.com –

Investing.com – Consumer price inflation in Germany rose less than expected in May, underlining concerns over the risk of deflation in the euro area, official preliminary data showed on Monday.

In a report, the German Federal Statistics Bureau said consumer price inflation accelerated at an annualized rate of 0.9% last month, down from 1.3% in April. Analysts had expected German consumer prices to rise by 1.1% in May.

Month-over-month, German consumer prices declined 0.1% last month, compared to forecasts for an increase of 0.2%, after falling 0.2% in the preceding month.

Following the release of the data, the euro held on to losses against the U.S. dollar, with EUR/USD shedding 0.21% to trade at 1.3606, compared to 1.3611 ahead of the data.

Meanwhile, European stock markets remained higher. Germany’s DAX eased up 0.2%, the Euro Stoxx 50 advanced 0.1%, France’s CAC 40 added 0.1%, while London’s FTSE 100 picked up 0.3%.

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European stocks decline after weak German data; Dax down 0.03%

Investing.com -

Investing.com – European stocks were lower on Friday, after the release of downbeat German data and as investors turned their attention to next week’s European Central Bank policy meeting amid growing speculation over additional easing measures.

During European morning trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.20%, France’s CAC 40 dropped 0.56%, while Germany’s DAX dipped 0.03%.

Official data earlier showed that German retail sales fell 0.9% last month, confounding expectations for a 0.4% rise, after a 0.1% uptick in April, whose figure was revised from a previously estimated 0.7% fall.

Meanwhile, european equities have remained supported since the ECB indicated at its May 8 meeting that it is comfortable with easing monetary policy next month, to help shore up the fragile recovery in the region.

Earlier in the week, ECB President Mario Draghi said the bank was aware of the risks of persistently low inflation and was prepared to take steps to get euro zone inflation back to its target, the latest indication that the bank is on course to ease monetary policy next week.

Financial stocks were broadly lower, as French lenders BNP Paribas (PARIS:BNPP) and Societe Generale (PARIS:SOGN) plunged 5.74% and 2.12%, while Germany’s Deutsche Bank (XETRA:DBKGn) declined 0.65%.

Societe Generale was hit following reports the bank’s Russian unit posted a decline in first-quarter profit, while U.S. authorities were said to be seeking more than $ 10 billion from the BNP Paribas to settle investigations into dealings with sanctioned countries.

Among peripheral lenders, Italy’s Unicredit (MILAN:CRDI) retreated 0.51%, while Spain’s BBVA (MADRID:BBVA) and Banco Santander (MADRID:SAN) slid 0.32% and 0.58% respectively.

Elsewhere, Siemens (XETRA:SIEGn) gained 0.62% after Chief Executive Officer Joe Kaeser said the engineering company will cut at least 11,600 jobs in an attemp to reduce about 1 billion in costs.

In London, commodity-heavy FTSE 100 edged down 0.19%, weoghed by sharp losses in the mining sector.

Shares in Randgold Resources (LONDON:RRS) tumbled 1.15% and Bhp Billiton (LONDON:BLT) lost 1.86%, while Fresnillo (LONDON:FRES) and Rio Tinto (LONDON:RIO) plummeted 2.19% and 2.43% respectively.

Meanwhile, financial stocks were mixed. The Royal Bank of Scotland (LONDON:RBS) added 0.16% and HSBC Holdings (LONDON:HSBA) edged up 0.14%, while Lloyds Banking (LONDON:LLOY) rose 0.30%. Barclays (LONDON:BARC) underperformed however, down 0.44%.

Associated British Foods (LONDON:ABF) led gains on the index, jumping 1.06%, after the stock had its “equal weight” rating reiterated by Barclays earlier in the week.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a moderately lower open. The Dow 30 futures pointed to a 0.07% loss, SP 500 futures signaled a 0.13% fall, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.10% loss.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to release a report on personal income and expenditure, as well as revised data from the University of Michigan on consumer sentiment.

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European stocks decline, eyes on German data; Dax down 0.13%

Investing.com –

Investing.com – European stocks were lower on Friday, as the release of disappointing euro zone data on Thursday continued to weigh and as investors eyed an upcoming report on German business climate.

During European morning trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 shed 0.31%, France’s CAC 40 fell 0.20%, while Germany’s DAX slipped 0.13%.

Markets were jittery after data on Thursday showed that manufacturing activity in the euro zone expanded at the slowest rate in six months in May, although the region’s service sector expanded at the fastest rate in almost three years.

Separately, Germany’s private sector continued to grow strongly this month but the French private sector fell back into contraction territory.

Market participants also continued to focus on developments in Ukraine, where presidential elections were scheduled to take place on Sunday May 25. U.S. and European officials have already warned that Russia would face additional sanctions if Moscow disrupts the upcoming elections.

Financial stocks were mixed, as French lenders BNP Paribas (PARIS:BNPP) and Societe Generale (PARIS:SOGN) rose 0.31% and 0.42%, while Germany’s Deutsche Bank (XETRA:DBKGn) tumbled 1.59%.

Among peripheral lenders, Italy’s Unicredit (MILAN:CRDI) and Intesa Sanpaolo (MILAN:ISP) added 0.13% and 0.31%% respectively, while Spain’s BBVA (MADRID:BBVA) and Banco Santander (MADRID:SAN) slipped 0.07% and 0.27%.

Elsewhere, Alstom (PARIS:ALSO) retreated 0.96% after General Electric (NYSE:GE) agreed to a French government request to extend by three weeks the deadline for its planned $ 17 billion purchase of the company’s energy units.

In London, FTSE 100 slid 0.33%, weighed by Smiths Group (LONDON:SMIN), down 3.76%, after the producer of security scanners forecast a decline in profitability at its Smiths Detection unit.

Sabmiller (LONDON:SAB) also remained under pressure for the second consecutive session, dropping 0.88%, after after the brewer on Thursday predicted little change in business conditions this year and reported full-year earnings in line with analysts’ estimates.

Mining stocks added to losses, as Glencore Xstrata (LONDON:GLEN) edged down 0.15% and Rio Tinto (LONDON:RIO) declined 0.50%, while rivals Bhp Billiton (LONDON:BLT) and Fresnillo (LONDON:FRES) retreated 0.57% and 0.77% respectively.

In the financial sector, stocks were mixed. Shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland (LONDON:RBS) edged up 0.15% and Lloyds Banking (LONDON:LLOY) added 0.21%, while Barclays (LONDON:BARC) and HSBC Holdings (LONDON:HSBA) dipped 0.02% and 0.04%.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a steady. The Dow 30 futures pointed to a 0.01% dip, SP 500 futures signaled a 0.01% uptick, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.03% gain.

Later in the day, the Ifo Institute was to publish data on German business climate, while the U.S. was to release data on new homes sales.

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German GDP 0.8% vs. 0.8% forecast

Investing.com – Germany’s gross domestic product rose in the last quarter, official data showed on Friday.

In a report, Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland said that German GDP rose to a seasonally adjusted 0.8%, from 0.8% in the preceding quarter.

Analysts had expected German GDP to rise 0.8% in the last quarter.

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Former German Chancellor Defends Meeting With Putin

Germany’s former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has defended a much-criticized meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying it helped win the release of observers held in eastern Ukraine.

Schroeder, who left office in 2005, has long had a close relationship with Putin, and is currently heading the Russian-led gas-pipeline consortium Nord Stream.

Schroeder drew widespread criticism for pictures of him embracing Putin at a 70th birthday party for the former German leader in Russia on April 28 — when German military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were being held hostage by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.

Schroeder told Germany’s “Welt am Sonntag” newspaper on May 11 that he asked Putin to help free the hostages and asserted the talks “led to success.”

The observers were released on May 3.
 

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The ‘Brave German Woman’ and Europe’s Islam Question

Several are the important lessons learned from last year’s “Brave German Woman” incident.

Context: On November 10, 2013, a Muslim imam was invited to give the Islamic call to prayer inside the Memorial Church of the Reformation in the city of Speyer, Germany–a church dedicated to honoring Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.

“When the brave German woman, whose real name is Heidi Mund, heard about the event, she prayed,” reports CBN News. Not sure what she would do upon arrival, she grabbed her German flag emblazoned with the words “Jesus Christ is Lord” and headed for the concert:

“Until the imam started with his shouting ["Allahu Akbar!"], I did not really know what to do. I was just prepared for what God wants me to do,” she told CBN News.

Then the Muslim call to prayer began, and Heidi said she felt something rising up inside her.

“I would call it a holy anger,” she recounted. “And then I rose with my flag and I was calling and proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord over Germany”…

And she repeated the words of Martin Luther in 1521 after he refused to recant his faith in scripture alone: “Here I stand. I can do no other” and “Save the church of Martin Luther!”

Video shows another concert-goer trying to calm her by saying, “This is a concert for peace.”

Mund can be heard responding in German, “No it’s not! Allahu Akbar is what Muslims scream while murdering people! Don’t be fooled! Don’t be fooled! This is a lie!”

She was thrown out of the church.

“They should have thrown the imam out and not me because I am a believer in Jesus Christ, but he serves another god. This Allah is not the same god. And this is not the truth.”

“This ‘allahu akbar,’ they use it when they kill people,” she argued. “This is, for me, worship to an idol, to their god. And when a Muslim calls ‘allahu akbar’ in a church, that means this church is not a church anymore, it’s a mosque.”

For more details on this story, check out CBN News’ various interviews and videos of and with Mund.

Now for some lessons concerning the significance of this anecdote:

Mund’s observations about the phrase “Allahu Akbar” are spot-on. Islam’s war cry, signifying the superiority of Muhammad’s religion over all things, the takbir (“Allahu Akbar”), is habitually proclaimed in violent contexts, specifically attacking and slaughtering non-Muslims, whether beheading “infidels” or bombing churches.

Muhammad himself used to cry it aloud prior to attacking non-Muslim tribes that refused to submit to his authority and religion.

Accordingly, Mund’s outrage at hearing an Islamic imam hollering out Islamic supremacist slogans is justified. Proclaimed in a church, “Allahu Akbar”–which in translation literally means “Allah is greater [than X]“–means “Allahu is greater than the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible, and Father of Christ.”

And assuming the imam proclaimed Islam’s credo or shehada as is standard in the Muslim call to prayer (that “there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger”) that too is tantamount to declaring that the biblical God is false, and the message (or Koran) delivered by Muhammad–which includes a denunciation of Christ’s divinity, death, and resurrection–is true (see for examples Koran 4:157, 4:171, 5:17, 5:116, 9:30-31, 19:35).

This is precisely what the vandal who earlier painted in Arabic the phrase “Allahu Akbar” across the door of another German church likely had in mind.

Yet despite all this, despite the fact that only two or three generations ago, almost every Christian would have been incensed to hear a Muslim shouting Islamic slogans that by nature contradict Christianity inside a church, Mund was chastised by fellow Christians for her stand and kicked out.

This speaks volumes about how far Western European nations have plummeted into a cesspool of moral relativism, where even in prominent churches Christian truths are attacked, and those who take a stand are ostracized for being “intolerant”; it speaks of the naivety and nihilism that predominate in the West; of the effects of years of brainwashing and indoctrination in the name of “multiculturalism,” crippling the ability to think rationally; of how political correctness has censored not only words but the ability for people to connect-the-dots in the quiet of their own minds.

There is, however, a flipside to all this: Mund’s video denouncing the imam “went viral,” says CBN News, signifying its appeal; and many who saw it interpreted her actions as “brave”–hence the appellation. “Bravery” often refers to an act that, while laudable, few have the courage to do. That this title is so naturally and widely applied to Mund suggests that there are many who agree with her; they just lack the same courage, or conviction, to take a vocal stand–hence why she is the “Brave German Woman.”

The fact is, beneath Western Europe’s nihilistic veneer, many there would agree with Mund’s sentiments. Not all are sheep. But due to the aforementioned forces–decades of indoctrination in militant secularism/atheism, multiculturalism, Christian-bashing, and political correctness–they are unable to articulate their grievance.

Yet, whether they are able to express it or not, they remain disgruntled at Muslim affronts and weak responses from European elites.

After all, Muslims hollering Islamic slogans inside European churches is not quite an infrequent phenomenon. Last Christmas, the Chaplain of Royal Holloway University invited a veiled Muslim woman to read Koran verses during church service, again, despite the fact that the Koran contradicts the key tenets of Christianity.

Sometimes Muslims “invite” themselves to churches. Thus, days ago, also in the UK, a Muslim man–”dressed like a terrorist” and wearing a bandana with the Arabic phrase, “Allahu Akbar”–entered a church during service and started yelling things like “this is rubbish, you should be preaching Allah, turn to Islam, we send boys of 10 to war.”

And last Easter in France saw a Muslim man dressed in traditional Islamic attire enter a church during mass, set up his carpet next to the altar and start reading the Koran.

This is to say nothing of the violent crimes and rapes Muslims are increasingly responsible for in Europe.

The point is, more and more Western Europeans are becoming disgruntled, even if most are not yet “brave” enough to show it, and even if the powers-that-be, including media and government, continue to downplay and suppress them.

Days ago, for example, Britain’s Liberty GB party leader Paul Weston was arrested and is facing up to two-years’ jail time simply for quoting Winston Churchill’s unflattering observations about Islam in public.

In short, time will tell whether the powers-that-be will allow legitimate criticism of Islam to vent in Europe, or whether they will continue to suppress it–until the simmering cauldron of discontent spills over in ways much more dramatic than quoting Luther or Churchill, as has happened all too often in European history.

Assyrian International News Agency

German Industrial Production -0.5% vs. 0.2% forecast

Investing.com –

Investing.com – German industrial production fell unexpectedly last month, official data showed on Thursday.

In a report, Destatis said that German Industrial Production fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of -0.5%, from 0.6% in the preceding month whose figure was revised up from 0.4%.

Analysts had expected German Industrial Production to rise 0.2% last month.

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German factory orders -2.8% vs. 0.3% forecast

Investing.com –

Investing.com – German factory orders fell unexpectedly last month, official data showed on Wednesday.

In a report, Bundesministerium fr Wirtschaft und Technologie said that German factory orders fell to a seasonally adjusted -2.8%, from 0.9% in the preceding month whose figure was revised up from 0.6%.

Analysts had expected German factory orders to rise 0.3% last month.

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German factory orders -2.8% vs. 0.3% forecast

Investing.com –

Investing.com – German factory orders fell unexpectedly last month, official data showed on Wednesday.

In a report, Bundesministerium fr Wirtschaft und Technologie said that German factory orders fell to a seasonally adjusted -2.8%, from 0.9% in the preceding month whose figure was revised up from 0.6%.

Analysts had expected German factory orders to rise 0.3% last month.

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German Import Price Index -0.6% vs. -0.2% forecast

Investing.com – Germany’s import price index fell more-than-expected in the last quarter, official data showed on Monday.

In a report, Destatis said that German Import Price Index fell to a seasonally adjusted -0.6%, from -0.1% in the preceding quarter.

Analysts had expected German Import Price Index to fall to -0.2% in the last quarter.

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French, German FMs In Tbilisi To Discuss Ties

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has held talks with the visiting foreign ministers of France and Germany, Laurent Fabius and Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The Georgian presidential press service said that the sides discussed on April 24 EU-Tbilisi cooperation, Georgia’s plan to sign an Association Agreement with the EU in June, regional security, and the crisis in Ukraine.

The French and German foreign ministers also held talks with their Georgian counterpart, Maia Panjikidze, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, and parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili.

Speaking at a joint news conference after talks with Panjikidze, Fabius and Steinmeier said their joint visit is an expression of support ahead of the signing of an Association Agreement.

Steinmeier added that the Association Agreement is not targeted against any third party, adding that the EU “wants cooperation with Russia.”

Based on reporting by civil.ge and apnsy.ge

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

German Activism: Bridging the East-West Divide

Eva Quistorp

Eva Quistorp

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the West European peace and environmental movement reached out, tentatively at first and then more vigorously, to the dissident groups in Eastern Europe. Nowhere was this more evident than in West Germany. The Green Party, established in 1979, integrated the peace and environmental agendas and cultivated links with the emerging independent peace movement in East Germany. Much later, in 1993, the German Greens and the East German citizens movements created a political alliance that continues today. Alliance 90/The Greens currently occupy 10 percent of the seats in the Bundestag.

Eva Quistorp, a co-founder of the German Greens, was a driving force behind the east-west dialogue. She visited Prague in 1968 and later worked with members of Charter 77 and Solidarity. In 1980, she co-founded Women for Peace, which had chapters on both side of the east-west divide. She also co-founded European Nuclear Disarmament (END), which aspired to be pan-European and rid both sides of the continent of nuclear weapons.

Quistorp was also not afraid to tackle the “German question” at a time when the majority of peace activists were comfortable with the status quo of a divided Germany. The topic of German reunification, prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, was largely considered the province of the German Right.

“In 1983, I was asked to sign a European appeal written in West Berlin written by Peter Brandt,” Quistorp told me in an interview in Berlin in February 2013. “I didn’t realize at the time that he was the son of Willy Brandt. I knew him from the student movement only by his first name. He asked me to sign an appeal in 1983 when we had a big conference with END on European nuclear disarmament. We were trying to make a link within the European peace movement to support democratic changes in Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union. The appeal was for a German confederation within a European confederation linked to European nuclear and general disarmament – this was in May 1983! We were a minority but very proud of our vision.”

It was an odd situation in the mid-1980s when people outside Germany would raise the question of reunification more often than those inside the country. “In 1984, a Korean activist asked me, ‘What is happening with the Berlin Wall and German division?’” she recalls. “No one in Germany or Berlin would ask you that over the years. People were talking all the time about Nicaragua, the actions of U.S. presidents, gender theories and everything, but nobody was debating German reunification beside a small minority like the dissidents who lived in West Berlin.”

In 1989, she was a member of the European parliament when events began to move quickly in East Germany and Eastern Europe. From her parliamentary position, she tried to represent the interests of the East European movements. When the fall of the Berlin Wall came, she was in Bonn. Like many other politicians at that moment, she immediately got on a plane and flew to Berlin. Ultimately she found herself at Checkpoint Charlie.

“But I couldn’t move at Checkpoint Charlie,” she told me. “It was the 10th of November. I’d never seen such a thing in my life: nearly a million people around me moving quietly. I’d been at a football game once, and you couldn’t compare it to a football game. The space was so narrow, and no one was organizing it. There was no clear end or beginning. I was pushed toward the booth at Checkpoint Charlie. I tried to stay in the middle because I didn’t want to get pushed into the wall. I turned around, and then I saw Helmut Kohl coming. He was coming like, well, he was rather fat. I thought, ‘Should I run away? No, I am now a member of the European Parliament, standing here in the masses. This is a historic moment. And I will not leave the moment to Kohl. I have to represent my friends here.’”

She ended up receiving Kohl in a kind of “artistic performance.” But that was the kind of day it was, when a radical Green activist and a conservative German chancellor could put aside their differences just as East and West Germany were putting aside their differences.

“From that moment when I arrived at Checkpoint Charlie, I forgot time and food and everything,” Quistorp concludes. “I don’t know if I ate anything in those hours or drunk any water. It was incredible. It was better than Woodstock!”

The Interview

Can you tell me about your experience of the fall of the Berlin Wall?

By 1989, I had many years of supporting civil rights movements in Europe. I’d visited the Prague Spring in 1968 with Rudi Dutschke. Later, as a leader of the peace, women, and anti-nuke movements, I worked with people from Charter 77 and supported Solidarnosc. I’d been a cofounder of Women for Peace, which had the same name in both East and West. The official state didn’t like that very much. We didn’t have much money, but we had a very intelligent strategy of nonviolence. Even at that time, you could have creative power. I was involved in these networks, like the Helsinki Citizens Assembly, European Nuclear Disarmament, Women for Peace and so on with personal friends like Bärbel Bohley, Katja Havemann, Ulrike Poppe, Wolfgang Templin and people from Solidarnosc in exile. So I was more or less prepared for the changes in East-Central Europe and the fall of the Wall – even in 1983 with our appeal for a reunified, nuclear-free Europe.

In 1983, I was asked to sign a European appeal written in West Berlin written by Peter Brandt. I didn’t realize at the time that he was the son of Willy Brandt. I knew him from the student movement only by his first name. He asked me to sign an appeal in 1983 when we had a big conference with END on European nuclear disarmament. We were trying to make a link within the European peace movement to support democratic changes in Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union. The appeal was for a German confederation within a European confederation linked to European nuclear and general disarmament – this was in May 1983! We were a minority but very proud of our vision.

In 1989 the protests began in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. This uprising in China, combined with Gorbachev in the Soviet Union as well as the changes started by Solidarnosc and then Vaclav Havel, gave me great hope. I had no concept of a third way — that was too much of an abstract model for me. But it was a tide, I thought. Then came the break, the massacre in Tiananmen on June 4. And this gave me a feeling of moral responsibility: to act and to see what we were doing given the possible changes in East Europe and GDR and Berlin taking place.

On August 6, 1989, I wrote a press statement – this was a very important day for me since it was the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Since I was a leader of the anti-nuclear movement and antinuclear power movement, I’d had the privilege and honor to visit Japan in 1984 and, ever since then, the hospitals and the hibakusha in Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been on my mind. I was trying to make August 6 a global day, a European day, and a German day of commemoration in order to build up this notion of a European or global memory. As a German, as the daughter of a Protestant minister in an anti-Nazi family, and as a feminist too, I have to think about memory — including the broader sense of body memory and the destruction of nationalist and patriarchal memories. We women for peace didn’t have much money or hard power, so I had to use soft power more intelligently. That meant including this element of memory. I tried to do this in the 1980s as part of Women for Peace and the European peace movement. I don’t like unified memories, even the good ones. They have to be in dialogue with one another in some way.

I made this declaration on August 8, 1989 at the Berlin Wall. I’d wanted to go to a meeting of East European environmentalists that was taking place a little bit outside of Berlin in East Germany. I knew how important that meeting was at that moment. I had the feeling that I was part of a tide now. I had to see how we could swim in it and not drown. I wanted to go there. I was a member of the European Parliament: they must let me in! But they didn’t let me in. I hadn’t been allowed to enter East Europe and East Berlin since 1982 or 1983. I was so angry. I thought, at least I will do a press declaration.

In this declaration I wrote that if the GDR, about to celebrate its 40th birthday on the 7th of October, would not change itself, then it would either break down or be forgotten in history. I made it clear: at 40, you have to reform yourself, and if you don’t you will have big problems. That was a wonderful prediction. The Left newspaper Die Tageszeitung threw that press declaration in the garbage.

Why did they do that?

This was a Left newspaper that was normally on the side of the dissidents. But we were such a small minority that really knew what was happening in 1989, such a small minority of the scientists and journalists and the Left and the Green activists and even the dissidents of the GDR. The ones who were intellectually best prepared for the changes were Charter 77 and part of the Solidarnosc. It was Charter 77 that wrote to us in 1983 that we had to debate the German question. But the German Left and the majority of the Greens, except for me and maybe three others, considered the question of German reunification to be right-wing and a return to the “Fourth Reich.”

Then came the information that big lines were standing in front of the West German embassies in Prague and Budapest. I got this information mostly indirectly, but partly from Roland Jahn. I did not use the telephone. For nine years, I was doing clandestine work. I never used the telephone to Eastern Europe because I knew it was bugged. My communication system was the street and the restaurants. I had a double life at that time. I was an official politician and also a leading activist. This kind of double life I learned when I was in Chile in 1972 when Allende was still in power. The Latin Americans taught me a lot. I had learned about resistance and democratic struggle from them, and I used this to support the dissidents in Eastern Europe.

So, I heard about the lines standing in front of the embassies. I’d done my press declaration, and I was an official politician. I decided to do some of very quiet things, but at the same time I would do other things very precisely and loudly. I did three or four press declarations at that time supporting the emerging groups in East Germany and calling for the release of political prisoners — that was my first speech on September 1, 1989 in the European parliament. I had the feeling that I was now a non-elected ambassador for my East European and GDR friends. I used the infrastructure of the European Parliament. It was wonderful to be there at the moment, a gift of God in a way.

I called my GDR friend Barbel Bohley from Brussels. This was at the beginning of October 1989. For the first time I could call without problems, and it was a great feeling.

I said, “Barbel, I would like to do more and be with you.”

And she said — she could be very strategic – she said, “Eva, you have to stay in Brussels. We need you to stay there.” I didn’t like that, because it meant being in the bureaucracy, being in those ugly sterile buildings.

The Tiananmen massacre and the reactions to it are missing from many analyses of that time. It was not just the element of fear that influenced the nonviolent behavior in East Germany. Some of us were thinking strategically: about governments and the blocs and the problems Gorbachev was facing. We had an obligation as well, not just to the students in China, but the teachers and soldiers and migrant workers who were part of the broader social movement. In that moment, you always act and think you have to do this now in order to be part of changing the world for the better. I’m older now, and I see how we are part of a larger puzzle, a combination of different movements. And I see that history doesn’t’ change just because of good activists or good political leaders. There are economic factors. And sometimes even your enemy can help as well. We can’t forget the Chinese reformers, and we can’t forget Tiananmen.

We are now in the beginning of October when I called Barbel Bohley. It was before Gorbachev came to Berlin. I was so close to East Berlin and Eastern Europe, so interlinked with them, but at that time I had to go to Italy because I was a member of parliament and I had to take part in meetings or else my demands for Eastern Europe would not be taken seriously. But I didn’t find anyone there among the Greens or anyone else who had the same commitment that I had. This was the European Parliament, but it was really the West European parliament. On October 4, I proposed that we should have an East European working group in the Green Group of the European Parliament. The only person who supported me was Alexander Langer, who was an important Italian in that framework. The others, who are now still leading the Greens, rejected the proposal.

I knew that if we wanted to do politics related to Eastern Europe during the coming changes, we needed people who knew the political situation very well and had the capacity to do the work of investigators. I knew from the beginning that you had to look at the money flows, for instance. I had visited Moscow in 1987, and I saw with my own eyes in the streets around the Kremlin the mixture of mafia and crime structures and high poverty. I couldn’t just look at the changes as “oh wonderful freedom.” It would immediately be hard work as well. People didn’t have the right political language to describe all that was happening. And there were no prepared plans in their back pockets either.

On November 9, 1989, I was in Bonn participating in a peace conference of the Greens. On November 7, I had the first bad dream that I remembered in my life. Usually I don’t remember my nightmares. Then, on November 9, I left the conference in a nice car — as a member of Parliament you got a nice car – and spent the night with a friend outside of Bonn. It must have been around 7 pm. I asked her to put the news louder. Someone was talking about “traveling conditions.” It was unusual for somebody in East Berlin to talk about that. Even to mention the words in a press conference was strange. Being in Bonn, I was separated from my usual information flow, and I had to prepare myself for the next day of the conference. I turned on the TV, the old black-and-white screen. I don’t know if it was 8 or 9 pm. I was talking a lot of with the friend at whose place I was sleeping. This thing with “traveling conditions” was working in my head, and I saw this as a sign. But I did not yet know what kind of sign. I only knew that something was happening.

Then I saw Water Momper, the mayor of Berlin, on the black-and-white screen. I had worked with Walter Momper in the Red-Green Coalition team in March 1989. At that time, I tried to change my city Berlin to make it more European and more international. Through this I wanted to help my friends on the other side. “Couldn’t we have a UN agency here in Berlin,” I proposed, “and have a very modern building with glass over the Wall?” The architectural proposal came from my Japanese Buddhist friends, who had been marching with me throughout Europe. So, you see that my vision of the world has been globalized and Europeanized a lot by the help of others. In 1984, a Korean activist asked me, “What is happening with the Berlin Wall and German division?” No one in Germany or Berlin would ask you that over the years. People were talking all the time about Nicaragua, the actions of U.S. presidents, gender theories and everything, but nobody was debating German reunification beside a small minority like the dissidents who lived in West Berlin. But my Japanese and Korean friends were connecting the division of Korea to German history.

Walter Momper did not laugh at my proposal, because he knew me a little bit and took me seriously. But then he said, “Ms. Quistorp, what will the Soviet Union and Gorbachev say?”

And I said, “Mr. Momper, Gorbachev would be the first to like it.”

So, I saw Momper on that black-and-white TV on November 9, and I thought, “Why is he on TV so much?” I was tired, and I was not fully following what was going on. I wanted to be prepared the next morning for the rest of the conference, so I decided I should not watch so much television. I went to sleep. And I had my second nightmare. Both of these nightmares involved the tunnels under Berlin. You know these Nazi-era tunnels? It was like the Warsaw Ghetto tunnels: people trapped there with water rising in the tunnel. I’ve never experienced this in my life. Later, an American psychoanalyst asked me what my dreams had been at this time. Only then did I take this dream seriously and put it together with what happened. I believe there are collective feelings and dreams. In a similar way, birds can feel an earthquake coming.

In my official brain, I saw the new freedom as positive change, something I’d been working for with so many others. Only years later, when the Yugoslav war was taking place and the problems with racism and mafias were not going away, I had the feeling that maybe there had been something deep in that nightmare of mine. It was not so easy to build a new Europe on the old structures with dirty water underneath.

I was in the car going back to the conference the next morning. When I heard the radio around 7 or 8 am, I was like a rocket. I left my clothes at the apartment. I left behind the conference. And I said, “I have to get on an airplane.”

At the airport was the political elite of Bonn all standing on line to get to Berlin. I was standing with Egon Bahr, the minister for inner German affairs who’d been one of the architects of the Ostpolitik with Willy Brandt. He knew me because I’d been a leader of the peace movement. I heard him talking behind me about a Polish-German youth network, which sounded interesting. I turned around and immediately said, “It would be better to have Polish-German-French cooperation.” But I was glad that he was thinking so quickly.

When I arrived in West Berlin, I immediately went to Rathaus Schoneberg [city hall], and there the game was going on. Kohl was speaking. The majority of the Berliners there were not applauding Kohl. It was a strange mood. Berlin was a Left, alternative city. This scene was very much against Kohl. I thought, “This is too much a traditional game for me. Real history is not happening here at Rathaus Schoneberg. I have to get connected now to East Berlin.” So, I went to Checkpoint Charlie where we did vigils with Women for Peace in support of Barbel Bohley and Ulrike Poppe. Before, I was not allowed to pass through Checkpoint Charlie, so to go there now was…

But I couldn’t move at Checkpoint Charlie. It was the 10th of November. I’d never seen such a thing in my life: nearly a million people around me moving quietly. I’d been at a football game once, and you couldn’t compare it to a football game. The space was so narrow, and no one was organizing it. There was no clear end or beginning. I was pushed toward the booth at Checkpoint Charlie. I tried to stay in the middle because I didn’t want to get pushed into the wall. I turned around, and then I saw Kohl coming. He was coming like, well, he was rather fat. I thought, “Should I run away? No, I am now a member of the European Parliament, standing here in the masses. This is a historic moment. And I will not leave the moment to Kohl. I have to represent my friends here.”

So, in a way, I received him. It was a kind of artistic performance. I thought that maybe it would be too ironic or surreal for him. But he took it seriously. And I did too. I was representing people. I was still an activist, a free spirit who liked these kinds of moments. I was quicker than ever before in my life. I was suddenly before him and I said, “Hello, Mr. Kohl, I am from the Greens!” And he said, “Macht ja nicht” [“That’s not bad”]. He had some humor. There was a little bit of the Buddha in the man.

From that moment when I arrived at Checkpoint Charlie, I forgot time and food and everything. I don’t know if I ate anything in those hours or drunk any water. It was incredible. It was better than Woodstock! This sometimes comes to mind when I walk the streets here today. The good-looking hotels and the new rich coming to Berlin: it’s boring for me. Those moments in November 1989 were so lively. It was a wonderful expression of real people’s power, which I had seen in the Philippines in 1986, which I’d seen at my first rally of two million people in Chile in 1972. Those moments in Berlin in 1989 were part of German-European history. After so many years of struggling, some people could get out of prison. Some people who had been badly treated could get good positions, not in terms of career or money, but in terms of taking responsibility to shape politics and democracy.

The mixture at Checkpoint Charlie was wonderful. You could talk to the people around you. Nowadays people have their ears full of electronics, and their faces are just facades. But then you could talk to everybody. In fact this history was not written by two or three big men or scientists or think tanks. It was the courage of  ”unknown normal people” — like in Chile or Philippines or China.

Then finally I walked across to East Berlin and saw the guards in their uniforms. So many of them should be praised because they behaved nonviolently. For me to praise soldiers is very rare. I grew up very critical of the military and uniforms and so on. That famous song of Wolf Biermann — Soldier, Soldier – that’s all part of my training. Maybe some of them were harsh to me or friends of mine when they were in prison. It was very harsh what many people suffered in prisons in GDR, in Poland, in Soviet Union — and many of them are still victims. Many of the former elite came into high positions and nice pensions while many of the victims don’t have nice pensions.

TV also changed in those days. It was a democratic revolution on TV. Normal people were interviewed on TV — professionals from the army, teachers, dissidents, social workers — and not just for one. It was great material. This lasted for three or four weeks until the Round Tables started. And the Round Tables themselves were great. I had difficulty returning to Brussels and Strasbourg and Bonn. I don’t know how many days I spent there. I wish such good days to everyone who struggles for freedom.

You went to Bonn and —

I had to attend the sessions of parliament. I knew that I had to focus on the transition of East Germany and East Europe in the parliament. And that meant I couldn’t just give speeches. There was also the work of bureaucracy and budgets too.

Suddenly people were interested in the East –

We had heavy debates within the Greens. The Social Democratic Party had heavy debates too. In the Greens, I was supported only by Yves Chochet and Alexander Langer, my friend from Italy. But they were the only ones in the Green group. In fall 1990, before the German reunification treaties were signed on October 2, that was a great chance to be part of that European history. Some leaders tried to block this, like Mitterrand and Thatcher and Andreotti. But at the official foreign policy level, Bush and Gorbachev played good roles. Kohl probably tried his best too. I was not part of negotiating these treaties because the Greens were only in the regional governments. But in the European parliament I got the flavor of what could be done. It made me impatient too. Almost no one knew about the East European opposition. I could not teach a crash course — I didn’t have time for that. But the mistrust against the Germans started to come out.

I said to you earlier that I come from an anti-Nazi family. More and more I think that influenced my actions during these years and weeks around German and European reunification and building up a new Europe. I only started to say this in the last two years because I became fed up with the fact that people think there were no anti-Nazi families in Germany. The opposition to the Nazis is underestimated in all the histories. As a student, I thought that my parents were not heroes because they were not famous, and there are no placards in their honor. They were not Communists or socialists. They did not fight with guns. I was part of 1968, and everything then was about revolution. My parents had not been part of any revolution, so I thought they couldn’t have been important. Now I feel ashamed about this because they were part of important civil disobedience.

So in 1989, I thought that maybe I could bring in some of my family tradition. I had overcome the German feelings of guilt as I got older and traveled to all these places. The people who invited me, mostly peace and human rights groups, they gave me the feeling that they needed me, and that gave me the feeling that I could contribute. In the United States, some African American activists asked about Nazis in Germany, so I had to learn to deal with this. But I had the feeling that I could open the space up a little bit and bring in some of the democratic German traditions and get away from the feeling that I had to bow to every French or British or Dutch person. But to none of them did I tell that I was from an anti-Nazi family. I didn’t want to hear all those things about how Germany couldn’t get too big or too powerful again. When they said “the Germans,” why weren’t they thinking about the German dissidents or the German migrants?

I realized with a shock at that time that many Europeans in political and scientific positions do not know Europe or the differences among European countries very well. They had done their political jobs in their countries and did some tourist traveling to different countries, but they didn’t know the political situation in countries. Fine, they might have thought that I was an arrogant or naive German. But I pleaded for German reunification as quick as possible because I did it in the name of my friends in Prague and Warsaw — to give honor to what Solidarnosc did. I had to find a structure for the transition that gave thanks and provided a framework for acting for East European dissidents and reformers too. I think I had this in common with Alexander Langer. We’d both been ’68 intellectuals and activists. We knew that you couldn’t just ensure positive change by putting activists at the high level and throw everybody else out. You needed combinations and alliances to build a stable political society. And you needed new elites. From German history, I knew that it was a big mistake to keep the old Nazi elites in the system — that was the debate of 1968. And I did not like the old GDR and Communist elites winning in that open game. But there were also some reformers in the SED. You can’t just live by revolutionaries and artists. On the other side you can’t give too much space to narrow-minded bureaucrats. You have to build a democratic administration in between.

It was important to have links too with the Church, like the Catholic Church in Poland, although my Left and Green and liberal friends in West Europe didn’t like them at all. I had a different relationship with them because I am a daughter of a Protestant priest. I am very critical of the papal system, but I knew there were Catholic intellectuals and normal people. There is sometimes with intellectuals and journalists a lack of understanding of simple people. I saw in the citizens groups a need for some elements of religion linked to family tradition and community life. In leftist-liberal theory, the Church equals sexual repression, hatred of science, and so on. Some of it is true, but for a stable democracy, scientism is not enough. Science can be dogmatic too.

Some of the democratic institutions of the West were not prepared for these changes, and some of the dissidents in the East were not prepared either. I blame us now for not dealing with all the problems in the right way, neither in the European Parliament nor in the Round Tables. Part of the problem was there was too much happening at the same moment. There was the Berlin Wall falling and people released from prison. But there were also financial flows, the arrival of companies like Goldman Sachs and the oil industry, the emergence of the trafficking of women, different mafias misusing open borders, and so on.

I always learn a lot when I walk on the streets. In June 1987, when I could enter the Soviet Union with my friends Petra Kelly and Margaret Papandreou, Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa invited us, along with other peace groups, to the Kremlin. After my speech urging Gorbachev to bring home his troops from Europe and cooperate with the United States on nuclear disarmament, which was broadcast live over Russian television, I went out alone to a beautiful Russian Orthodox church. Then, I saw this criminal activity on the side streets of Moscow. A crime would take place, people would close their windows, and there was no police to be seen. I’d not seen that in my life. But I saw it in Moscow – and this was before the fall of the Wall. The usual story is that crime only took off after the end of the Communism. But I learned from Mary Kaldor that there were similar elements in the weapons industry on both sides before. Probably because I was always an anti-Stalinist, I didn’t believe in the innocent clean Socialist functionaries.

In June 1987 in Moscow I saw a line in front of a wagon full of strawberries. I could cry again thinking about it now. These old women who lived through the first World War, the second World War, Stalinism, and here they were in June 1987 standing on line in front of a wagon to get strawberries. But I looked into the wagon, and the strawberries were all rotten. I carried this image until the fall of the Wall.

What do you think remains of the people power of that period? What is the legacy of that spirit?

The spirit is still moving. In order not to lose political energy, I have to look around to find where that energy is emerging again. I was hoping to see it in North Africa in January 2011 or in Belarus or in Ukraine with the Orange Revolution. It’s very sad that these can’t be compared with 1989, and it’s not just the question of success. Some of us made mistakes by not telling our history good enough to other countries. There is a debate now around the Iraq War and the question of exporting democracy. But if we want to support democratic activism in different countries, we have to recognize the specific differences among the countries. Elections in East Europe and East Germany are a different thing than elections in North Africa or Iraq or Russia.

We forget that not everything was destroyed here in Germany. The Nazi regime could not destroy everything from the humanist, Enlightenment, or Christian traditions. There were still some structures left that could then be rebuilt by different people and different powers in Germany. But the situation in Russia, Belarus, or North Africa is very different. It’s not that Islam or Russian culture is not compatible with democracy. But there are lots of different elements that build up a democratic culture: 200 years of the Enlightenment, all the debates within the Church, the possibility for women to get university education, and so on. You have to take these things – as well as police reforms and constitutional reforms — as seriously as you take elections. Here in Germany, we had the money and the political will to help dissident groups organizing their Round Table and create institutions like the Stasi Commission. Some of my old friends are now in very high positions. I didn’t understand why Poland and Hungary and Czechoslovakia didn’t introduce the same. It’s interesting that they didn’t.

Maybe they didn’t need it the same way as Germany. A figure like Vaclav Havel as president in Czechoslovakia was a walking institution. I recognize now that some good things can be exported from Germany, but I’m very much against models and imitations. It can only happen if you take into account the different conditions. Even the export of an institution like the Stasi Commission to North Africa is not right. It’s not the right moment. I remember Roland Jahn saying on television when Tunisians came here, “You have to know the truth and you have to say the truth, and then change can come.” I thought: he doesn’t realize how Protestant that sounds. He was speaking like a very Protestant minister. That institution can only function in a very Protestant society – even in the GDR, which is not so religious, the way they act and they way they are political is very Protestant.

You cannot translate the Protestant tradition to Arab countries. You can’t even transport it to southern Europe. We should have an inter-cultural exchange on this. There is a debate now on austerity in European politics. It is focused on hard politics and the regulations of neoliberalism. But there is an element of culture too. You have to deal it with it very sensitively. And it needs time.

If you think back to that period of time, 1989 and 1990 has anything changed in your own Weltanschauung? Have you reexamined any of your thinking?

First, I still believe that big and wonderful changes took place as a result of the longtime work and courage of many people. And being in the role of a European Parliament member, I felt both influential and at the same time very unmighty.  I had to learn from the problems of the transition. Part of the problems of the transition came from the inside. But from the outside came this tsunami of neoliberal finance and corporate globalization. We have to include these factors in our debate on democracy as it relates also to North Africa and other areas of the world.

Also, the media question is getting more and more important. It was always important since 1968, but with globalization and the Internet, it is getting more important. The praise of the Internet was too naive. I criticized my journalist and scientist friends who were calling the Internet a “democracy machine.” Now seven years later, they are writing about hate sites and Islamic radicalism on the Net. Of course there was the Iranian Facebook revolution, then the Arab Spring Twitter revolution. The Internet has direct political relevance for people on the ground, and for democratic and women’s activists. The Internet didn’t affect us between 1979 and 1989. If there had been the Internet, there would have been a different group of activists.

The wars in Yugoslavia were hard to face. Those were the hardest years of my life. So, the years after 1989 were not just nice. Between 1991 and 2000, those were the darkest years for me. I couldn’t enjoy traveling — to nice hotels in Prague, in Budapest — because of the escalation of violence in Yugoslavia. I felt responsible.

Why did you feel responsible?

Because I am German and because I am European. I come from an anti-war family. I never traveled to the Balkans. I was never a tourist there. I did have contact to the Korcula Praxis group through a Dutch friend, so the Yugoslav model was on my radar screen. When the Greens entered the German Parliament in 1983, we had to develop a more precise economic program. One of our members in parliament was a Protestant theologian who brought the Yugoslav model of self-management into the debate. So the Greens have included the “third way” a little bit. Therefore, I was prepared to think through the visions and dreams of the Left and to be more pragmatic and critical.

There is not enough deep and clear and empirical political thinking about the changes from globalization that we have experienced since 1989. If you have to stabilize your house against the winds and then you see the groundwater too is rising and a heavy storm is coming in — then it’s more difficult to stabilize your house with traditional democratic strategies. But I try not to be too sad or disappointed.

I never gave up a worldwide view of women’s rights with the help of my Latin American friends, and the African women I met at UN conferences. Some of them have been so impressive. I was a friend of Wangari Maathai. I’m a friend of the Mothers of the Plaza in Argentina and the mothers of Russian soldiers and the children of Chernobyl in Belarus and Ukraine. When I speak of women’s rights, it’s always social and political rights, and it involves changing the global media, the sex industry, the trafficking mafia. It also involves applying the rules of democracy to financial oligarchies and helping all states fight against corruption and build up the rule of law. On that level, we have no effective global thinking or democratic structures, not effective enough research and investigation. In this age of Google and Amazon, Exxon and Gazprom, Facebook and Twitter, we need stronger independent media, stronger trade unions, and new forms of international solidarity.

There are a lot of negative trends in Eastern Europe right now, whether it’s Jobbik or trafficking. But what do you see that makes you feel positive?

I support campaigns against anti-Semitism in Hungary and anti-Roma sentiment in Europe, and I hope that Poland and Hungary don’t go nuclear (both Hungary and the Czech Republic are now becoming dependent on Russian nuclear energy). But on the positive side, I recommend to everyone to travel by train from Berlin to Prague. It’s a luxurious trip because it’s not yet so fast. It’s wonderfully slow along the river. You have to look out and not touch your laptop during that time. Look right and left at the landscape and get a sense of the history between Dresden and Prague. On that train there is no ugly passport control like before, no German dogs, no ugly smells. You can get wonderful Czech food in the restaurant, and they even speak some German and English — it’s wonderful. Or go by train from Berlin to Warsaw or Poznan or Szczeszin. It’s wonderful.

Or walk around Prague. I can see some people looking like here in Berlin, some poor old women or drug addicts, but the city itself is such a miracle, and I’m so happy that it was saved through all the war and occupation. Prague is wonderful even though I know that there is corruption in the political field and the political parties don’t make me happy.

I’m a little happier with Poland when it comes to political parties and political figures. And there’s the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. But then there was the catastrophe of Smolensk, and the death of the forgotten hero of Solidarity, Anna Walentynowicz. She was important like so many forgotten women activists were. Along with the Polish Catholic Church here I organized a memorial for all the people who died. It needed a lot of energy and work because we didn’t get any money to organize it. I asked the German government if they could put the flags at half-mast. But they didn’t do it. Sometimes these little things, these symbolic measures, can be so necessary in stabilizing democratic dialogue. There has been a lot of good dialogue work between Germany and Poland. But some of those who did it are getting older. There is a lack of continuity, which is related to the Internet and greater mobility. So, there have been some setbacks in the Polish-German dialogue. The right wing in Poland has made propaganda against “the Germans.” Which meant that it was so important to share feelings with the Polish people about their history and put the flags at half-mast at the funeral of so many Solidarnosc people to spread a different picture in the media.

Symbolic gestures can be very powerful.

I learned that from Willy Brandt. Democracies are not stable. We have to defend them now under these conditions to allow some of the fruits of 1989 to be passed to the next generation. I asked the government to link the Smolensk commemoration to culture. Put up the figures of those who died and tell their history. There’s a big Polish community here in Berlin. It’s so important to share a tragedy as part of working on a collective European memory, like what we do with the Holocaust memorial and what they want to do with the totalitarian memorial. It’s a kind of memory industry. These projects are linked to a lot of money and a lot of bureaucracy. But people in government or in the media should be sensitive enough at the moment when history happens, without big money or bureaucracy, to open up the space to broaden memory.

I felt like a leading figure in European history. But since 1992, I’ve felt more as if I have been accompanying. They could act themselves now. I should only open doors and accompany people. For instance I organized a hearing on European democracy and mass media and included people in the Balkans to help them find money for independent media. And I was following Sarajevo and Tuzla until 2000, even when I was out of parliament.

But as a former leader of the peace movement and as a Green member of the European parliament, I was the first one in Germany and in the European parliament calling for OSCE and UN intervention to liberate Sarajevo — even in August 1992. I also proposed an international peace march to Sarajevo led by Raisa Gorbachev and Joan Baez, both of whom I knew. But I had a feeling that both the movements and the parliaments were too slow in thinking and acting at that moment, and many people and even scientists followed their old patterns of rather national and academic debate. But I tried to take responsibility by reacting early and quickly. I was supporting the newspaper Oslobodjenje and peace groups in Belgrade and Zagreb and Sarajevo in summer 1992. With Marco Panella and Alexander Langer from Italy, I tried to wake up the European parliament with a special session on human right violations in Bosnia. But the Greens and the peace movement – not to mention Helmut Kohl and all the political parties in Germany — wanted to maintain their so-called pacifist role.

After I read about organized mass rape in August 1992 in Bosnia, I called for an international womens tribunal in Zagreb and to establish trauma-healing medical centers for women in the region. Out of these proposals grew Medica Mondiale and a resolution in the European Parliament on rape as a crime of war, the first time in history. With my colleague Alexander Langer, I called in parliament for an international tribunal or court of war crimes in Yugoslavia and then supported the campaign for the International Criminal Court with a global women’s caucus. On this I was helped by Benjamin Ferencz, my hero of international law against genocide, in the tradition of Rafael Lemkin.

So I wrote an article for Die Zeit, which they then did not print, called “Why Was Auschwitz Not Bombed Early Enough?” It was about why peace doves were so helpless then, not using AWACs or other means at least to put a limit on MIlosevic and the warlords like Karadzic and Mladic to stop the mass rapes and the camps and the siege of Sarajevo. Only after the OSCE and UN and the European governments did nothing did I then ask for NATO to act. I hoped that this would push the UN to change its policy on peacekeeping, which you could see later in Srebrenica, between using force against war crimes and genocide and the so-called neutral self-defense only. My letter to women worldwide in fall 1992 was given to Clinton, or so my American friends told me.

But I was the subject of a hate campaign within the Greens and the peace movement, as did Alexander Langer in Italy. In January 1993, I suffered death threats from gangs tied to Milosevic, who even found access to my offices in Strasbourg and Brussels and Bonn. Like Putin today, they had their secret service and agents and propaganda machine in other countries. At least I found new good friends amid this darkness: Jakob Finci andSonja Beserko, the Women in Black and Sonja Licht, and Zoran Djindjic.

I would love to do a brainstorming session on how to make the democracy support of the European Parliament and national parliaments more effective. The funding should be more flexible, to give some more people a chance. Maybe my role is now to network and mediate between NGOs, parliament, and government officials. I don’t have the funding and the infrastructure like a head of a foundation or a member of parliament anymore. But I can continue my work now through the Internet and by many simple means, building on my experience within the global and European social movements, the intellectual debates on sustainable societies, and against the rollbacks we are seeing. All of this is happening more quickly through the Internet. But I hope, to quote the old song from the times of Martin Luther King, Jr., that we shall overcome….

Berlin, February 5, 2013

Foreign Policy In Focus

German Tabloid Campaigns For Removal Of Russian Tank Memorial

Germany’s top-selling newspaper wants Soviet tanks removed from a World War II memorial in Berlin in protest against Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
 
The “Bild” tabloid has launched a petition to get rid of the two tanks, which stand on pedestals in front of Berlin’s Soviet war memorial.
 
The complex was built in 1945 just a stone’s throw from the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of German unity since the end of the Cold War.
 
“In an era when Russian tanks are threatening free, democratic Europe, we don’t want any Russian tanks at the Brandenburg Gate,” Bild wrote on April 15.
 
The petition accuses the Kremlin of “threatening the freedom” of Ukraine by using “the force of arms” to annex Crimea and massing troops on Ukraine’s eastern border.
 
“Bild” urged its readers to sign and mail the protest letter to the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament.
 
Despite paying tribute to the “immense suffering of the Russian people during World War II,” the petition is likely to spark anger in Russia.

LIVE BLOG: Ukraine On The Brink
 
Russian officials have long sought to counter what they describe as Western attempts to falsify history, and World War II – in which an estimated 20 million Soviet citizens lost their lives — remains a particular prickly topic.
 
“Bild” has formally filed its petition to parliament.
 
The Bundestag itself doesn’t have the authority to order the tanks unscrewed from their pedestals. 
 
What it can do, however, is issue a non-binding recommendation to the German government backing the request.
 
The prospect is not unrealistic, considering the tabloid’s massive circulation — the sixth-largest circulation worldwide with more than two million copies sold every day – and its proverbial weight on Germany’s political life.
 
“We will examine it and decide whether it falls under our jurisdiction,” Arite Rochlitz, an employee at the Bundestag’s petitions committee, told RFE/RL. “If it is accepted, then it will go through the standard parliamentary procedure.”
 
This means at least one coalition and one opposition lawmaker would be appointed to study the petition and consult the appropriate authorities. If the proposal is deemed well-grounded, lawmakers would then decide on whether or not to ask the government to take action.
 
The process can take from several weeks to several years.
 
International treaties on Germany’s reunification, however, may preclude attempts to get rid of the Russian tanks.
 
“The memorial also has a war cemetery,” says Rochlitz. “There are bilateral agreements to maintain the site and take care of it.”
 
This is not the first time a Soviet war memorial has been the subject of controversy.
 
In 1991, a Soviet tank monument in Prague was painted pink by a group of art students. After Russia sent a note of protest, the tank was repainted green, only to be daubed again with pink paint.
 
In Estonia, the 2007 removal of a memorial featuring a Red Army soldier also riled authorities in Moscow and sparked clashes in Tallinn that left one person dead and more than 40 injured.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

German CPI 0.3% vs. 0.3% forecast

Investing.com – German consumer price inflation rose last month, official data showed on Friday.

In a report, Federal Statistical Office Germany said that German CPI rose to a seasonally adjusted 0.3%, from 0.3% in the preceding month.

Analysts had expected German CPI to rise 0.3% last month.

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German Stores Recall Hitler Mug

A German furniture chain is recalling dozens of coffee mugs it had on sale, after discovering the mugs carried a portrait of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. 

The mugs, which were sold at a bargain price of 1.99 euros ($ 2.8) each, have a pattern of roses, old handwriting, and a Nazi-era postage stamp with Hitler’s image on it. 

Zurbrueggen is offering shoppers a voucher for 20 euros ($ 27.7) if they return the mug.

Zurbrueggen said on April 10 that 175 mugs have been sold before it spotted Hitler’s image and took some 5,000 mugs off the market.

The Chief Executive Christian Zurbrueggen said both the purchasing agents in China and staff at his shop hadn’t noticed Hitler in the decoration when the item was added to stock. 
 

Based on reporting by dpa and nw-news.de

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Pakistani Court Orders Police Apology After German Detained For Two Weeks

A Pakistani court has ordered the police to apologize for detaining a German tourist for two weeks, even though she had a valid visa.

A Pakistani lawyer for the woman, who is in her mid-20s, told the AFP news agency that the police had apologized as ordered.

The woman was arrested on March 16 in Dera Ghazi Khan, where she had gone to see an annual festival in honor of a Sufi saint.

The authorities said she did not have specific permission to visit the district, which borders the restive southwestern Balochistan Province and is subject to security restrictions.

In its ruling ordering the apology and the release of the tourist, the Multan bench of Lahore High Court said the authorities have an obligation to inform visitors in writing about any movement restrictions.
 

Based on reporting by AFP and dpa

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

German CPI 0.3% vs. 0.4% forecast

Investing.com – German consumer price inflation rose less-than-expected last month, preliminary official data showed on Friday.

In a report, Federal Statistical Office Germany said that German CPI rose to a seasonally adjusted 0.3%, from 0.5% in the preceding month.

Analysts had expected German CPI to rise 0.4% last month.

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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

German Services PMI 55.9 vs. 55.4 forecast

Investing.com – German service sector activity rose unexpectedly last month, official data showed on Wednesday.

In a report, Markit Economics said that German Services PMI rose to 55.9, from 55.4 in the preceding month.

Analysts had expected German Services PMI to remain unchanged at 55.4 last month.


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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

German Retail Sales 2.5% vs. 1.0% forecast

Investing.com – Retail sales in Germany rose more-than-expected last month, official data showed on Friday.

In a report, Destatis said that German Retail Sales rose to a seasonally adjusted 2.5%, from -2.1% in the preceding month whose figure was revised up from -2.5%.

Analysts had expected German Retail Sales to rise 1.0% last month.


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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

German Retail Sales 2.5% vs. 1.0% forecast

Investing.com – Retail sales in Germany rose more-than-expected last month, official data showed on Friday.

In a report, Destatis said that German Retail Sales rose to a seasonally adjusted 2.5%, from -2.1% in the preceding month whose figure was revised up from -2.5%.

Analysts had expected German Retail Sales to rise 1.0% last month.


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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

German GDP 0.4% vs. 0.3% forecast

Investing.com – Germany’s gross domestic product rose more-than-expected in the last quarter, preliminary official data showed on Friday.

In a report, Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland said that German GDP rose to a seasonally adjusted 0.4%, from 0.3% in the preceding quarter.

Analysts had expected German GDP to rise 0.3% in the last quarter.


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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

German factory orders fall 0.5% in December, vs. exp. for 0.4% gain

Investing.com –

Investing.com – German factory orders fell unexpectedly in December, dampening optimism over the health of the euro zone’s largest economy, official data showed on Thursday.

In a report, Deutsche Bundesbank said factory orders declined by a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in December, disappointing expectations for a pickup of 0.4%. Factory orders rose by 2.4% in November, whose figure was revised up from a previously reported increase of 2.1%.

Year-over-year, German factory orders increased at an annualized rate of 6% in December from a year earlier, below forecasts for a 6.3% gain, after rising at a rate of 7.2% in November.

Following the release of the data, the euro held on to modest losses against the U.S. dollar, with EUR/USD shedding 0.04% to trade at 1.3527.

Meanwhile, European stock markets were higher. The EURO STOXX 50 rose 1%, France’s CAC 40 advanced 1%, Germany’s DAX rallied 1.1%, while the FTSE 100 edged up 0.75%.


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German Politician Urges Turkish PM to Apologize for Genocide

German Politician Urges Turkish PM to Apologize for Genocide

Posted 2014-02-03 21:10 GMT

Erika Steinbach.Erika Steinbach, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party urges Turkey to apologize for the Armenian Genocide. The call came ahead of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Germany, Bild reports.

“I urge Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to stop denying the genocide of Armenians and Assyrians by the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire 99 years ago,” Steinbach said. She added it’s time to apologize to the descendants of the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century.

“It is Erdogan’s duty to face the truth nearly 100 years after that terrible crime and ensure that the Turkish textbooks do not disturb this part of Turkish history,” Erika Steinbach stated.

Assyrian International News Agency

German Customs Finds Heroin In Iranian Rugs

German customs agents say they found 45 kilograms of heroin woven into a shipment of Iranian rugs, and a number of people have been arrested in connection with the case.

Officials said on January 28 that the nine carpets, which had arrived in Germany after being shipped from Iran, raised the suspicions of inspectors at an airport in the city of Leipzig because they seemed heavier than normal.

X-rays of the shipment revealed that highly refined heroin worth several million dollars had been woven into the rugs, which were due to be shipped on to Poland, France, Belgium, and Africa.

The discovery has so far led to the arrests of an unclear number of suspects in Poland, France, and Belgium.

Based on reporting by dpa and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Afghan Suspected In German Court Killing

An Afghan national has been arrested in connection with a deadly shooting and stabbing attack at a courthouse in the German city of Frankfurt.

Police said one man died at the scene, another shortly afterward at a hospital. It said the victims were 45 and 50 years old but did not reveal their identities.

A spokesman said the attacker is believed to have fired shots in the courtyard of the courthouse, fatally wounding one of the victims.

The other apparently fled in the courthouse, but the attacker followed and stabbed him.

The attacker fled on foot but was arrested near the courthouse.

A police statement said he was a 47-year-old Afghan national and resident of Eschborn, a town near Frankfurt.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

German Resistance: A Matter of Principle

German Parliament member Reinhard Weisshuhn

German Parliament member Reinhard Weisshuhn

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

In the early days of the changes in 1989, a new kind of politics emerged within the opposition movements poised to enter parliaments and governments. Many dissidents had a deep distrust of political parties and of political compromise. After all, under Communism, all the official political parties merely followed the script provided by the ruling elite. And political compromise was nothing less than collaboration with the authorities – providing information to the secret police, for instance, or becoming the worst kind of careerist.

It was this experience of politics that produced its antithesis: anti-politics. In a famous essay on the subject, Hungarian novelist George Konrad favored a healthy skepticism toward power rather than an obsession with seizing power. Vaclav Havel, too, focused more on the morality of everyday gestures – living in truth – rather than engaging in the degraded arena of real, existing politics. Civic movements, not professional politicians, became the vehicle of choice for transforming society.

Reinhard Weisshuhn, a longtime dissident in East Germany, also wanted to see the spirit of civic movements continue in the parliamentary sphere. He’d been part of the opposition group Initiative for Peace and Human Rights (IFM) since its founding in 1985. In the first democratic elections in the GDR in March 1990, he was leery of the sudden rush to create political parties. “Before we had a single party dictatorship,” he told me in 1990. “Now there is a multi-party dictatorship.”

I re-interviewed Weisshuhn in Berlin in February in a parliamentary building on Unter den Linden. “I was one of those in the IFM – and the IFM remained a rather small group in contrast to Neues Forum and so on – who really wanted to be part of politics,” he told me. “Without hesitating we legalized the IFM as a political association. As a result of the Round Table, in which we participated, it was formally possible to do this without becoming a political party. And we participated in this parliamentary process right from the beginning. This is important: at the Round Tables we specifically worked to make it possible for groups like ourselves to legally participate in the political process in the same way as political parties do.”

Alliance 90, which brought together IFM, Neues Forum, and Democratie Jetzt, received 2.9 percent of the vote and 12 seats in parliament after the March 1990 elections. Later, Alliance 90 merged with the Green Party.

But Weisshuhn has avoided becoming a politician. “I am a political consultant,” he told me. “I am not a member of parliament. To be a member of parliament I would have to have a career. But to do this, I would have had to act differently. What I do is attempt to influence political content and aims with the means I have.”

That means working to inject a human rights perspective into current German politics. “In politics, and not only in Germany, there is always the very important issue of stability,” he explained. “Stability is a positive goal and interest for all countries. Usually in established politics in the West stability means what I would call – at least in authoritarian states – graveyard silence. But this is the opposite of stability. It is an illusion of stability. For years I have been trying – nowadays with some success – to transform in people’s minds this wrong definition of stability into a right definition of stability that revolves around peace and human rights. Without human rights, there can be no peace and no stability.”

Interview

Do you remember where you were when the Berlin Wall fell?

I was at the home of a theologian who worked at the department for Church research. He had a visitor – a leading member of the French Communist Party Politburo, a Eurocommunist. I was there together with my friend Gerd Poppe. We did not hear anything at first. Only on the way home — I have lived and am still living only a few meters away from the crossing point at Bornholmer Straße where it started – did I realize that something was going on. So I went there. I was there right from the beginning. Accidentally.

What did you think? What was your reaction?

I have to think about it very carefully because of course I’ve worked over this issue ever since. So the memory is somehow mixed up.

It was totally emotional. I was standing there and people started crossing to the other side. It was open or it was about to be opened. But I couldn’t cross. I kept standing there for some time and then I went home. I didn’t go to the West. I could not do it. I then followed it via TV, but I could not react.

And did you go to West Berlin the next day?

No. One week later.

I’m curious what you did in that one week between the time the Wall fell and the time you went to West Berlin. Were you thinking about the political possibilities at that moment?

Of course. We’d been discussing it. Even before. I and some others realized that this would change the political process in the GDR massively and that in fact it would change it to our disadvantage. We had this polemic phrase at the time: the ruling party would rather hand over the GDR to Helmut Kohl than to us.

You had been involved with the IFM (Initiative for Peace and Human Rights), which had been founded five years before.

At the end of 1985.

Can you tell me a little bit about the formation of IFM and the initial response that you got from the government and the public?

From the public practically none. It was a very tiny group and of course illegal. There was no actual public attention, which means that only people that were already involved in the opposition noticed it.

The government, and the government was only visible in the form of the Stasi, did not react immediately. We did not found the initiative with any fanfare. Actually it was a totally informal meeting. It was not like the formation of an organization in the usual way. The immediate reason was a conflict with the Church about an event planned under the umbrella of the Church. It was a so-called peace workshop that the Church prohibited after the Stasi put pressure on it. We had this conflict with the Church over the way it was handling this. This was the immediate reason. But in the background there was also a latent conflict with the Church and also a developing differentiation within the opposition.

What was this latent conflict with the Church?

The majority of the activists back then were active in Church circles, and they wanted the Church also to represent their interests and their ideas. But the Church only did this to a very limited extent. So, there was a lot of pressure on the Church – by us and, of course, by the state. The Church had to operate between these two pressures. I am talking here about the Protestant Church, which was at least open-minded enough to allow for such conflict. It was not an issue for the Catholic Church, which didn’t do anything like that. In the Protestant Church there were theological problems, such as the doctrine of the two kingdoms and so on. In addition there was a lot of appeasement behavior. And then, of course, there were Stasi spies amongst the theologians as well as among the Church functionaries.

And did you have a relationship, for instance, with the peace group in Pankow?

I knew quite a number of members back then, and I still know some today. The peace group in Pankow still exists, by the way.

Was there a point in your own life, personally, when you felt that you crossed the line in terms of becoming part of the very small opposition in the GDR?

There was such a point. Most of us made some kind of decision from which there was no turning back and that, so to say, damaged our status in the GDR beyond repair. For me, it was the summer of 1976. That’s when I signed an open letter addressed to the daily newspaper Neues Deutschland. It was a comment on the self-immolation of Oskar Brüsewitz. I don’t know if you know the story of Oskar Brüsewitz. He was a pastor in the countryside who immolated himself with a political message about freedom and so on. Neues Deutschland declared that he was crazy. Maybe he was crazy, but this was not the point. Anyway it was an open letter with a list of signatures that was only published in the West. This was the point for me, and it was clear.

Were there immediate consequences for you?

Yes. Arrest, house searching, interrogation, and so on. Some signatories were also convicted, but I wasn’t. Later they were expelled from the country after serving time in prison.

At the time you signed the letter, you were a student?

I was already working here in Berlin as a town planner.

After signing the letter, you were not able to do that work any longer?

I was not dismissed, but these developments continued and then I quit the job myself one or two years later. I had no chance of a career within the state structures anyway. Somehow I managed to muddle through until the mid-1980s when I was then able to work for the Diakonisches Werk, the social service institution of the Protestant Church.

There was a decision to be made by organizations in the GDR in 1989/90 about whether to remain an informal movement or to become a formal political organization. What was your thinking at that time about that choice?

I was one of those in the IFM – and the IFM remained a rather small group in contrast to Neues Forum and so on – who really wanted to be part of politics. Without hesitating we legalized the IFM as a political association. As a result of the Round Table, in which we participated, it was formally possible to do this without becoming a political party. And we participated in this parliamentary process right from the beginning. This is important: at the Round Tables we specifically worked to make it possible for groups like ourselves to legally participate in the political process in the same way as political parties do.

Was there any disagreement about that within the movement?

There was massive disagreement within Neues Forum but not among ourselves in IFM.

At that time what were you thinking was going to happen in East Germany as you were preparing for the March 1990 elections? What did you think would be the future of East Germany?

In the time between November 9 and March 18 it became very clear, very fast that the road led to the dissolution of the GDR and accession to the Federal Republic. There was no other serious and realistic option. The people wanted to be annexed.

So there was no real political alternative to change people’s opinion?

No. On the contrary, the desire to be annexed grew stronger and stronger.

And what did you think the future of your political formation would be in this new Germany?

This also very soon became very clear to us. To survive politically we needed an alliance with the West German Greens until reunification. This is what we did. We negotiated a three-year arrangement. There was no other alternative except political extinction.

You told me 23 years ago that “We’ve gone from a single party dictatorship to a multiparty dictatorship.” Can you describe that?

I have already mentioned it before. We as a political association – not a party – also had to fight against the new parties in the GDR, against those that didn’t accept our participation in the political process. Of course this massively influenced the relationship with the party landscape. They wanted only parties to participate in the political process and not people like us who were not organized as a party.

And then, once you were in parliament, what was your experience like? Let’s talk first of your experience in the GDR’s one and only democratic parliament.

It was very complex. Of course it was a very naive parliament. We were naive too, but not politically. We had already spent more time thinking about parliamentarianism than most of the other representatives, those old representatives from the bloc parties who had been in the old parliament as well as the new representatives who were just then becoming political and who actually were very naïve about their involvement. It was an enormous struggle because the process of reunification was also part of our work and the adoption of West German laws that in theory all should have been reviewed and potentially modified. This was very exhausting. We in the opposition tried to support innovations in this process, but we were not successful.

Do you think that as a party fraction but also as a parliament in general there were significant accomplishments between March and October?

Sure. Apart from the reunification process it was also the time of the establishment of the democratic rule of law. Then, as such a state, the GDR acceded to the Federal Republic. And of course this was a success.

You were part of the group that went from the East German Parliament to the all-German Parliament between October and December. And then have you been in the Bundestag ever since?

No, there were only deputies in that group before December. I started to work there in the staff of the parliamentary group after the first common elections in December 1991.

You have to be the longest serving representative from the original East Germany.

There are still some who are serving. Not in the Green fraction except in the European Parliament, like Werner Schulz. Surely there are still some from the CDU and the SPD, like Wolfgang Thierse. But I think all in all there are only a few.

I talked with Vera Lengsfeld and she said that she didn’t really like moving from the East German Parliament to the Bundestag in general because she felt that it was possible to persuade people politically in the East German Parliament. But in the Bundestag everybody stayed in their party fraction, refusing to consider compromise across fractions. She found that very frustrating. Was that a similar experience for you?

Yes. I think this was not so much due to the difference between the parties in the East and West but more because the party landscape was not yet as established in the East. Especially the SPD but also the CDU tried very much to enforce a coherent party discipline already in the East German Parliament. The SPD was very strong about that.

When you think about your experience now as a politician, would you say that there is anything that marks you as different because of your experience in the GDR?

In a state like Germany, politics differ completely from what we did up to 1989. Already at the end of the GDR, after the elections for the East German parliament, things were different than before. But in the West it was totally different again. They have totally different criteria. It is all about your career as a representative or a politician, about influence, about power, about very superficial things. To us politics was the same as resistance. It was a moral category.

Does that kind of resistance or that kind or moral character continue in any form?

Individually, sure.

Can you give an example in terms of today’s politics and you relationship to today’s politics?

I don’t have a career. That’s an example.

Can you explain that? Because you have been a politician and you’ve been in the Bundestag now for a long time.

Yes, but I am a political consultant. I am not a member of parliament. To be a member of parliament I would have to have a career. But to do this, I would have had to act differently. What I do is attempt to influence political content and aims with the means I have.

Can you give an example of how the kind of moral politics that was characteristic of the resistance movement in the GDR influences your work as a consultant today?

Because the situation is totally different, the things I do now and how I do them are also totally different. Therefore you can’t really measure it according to the moral criteria of former times. I’ll give you an example of how I view today what I thought back then. I focus here on foreign affairs. In politics, and not only in Germany, there is always the very important issue of stability. Stability is a positive goal and interest for all countries. Usually in established politics in the West stability means what I would call – at least in authoritarian states – graveyard silence. But this is the opposite of stability. It is an illusion of stability. For years I have been trying – nowadays with some success – to transform in people’s minds this wrong definition of stability into a right definition of stability that revolves around peace and human rights. Without human rights, there can be no peace and no stability.

When we talked 23 years ago, you were rather critical of the social market economy because it maintained a rather high level of unemployment. Do you feel the same way about the economy and the level of unemployment?

First, the level of unemployment varies. Back then it was relatively high in the Federal Republic. Due to reunification it declined in general, but it exploded in the East. Nowadays there are a lot of other factors, like globalization for example, on which the unemployment level also depends. It is a complex issue. And realistically it is clear that there is no reasonable alternative to the idea of a social market economy.

You mentioned the unemployment in the East and of course there still is a gap between East and West. Sometimes I think there is, in my discussions with people, a unification fatigue. In other words especially people in the western part of Germany are tired of talking about the unification, tired of talking about what is going on in the east and they just want to pretend that everything is basically equal. Have you encountered this attitude, or are the people in the western part of Germany are still committed to bringing the eastern part up to more or less equality with the rest of the country

It’s not the people in the west that bring up the east. Rather, German domestic politics ought to do it, insofar as politics actually can do this. Of course it has become now relatively equalized mainly because of the massive migration out of the east, which also means a selection, as it did already before 1989. And it means a socio-structural change. This does not simplify matters but rather complicates them. It weakens the east – economically and as a location of investment. Of course you have to add a lot of political mistakes by dilettantes, especially in the east but also in the west. And ignoramuses.

I believe the east will become even weaker. This is a dilemma. The less the east becomes a low-wage country the weaker the east will become economically. Or the other way around: the east could become stronger if it remained a low-wage country, which is not possible, of course. The east Germans want to live like the west Germans, but this is not possible. If they had compared themselves to the Poles they would have had a chance. But they do not compare themselves to the Poles.

I was curious about this issue of consumption. This is a big question in the United States about what level of consumption is sustainable. Of course in the United States we consume a lot. A lot more than Europe does. At the same time we are lecturing people in the developing world not to consume too much or else the world will collapse, even though we haven’t restricted our consumption very much in the United States. The Green Party here in Germany also seems to have a dilemma on the question of consumption. On the one hand you want to bring eastern Germany up to the level of west Germany. On the other hand you are concerned about the consumption pattern as a whole being sustainable. I was wondering how you deal with that dilemma?

Unfortunately this is more a theoretical question and less a practical political question. The Greens themselves have had different phases during this debate on growth. For the last 20 years, it has not been any longer a quantitative debate on limiting growth but more a qualitative debate on the modification of growth. Growth does not mean that instead of 5 apples, I eat 10 oranges, or instead of 100 km I drive 500 km in my car. Now the debate is about growth through modification. The classic example is transforming energy policy, along with traffic and infrastructure. When the infrastructure in the east had to be built up of course we tried to influence this positively. We had no chance. The opposite happened. There was less and less rail traffic and more and more car traffic. Now we come close to the catastrophe of the United States, the catastrophe around the world. It is not just that the people do not want to use the train and want to use the car instead. It is also that state policies force them to use cars, and these state policies are wrong.

I also want to ask you about Ostalgie, the nostalgia for the GDR. Do you think it is a genuine sentiment, or is it simply a kind of commodity?

It is a very normal sentiment that people believe, in general, that everything was better in the old days. Even more so if a whole people – which happens very seldom – has to change totally from one day to another. Actually this is not possible. It is a very traumatic event involving a mass of people. So I find it very normal that such sentiments develop. There is a familiar expression, which some take very seriously and others like myself use ironically: “Not everything was bad back then.” Everybody knows what it means: back then – in the times of the GDR – not everything was bad.

What do you think has survived from that GDR period? There is this sentiment, there are obviously buildings. Also, what are the things that should have survived?

This is a very common question. Normally I would have to give a long lecture about educational structures, childcare, collection of recyclable waste, and so on. It would have to be a longer lecture because it was positive and negative at the same time: education and school and children and employment of women and all these things have to be explained very carefully because those in the West would either think I am a Communist or that I am right wing. Both are wrong. By the way – education or childcare were not really better. Childcare was covering all people, yes, but the quality was bad.

I understand that the current government has revived the older kindergarten policy similar to that of the GDR. Some people have told me that this is evidence that the time has come to reevaluate some of the positive aspects from the past, that the stigma has been removed from the GDR policy. Do you agree with that?

No. Not in that way anyway. Of course, childcare in East Germany was far better than in the West. And of course this is a relic from the GDR. But a removal of the GDR stigma is still not happening. There is no way that this will happen because the West is only thinking about itself. It has its own dynamic. It is exclusively a West German debate. Anyway, there is only a West German debate. Thus this debate about childcare and so on is now developing as an exclusively West German phenomenon according to exclusively West German experiences and prejudices. It has nothing to do with the GDR. The fact that childcare in the East was better is completely ignored in the West for all practical purposes.

I want you to imagine for a moment that you are meeting with a representative from North Korea and from South Korea and that we know that in a week the DMZ will disappear and North Korea and South Korea will come together. What advice do you have for the two Korean representatives, based on your experience?

There is this debate in South Korea. For years they have even invited people from here as consultants. I know about the quantitative and cultural differences between North and South Korea. They are much bigger than they were between Germany East and West.

I would tell a South Korean: Get away as fast as you can and as far as possible from South Korea. There’s no chance. It will be a catastrophe. I cannot even imagine it. They will be overrun by North Koreans who will, of course, be unable to survive in such a society. This can only end in an explosion. I have no advice. I can’t imagine how it could work. So, insofar as I could tell the South Koreans: Do everything to keep the border. At least for 20 more years. North Korea needs a long process of acclimatizing that will last at least for one generation.

Given that that’s your approach to North and South Korea, looking back to the situation here, what kind of period would have been necessary for acclimatization between East and West Germany to make reunification more successful?

I cannot name a number. Now there have been two generations after me, one generation for whose consciousness the GDR does not play a role anymore and another generation for whose consciousness the reunification process also is not important anymore. These are our children. This consciousness or non-consciousness is crucial for the actual reunification. That’s why I talk of generations.

In exchange for reunification and because of the perception of a bigger Germany, Germany was supposed to play a more modest role militarily in the world. That really hasn’t happen. The army has gotten smaller, but Germany’s military role in the world, if anything, has gotten bigger and it has becoming involved in interventions and so on. Also because of the nature of European Union politics, Germany’s economic role in the Union has gotten bigger as well. What is your perspective on this larger role that Germany plays? Do you imagine that Germany will play a more modest role in the future?

This bigger role is a fact, of course. Mainly in economic terms. Militarily I would not even say this. It is bigger than back then yes, but it’s still smaller than others like France and Great Britain. This is right, and I think it will remain so: because the historical experience and especially how it is dealt with, in terms of the military role, is so different in France and Great Britain on the one hand and in Germany on the other hand.

The economic role is a bigger problem. Here, too, the power of facts is hard to deny. In German politics and society both “strengths” are definitely seen as problems, since 1991 already. There has been a debate about it all the time, and there is still a debate even today. This is very good and very important and very mature. A good friend of mine who has been member of the planning staff of the Foreign Office for years has just recently published an article analyzing the current ratio of power within the European Union. Then he goes on to suggest that German politics should have the goal of weakening Germany — on purpose, to keep the balance within the European Union between Germany, France and Great Britain. This would stabilize the European Union and perhaps would even keep the European Union alive.

When you think back to your positions in 1990 when we talked 23 years ago, have you had any major rethinking of positions you held back then? You said for instance that maybe the political movements and parties were a little naive back in 1990. Have you changed any of your major positions since 1990?

Yes, I think so. I was naive too concerning our possibilities back then of political influence in the GDR and concerning the GDR. Very soon this turned out to be wrong. It just happened whether I realized it or not. But this happened a long time ago. Maybe I knew or guessed other things theoretically such as the difficulties and disadvantages of democratic decision-making. Now I experience this daily, which means it is now more vivid, specific, and substantial than I could even imagine back then. This includes the differences in political views and my socialization and daily circumstances. I did not know that those are two different worlds.

Can you give a concrete example of that?

Populism as a natural criterion of decision-making.

So you had no experience in that? And now you’ve encountered it?

The governmental coalition just decided on a policy of providing “money for parents caring for their children themselves.” Everybody knows that it is nonsense, expensive, useless, and leading in the wrong direction. It doesn’t matter – it is popular or it is believed to be popular and therefore it shall be done.

When you look back to 1989 and everything that has changed or not changed until today – how would you evaluate that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being most disappointed and 10 being most satisfied?

8

You personally?

8

When you look into the near future, how do you evaluate the prospects for Germany on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the most pessimistic and 10 being the most optimistic?

I am always a pessimist, so I say 4.

Berlin, February 4, 2013

Interpreter: Sarah Bohm

Interview (1990)

One of the three groups in Bundnis 90, the Initiative for Peace and Human Rights (IFM) is, according to its press spokesman Reinhard Weisshuhn, the oldest GDR opposition group. It is five years old and has roots in the East German peace movement. It has for this time attempted to unite the issues of peace and human rights: looking at the relationship between social and political rights. Until the fall of 1989, the goal of the organization was to expand political and human rights in the GDR and other EE countries. After the events of the fall, the group has decided to look more carefully at social and economic rights.

The organization has two major lineages: through humanism and through Marxist opposition to Stalinism. Around these two philosophies, an incredible spectrum of opposition grew, from future Pinks to future SPD. I asked why a more united left couldn’t get together for the elections and instead grouped itself into various factions: Bundnis 90, Greens/Women, United Left, PDS, SPD and so on. It seemed as though ideological differences were too great, with the United Left on the one hand still using the term socialism and Democracy Now on the other, equating socialism with the experience of Stalinism. As for IFM and other groups in Bundnis 90, they were trying to get away from theory and deal with empirical facts. “Naturally, we recognize ourselves as leftists but we don’t label ourselves as so.”

He was quite disturbed with the trend toward parliamentarianism. “Before we had a single party dictatorship. Now there is a multi-party dictatorship.” He was a little frustrated with the way the steam had been taken out of the citizens’ movements. “The program that the PDS was struggling to come up with was taken mostly from the citizen’s movements and initiatives. But because they were a party–even though associated with the SED–it was accepted!”

Since he mentioned that the Initiative would concentrate on social and economic rights, I asked him about the problem of unemployment. Initially, he said, they thought that retraining provided by government and business would take care of the problem. Now they realize that unemployment benefits will have to be provided. Personally, however, he is not satisfied with the Initiative’s program: “it is like what they have now in the FRG and they still have 2 million unemployed. We have to go further.” I asked him what that meant. The next step, he answered, would have to be a restructuring of the economy such that unemployment would be impossible. Would that be a social market economy? “Of course not,” he said. The very term social market economy was a misnomer: with mass unemployment, how could such an economy be considered social?

Again, I repeated the much-asked question: how can one preserve the citizens’ movement in the face of unification and D-mark fever. And again, I received the response: mature citizens had to be created. He also mentioned the Helsinki Citizens Assembly that will take place in October in Prague. Representatives from the Initiative and Democracy Now attended the planning meeting in Budapest.

I asked about the Third World and whether the Initiative would do any work in this area. “We have always been theoretically opposed to the export of Stalinism and Stalinism has had a much worse effect in the Third World than in Eastern Europe.” They are also opposed to neo-colonialism, World Bank manipulation and the debt crisis. But there is ambivalence on the latter two concerns because of the recognition that the GDR needs debt as well. He stressed the need for conditions on aid.

Foreign Policy In Focus

European stocks little changed after German data; Dax up 0.01%

Investing.com – European stocks were almost unchanged on Tuesday, after positive German retail sales data as investors remained cautious ahead of the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting this week.

During European morning trade, the EURO STOXX 50 eased up 0.02%, France’s CAC 40 fell 0.15%, while Germany’s DAX 30 inched 0.01% higher.

Official data showed that German retail sales rose 1.5% in November, beating expectations for a 0.6% increase, after a 0.8% fall the previous month.

Investors were eyeing Wednesday’s minutes of the Federal Reserve’s December meeting and Friday’s U.S. jobs report for December for further indications on the possible timing of reductions in Fed stimulus.

Financial stocks were broadly higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas and Societe Generale rose 0.34% and 0.13%, while Germany’s Deutsche Bank edged up 0.15%.

Among peripheral lenders, Spanish banks Banco Santander and BBVA gained 0.25% and 0.48% respectively, while Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo advanced 0.63%.

Elsewhere, AP Moller-Maersk climbed 0.56% after the owner of the world’s largest container-shipping company said it plans to sell a stake in its supermarket business and book a gain of USD2.56 billion.

On the downside, Swedish Match plunged 5.19% after Citigroup advised investors to sell the shares.

In London, FTSE 100 inched up 0.02%, led by gains in Legal General, up 2.09%, still supported by recent news the insurance company, which has already invested around GBP1 billion in student accommodation, is planning to build retirement homes.

Meanwhile, financial stocks were mixed, as HSBC Holdings climbed 0.42% and Lloyds Banking jumped 1.15%, while the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays lost 0.15% and 0.31% respectively.

In the mining sector, stocks were broadly lower. Shares in Glencore Xstrata retreated 0.57% and BHP Billiton declined 0.47%, while Vedanta Resources and Rio Tinto tumbled 1.35% and 1.65%.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.14% rise, SP 500 futures signaled a 0.15% increase, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.15% gain.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish a report on the trade balance.


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German Import Price Index rises more-than-expected

Investing.com – Germany’s import price index rose more-than-expected in the last quarter, official data showed on Monday.

In a report, Destatis said that German Import Price Index rose to a seasonally adjusted 0.1%, from -0.7% in the preceding quarter.

Analysts had expected German Import Price Index to rise to -0.2% in the last quarter.


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Tajikistan Checks Claims Over Stolen German Cars

Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry says it is looking into claims by German media that some 200 stolen cars from Germany have been tracked down in Tajikistan.

The ministry cast doubts on the claim on December 20, saying “German cars cross several state borders before reaching Tajikistan” and that “any falsified documents would have been discovered by customs services on those borders.”

The German daily “Bild” reported that most of the stolen cars are now owned by people connected to President Emomali Rahmon.

“Bild” said the cars were located in Tajikistan through the vehicles’ GPS tracking systems.

Tajikistan’s Embassy in Berlin dismissed the allegation as unfounded.

The embassy said it had in the past asked Berlin to provide information from its database of stolen cars to Tajik authorities to prevent their illegal import into Tajikistan.

Based on reporting by AsiaPlus, AFP, and RFE/RL’s Tajik Service

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

German Gfk consumer climate rises unexpectedly

Investing.com – Germany’s Gfk consumer climate rose unexpectedly last month, data showed on Friday.

In a report, research group Gfk said that its index of Germany’s consumer climate rose to 7.6, from 7.4 in the preceding month.

Analysts had expected Gfk consumer climate to remain unchanged at 7.4 last month.


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German President Won’t Go To Sochi Olympics

The office of German President Joachim Gauck has announced that he will not attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which have come under intense scrutiny in connection with recent laws that ban homosexual “propaganda” in Russia.

Gauck’s office on December 8 confirmed a report in “Der Spiegel” magazine that the president would not travel to the Olympics in late February.

A spokeswoman, however, stressed that the gesture was not a “boycott,” pointing out that several former German presidents had also stayed  away from Winter Games.

“Der Spiegel” had reported that Gauck would snub the Sochi Winter Games in response to the Russian’s government’s tough stance on civil rights and its treatment of the political opposition.

Gauck — who was a Christian pastor and civil rights activist in former communiust East Germany — has not made an official visit to Russia since he took office in 2012.

Based on reporting by dpa and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

German FM Meets Ukraine Protesters

Germany’s foreign minister has met with Ukrainian pro-European protesters in Kyiv’s Independence Square.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle visited the demonstrators alongside opposition leader and boxing champion Vitaliy Klitschko, and opposition figure and former minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Westerwelle said the European Union’s door remains open to Ukraine, despite the government’s decision last week not to sign EU association and trade pacts but instead pursue closer ties to neighboring power Russia.

The government’s action has triggered the largest mass protests in Ukraine since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

“Europe is not indifferent to the fate of Ukraine,” said Westerwelle, who traveled to Kyiv for a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “We are promoting European values and the door to Europe remains open.”

In another development, the three former Ukrainian presidents have expressed support for the protesters.

“We express solidarity with the peaceful civic actions of hundreds of thousands of young Ukrainians,” said a statement from Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma, and Viktor Yushchenko.

Secretary of State John Kerry has also reiterated the backing of the United States.

Kerry, on a visit to Chisinau on December 4, praised Moldova for signing partnership deals with the EU.

In an apparent reference to Russian influence, Kerry said Ukrainians, like Moldovans, had a right to choose their own future.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, has urged outsiders not to interfere in Ukraine, calling the situation an internal Ukrainian issue.

With protesters continuing to mass in central Kyiv, Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko has ordered authorities not to use force against peaceful rallies.

He also said rally organizers are responsible for the safety of participants, and urged demonstrators not to react to provocations.

With the country mired in economic problems, a Ukrainian delegation visited Moscow on December 4 to seek aid.

President Viktor Yanukovych, meanwhile, continued his visit to China, where he was also seeking economic assistance.

The government needs billions of dollars for gas bills and debt repayments.

With reporting from AFP and Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

German Muslim Convert in Jihad Propaganda Video

Al Qaeda-associated “Da’ash” organization has released a video in which a young German who converted to Islam 4 years ago urges German Muslims to join the jihad in Syria and establish an Islamic Caliphate system to rule the world.

The convert is one of thousands of foreign jihadists coming to Syria to join the rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime. Just recently a German convert to Islam and former player on the German national soccer team was killed after he joined the fighting in Syria.

In the Da’ash video German convert “Abu Osama,” a name he picked because he “loves Osama bin Laden,” speaks in German, exhorting Muslims worldwide to come to Syria and establish a caliphate to impose Islamic law on the entire globe.

The video can be seen here:

Abu Osama’s words, which mirror the video message of an American convert jihadist who recently called for Islamic global domination, reveal some of the ideological indoctrination being pushed by Al Qaeda in the West.

He begins saying contemplation about the goal of life and the purpose of Creation led him to Islam, adding “I am a German Muslim, and you too can consider the goal of life and submit to Allah like I did.”

Abu Osama then attacks secular politicians for making human laws rather than following religious law, saying “we kill the heads of the heretics and their followers to spread world justice and to implement the law of Allah.”

His message then gets personal as he says “I am not speaking to the infidels, my words are directed at the Muslims. Are you happy with your life in Germany? Do you go to night clubs and have girlfriends? Get married…and you won’t need prostitution. Get married, Allah allowed marrying 4 wives.”

Osama then calls for global jihad, saying “my brothers and sisters, come to…fight in jihad, since jihad is an active commandment on every Muslim. …Donate money (to jihad).”

The German convert closes saying “we love death and we will win here.”

While a Geneva peace conference has been called for January 22, prospects are in question as many of the opposition forces refuse to join the talks and Assad refuses to step down as part of a transition in government.

The Syrian war, now into its third year, has left over 120,000 dead, including 11,000 children. It has also created 2.2 million Syrian refugees, half of which are children whose future prospects are dim due to low school attendance and child labor.

By Dalit Halevi, Ari Yashar
http://www.israelnationalnews.com

Assyrian International News Agency

European stocks hold gains despite German data; Dax up 0.32%

Investing.com – European stocks remained higher on Thursday, despite disappointing German data as markets continued to watch political developments in Germany and Italy, while trade volumes were expected to remain thin with U.S. markets closed for the Thanksgiving Day holiday.

During European afternoon trade, the EURO STOXX 50 added 0.26%, France’s CAC 40 edged up 0.11%, while Germany’s DAX 30 rose 0.32%.

Data showed that the number of unemployed people in Germany rose by 10,000 in November, compared to expectations for an increase of 1,000. The country’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.9%.

Meanwhile, investors remained focused on events in Germany, after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Conservative party reached a deal on Wednesday to form a coalition government with the Social Democrats, following weeks of negotiations.

The Italian political front was also in focus, a day after the expulsion of Italian politician and three-time former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from parliament, following a vote in the Italian Senate.

Separately, speaking to journalists on Wednesday, European Central Bank Vice President Vitor Constancio downplayed speculation that the ECB was preparing new long-term loans for banks.

Financial stocks pushed higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas and Societe Generale climbed 0.53% and 0.81%, while Germany’s Deutsche Bank jumped 1.68%.

Among peripheral lenders, Spanish banks BBVA and Banco Santander gained 0.73% and 0.82% respectively, while Italy’s Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo rallied 1.55% and 2.19%.

Elsewhere, Repsol shared added 0.10% amid reports the Madrid-based oil company plans to start negotiating final terms of a compensation deal with Argentina to end a 19-month conflict over the seizure of its YPF unit.

In London, FTSE 100 edged up 0.03%, after the Bank of England’s financial stability report said the economic recovery in the U.K. has strengthened.

On the upside, Thomas Cook shares soared 12.93% after the travel operator reported a 49% increase in full-year profit.

Among financial stocks, HSBC Holdings was up 0.15% and Lloyds Banking rose 0.22%, while the Royal Bank of Scotland edged up 0.20% and Barclays surged 1.71%.

In the mining sector, stocks also turned broadly higher as Glencore Xstrata and Rio Tinto rallied 1.49% and 2.60% respectively, while Randgold Resources and Vedanta Resources jumped 0.83% and 1.14%.

Meanwhile, Kingfisher remained one of the worst performers on the index, down 5.20%, after the home-improvement retailer gave a gloomy outlook for the business climate in France, where a weakened consumer economy weighs on its Castorama and Brico Depot chains.

Rio Tinto earlier said it will cost USD3 billion less than previously expected to meet its goal of increasing iron ore output capacity to 360 million metric tons.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.39% increase, SP 500 futures signaled a 0.37% gain, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.99% jump.


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German CPI accelerates to 1.3% in November

Investing.com – Consumer price inflation in Germany accelerated more-than-expected in November, official preliminary data showed on Thursday.

In a report, the German Federal Statistics Bureau said consumer price inflation accelerated at an annualized rate of 1.3% in November, above expectations for a 1.2% increase.

Consumer prices rose by 1.2% in October.

Month-over-month, German consumer prices rose 0.2% this month, compared to forecasts for a 0.1% gain, after falling by 0.2% in the preceding month.

Following the release of the data, the euro was higher against the U.S. dollar, with EUR/USD adding 0.13% to trade at 1.3596.

Meanwhile, European stock markets held on to sharp losses. Germany’s DAX tacked on 0.3%, the EURO STOXX 50 rose 0.25%, France’s CAC 40 inched up 0.1%, while London’s FTSE 100 added 0.1%.


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German Foreign Minister Says Iran Talks ‘Not A Done Deal’

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle says talks on Iran’s nuclear program are “not a done deal.”

Westerwelle told reporters on November 23 that six major world powers and Iran have yet to work on their disagreements to conclude an agreement.

“There are still differences we have to bridge,” he said. “It is not a done deal. We have come to Geneva to support and to do our utmost that we reach an agreement. We think there is a realistic chance but there is still a lot of work to do.”

On the same day, British Foreign Secretary William Hague also indicated that remaining gaps between Iran and the six powers were significant.

“They remain very difficult negotiations, I think it’s important to stress that,” he said. “We are not here because things are necessarily finished. We are here because they are difficult and they remain difficult. There are narrow gaps, but they are important gaps.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the RIA-Novosti news agency that the talks were very close to a breakthrough but there was no assurance of achieving an agreement.

Foreign ministers of the 5+1 group — comprising the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany — are convening in Geneva on November 23 amid hopes of a breakthrough in talks with Iran over that country’s controversial nuclear actitivities.

Westerwelle and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign ministers of Britain, France, China, and Russia are throwing their weight behind a diplomatic push to complete a deal after envoys reported progress on key issues blocking an interim agreement to curb the Iranian program in return for limited sanctions relief.

Speaking before leaving Washington for Geneva, Kerry said he had no particular expectation that an agreement could be reached this week but decided to come after talking with top European Union diplomat Catherine Ashton on November 22.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reportedly made “progress” on “core issues” during talks earlier that day.

Chinese media quoted a Foreign Ministry source as saying the talks “have reached the final moment.”

The P5+1 group of world powers are offering Iran limited relief from sanctions in exchange for a suspension of some aspects of its nuclear program.

Zarif told journalists on November 23 that some three or four other differences remain, including Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor and the extent of the sanctions relief being offered.

Some proposals include releasing Iran’s funds frozen in foreign bank accounts and allowing trade in metals, petrochemicals, and aircraft parts.

Tehran is seeking a more sweeping easing of sanctions against its oil industry and a lifting of restrictions on its use of international banking.

It is the second time in two weeks that the foreign ministers of the P5+1 countries have converged on Geneva amid hopes of an agreement in the long-stalled talks

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

German Jihadists Heading to Syria in Increasing Numbers

TEHRAN — As Muslim leaders and governments in Europe are calling on their citizens to leave the war in Syria and return to their homelands immediately, German jihadists are also heading for Syria in increasing numbers and are able to integrate quickly into foreign militant groups where Arabic is not needed, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence said.

Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the Bundesamt fuer Verfassungsschutz since 2012 (BfV), said they knew of 220 German citizens fighting in Syria, but the actual number could be much higher, and had risen sharply this year.

“For young people wanting to wage jihad, Syria is very interesting,” he said in an interview, Breaking News reported. “It is easy to get to; you only need an identity card, a flight to Turkey then a domestic flight to the border.”

“Once you are there you can be quickly integrated into brigades, and you can fight alongside people with the same language,” the German intelligence chief added.

Fighters from the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is heavily comprised of foreign jihadists, have also joined the conflict.

Berlin fears young German Islamists could bring knowledge learned in Syria back home and plan attacks on German soil.

http://english.farsnews.com

Assyrian International News Agency

Snowden ‘Willing To Help’ German Inquiry

Germany’s interior minister says he will try to organize a meeting between German investigators and Edward Snowden if the latter is willing to talk about alleged U.S. surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Hans-Peter Friedrich’s comments to Germany’s “Die Zeit” newspaper were confirmed by his spokesman.

A German opposition lawmaker, Hans-Christian Stroebele, met with Snowden in Moscow on October 31 and says the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor told him he was prepared to testify — in Germany or in Russia — on alleged NSA surveillance.

Snowden has been charged with espionage by the United States for revealing information about U.S. surveillance programs worldwide.

Allegations the NSA monitored Merkel’s telephone calls sparked outrage in Germany.

Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.

His Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, has said Snowden cannot leave Russia because he would lose his refugee status.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

German Court Begins Hearing Afghan Air Strike Case

A German court on October 30 began hearing a civil case brought by relatives of some of the 91 Afghans killed in a NATO air strike four years ago.

Philipp Prietze, a spokesman for the Bonn regional court, said the court reviewed video recorded by two U.S. fighter jets involved in the air strike in the Afghan province of Kunduz on September 4, 2009. The strike was ordered by a German colonel fearful that militants would use two stolen fuel tankers to attack his troops.

Most of the dead were civilians. Germany paid $ 5,000 each to victims’ families, but some are seeking additional compensation.

Separately, Germany said it would offer refuge to 182 Afghan translators and drivers risking persecution after coalition troops leave Afghanistan because they worked for the German military.

Based on reporting by AP and Wdr.de 

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Pope suspends German ‘luxury bishop’

Pope Francis has suspended indefinitely a German Roman Catholic prelate known as the “luxury bishop” from his diocese for spending $ 43m (31 million euros) of Church funds on his residence.

“The Holy See deems it appropriate to authorise a period of leave from the diocese for Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst,” the Vatican said in a statement on Wednesday.

But the pontiff, who has been stressing austerity, stopped short of dismissing him outright, a step which many German Catholics and the media had called for.

In a highly unusual move, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg was ordered to leave his diocese while an investigation and audit into cost over-runs is held, the Vatican statement said.

The bishop, who met the pope on Monday, “was currently not in a position to carry out his episcopal ministry”.

The statement said he should stay outside his diocese “for a period,” and that it would be administered in his absence by a vicar-general.

It did not specify how long the bishop would have to stay away but added that this would depend on an analysis of the finances of his Limburg diocese and the responsibilities for its high costs.

The issue has proven a major embarrassment for the pope, who has called for a more austere Church that sides with the poor.

He has told bishops not to live like princes, and has also promised to clean up the murky finances of the Vatican bank.

Carelessness or misjudgment

The German media has dubbed Tebartz-van Elst “the luxury bishop” after an audit of his spending, ordered after a Vatican monitor visited Limburg last month, revealed the residence cost at least six times more than planned.

The Central Committee of German Catholics, which brings together all the Catholic lay associations in the country, said it was satisfied with the decision to suspend the bishop.

“Pope Francis’ decision offers a chance at a new beginning in the diocese of Limburg where the situation has become heavy in recent weeks both for believers there and for the Church in Germany as a whole,” its president Alois Glueck said.

He has apologised for any “carelessness or misjudgment on my part”, but denies wrongdoing.

The bishop flew to Rome last week with low-cost airline Ryanair to explain himself to Francis – following accusations he took an expensive ticket on a trip to India and squandered money.

German media, citing official documents, said the residence had been fitted with a free-standing bath that cost 15,000 euros, a conference table that cost 25,000 euros and a private chapel for 2.9 million euros.

The “luxury bishop” story has deeply embarrassed a Church enjoying an upswing in popularity thanks to Pope Francis’s mass appeal and following years of criticism for hiding sexual abuse cases among clergy.

Tebartz-van Elst, 53, is 22 years away from official retirement age in the Church and his saga represents an extraordinary management quandary for the Vatican.

Even if he eventually steps down from the diocese of Limburg, he would retain the title and rank of bishop, meaning the Vatican would have to find another post for him somewhere.

The scandal has also put pressure on German bishops for more financial transparency in the entire Church in their country, forcing them to scrap centuries of secrecy over the reporting the value of their private endowments.

Germany’s church tax, collected by the state and handed over to the churches, raised 5.2 billion euros for the Catholics and 4.6 billion euros for Protestants in 2012.

According to some media reports in Germany, the Limburg scandal has prompted more Germans to decide to formally leave the Church.

601

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

German factory orders unexpectedly fall 0.3% in August

Investing.com – German factory orders fell unexpectedly in August, declining for the second consecutive month, official data showed on Tuesday.

In a report, Deutsche Bundesbank said factory orders dropped by a seasonally adjusted 0.3% in August, defying expectations for a gain of 1.2%.

Factory orders fell by 1.9% in July, whose figure was revised up from a previously reported decline of 2.7%.

Year-over-year, German factory orders climbed at an annualized rate of 3.1% in August, missing expectations for a 4% gain, after rising at a rate of 2.3% in July.

Following the release of the data, the euro held on to losses against the U.S. dollar, with EUR/USD dipping 0.06% to trade at 1.3572.

Meanwhile, European stock markets remained lower. The EURO STOXX 50 fell 0.3%, France’s CAC 40 slumped 0.5%, London’s FTSE 100 declined 0.75%, while Germany’s DAX shed 0.25%.

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Dollar rangebound, German data lifts euro

Investing.com – The dollar was trading within recent ranges against the other major currencies on Wednesday as ongoing uncertainty over the outlook for U.S. monetary policy saw investors remain cautious.

During European late morning trade, the dollar was lower against the yen, with USD/JPY down 0.18% to 98.56.

Investor sentiment remained negative following last week’s unexpected decision by the Federal Reserve to keep its USD85 billion-a-month asset purchase program on track.

The Fed said it wanted to see more evidence of a sustained economic recovery before it reduced stimulus. The decision surprised markets, which had been expecting a modest reduction in bond buying.

Data on Tuesday underlined concerns over the outlook for the U.S. economic recovery. U.S. house prices were higher in July, but consumer confidence slipped lower in September, amid fears over whether economic momentum can be maintained in the months ahead.

Investors were looking ahead to U.S. data on durable goods orders and new home sales later in the trading day.

Elsewhere, the euro pushed higher against the dollar, with EUR/USD rising 0.29% to 1.3511.

The single currency found support after data released on Wednesday showed that German consumer confidence is seen rising to the highest level since June 2007 in October.

The forward looking GfK index of German consumer confidence rose to 7.1, and this month’s reading was revised up from 6.9 to 7.

The dollar was lower against the pound and the Swiss franc, with GBP/USD rising 0.16% to 1.6027 and USD/CHF losing 0.26% to trade at 0.9106.

Sterling was boosted after a report compiled by the Confederation of British Industry showed that its retail sales index rose to 34.0 in September from 27.0 last month, the highest level since June 2012.
Analysts had expected the index to decline to 24.0.

Elsewhere, the greenback was broadly higher against its Australian, New Zealand and Canadian counterparts, with AUD/USD down 0.30% to 0.9361, NZD/USD falling 0.59% to 0.8232 and USD/CAD edging up 0.05% to 1.0306.

In New Zealand, data on Wednesday showed that the trade deficit widened to NZD1,191 million in August, from a deficit of NZD774 million the previous month. Analysts had expected the trade deficit to narrow to NZD743 million.

The dollar index, which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, was down 0.20% to 80.54.

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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

Merkel’s conservatives win German vote

Official results confirm that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives have won Germany’s election, but indicate that they have finished short of an absolute majority.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party together won 41.5 percent of the vote, while its junior coalition allies the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) for the first time in over half a century missed out on any seats in parliament, garnering only 4.8 percent.

Challenger Peer Steinbrueck’s Social Democrats won 25.7 percent, their Green allies 8.4 percent and the hard-line Left Party 8.6 percent.

Election officials didn’t immediately provide a seat tally, but Merkel’s conservatives are 1.2 percentage points behind the other parties combined.

Merkel, Germany’s chancellor since 2005 and the de facto leader of Europe’s crisis response, told supporters it was “a super result.” She wouldn’t immediately speculate about the shape of the next government, but made clear she plans to serve a full term.

“I see the next four years in front of me and I can promise that we will face many tasks, at home, in Europe and in the world,” Merkel said during a television appearance with other party leaders.

‘A grand coalition’

Despite the scale of her win, governing isn’t likely to get easier for Merkel over the next four years.

Her partners of choice, the pro-business Free Democrats, fell short of the 5 percent needed to win seats in parliament for the first time in Germany’s post-World War II history.

Merkel looks likely to end up leading a coalition government with the Social Democrats. “It seems like both parties know that they have to form a grand coalition,” Dr Marcel Lewandowsky, a political scientist at the Helmut Schmidt University of Hamburg, told Al Jazeera. “It even seems like the SPD had made peace with that.”

Since the last elections in 2009, Germany has witnessed steadily falling unemployment and a strong economy, compared to the woes of its eurozone neighbours.

But Steinbruck had criticised Merkel’s government for failing to stem inequality and taking an overly harsh approach towards indebted eurozone countries.

Although anecdotal evidence suggested strong voter participation – officials at two polling stations said turnout was higher than in 2009 – Sunday’s election seemed to be a low-energy affair. Aside from the ubiquitous election posters, few visual cues suggested that this was a special day.

Many voters complained that few real differences separated Germany’s major parties.

With additional reporting by Al Jazeera’s Sam Bollier in Berlin

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AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

German Industrial Production falls more-than-expected

Investing.com – German industrial production fell more-than-expected last month, official data showed on Thursday.

In a report, Destatis said that German Industrial Production fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of -1.7%, from 2.0% in the preceding month whose figure was revised down from 2.4%.

Analysts had expected German Industrial Production to fall -0.5% last month.

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Dinar Daddy’s Tidbits

German MEP Regrets Armenia’s Customs Union Move

After Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian announced that his country was going to join the Russian-led Customs Union, RFE/RL’s Rikard Jozwiak spoke to Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament and chairman of its Foreign Affairs Committee, about how he thinks the move will affect Yerevan’s relations with the EU.

RFE/RL: What is your immediate reaction to the decision of Armenia to join the Customs Union?

Elmar Brok: I am very sorry for that. I discussed it with the Armenian president, too. We know that Armenia is under incredible pressure from Russia because of the difficult situation towards Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. There is all this pressure. A small country like Armenia was blackmailed to make such a decision. I feel very sorry because it is legally — because of certain conditions — not possible to be a full member both of the Customs Union and have an association agreement and free trade area agreement with the European Union.

RFE/RL: What will the EU’s relationship with Armenia look like in the future?

Brok: There will be a relationship as we have with every country but not a relationship with a European perspective.

RFE/RL: There have been some arguments already that the EU let Armenia down and that this is the reason why Armenia opted for the Customs Union instead. What do you think about this?

Brok: I think that is a propaganda argument [for their] own population. We were ready to negotiate an agreement with them and go forward with that in Vilnius and that was very clear…the reason [behind this development] is the blackmailing pressure by Russia.

RFE/RL: Do you think there is any chance that Armenia will change its mind in the run-up to Vilnius?

Brok: I hope so as we will talk to them. I had in the last years several discussions with the president, and because of this discussion with the Armenian president I can only imagine that this pressure by Russia has played a role in that. If we have chance to open that again…it is very much important that Nagorno-Karabakh should be solved in a way and [so] that such a small country can find  a solution with Azerbaijan on that question in order to overcome the problems in the region. The European Union, which has not done it till now, should take much more interest in the solution of such a frozen conflict.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty