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by Katja Hoyer
Tuesday, 16
August 2022
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11:52

Will the Rhine dry up this summer?

Drought is threatening Germany's key industrial artery

“Water levels” was a byword for boredom during my childhood in Germany. They were read out on the radio after the news in an endless litany of place names and numbers. “That’s about as interesting as water levels,” people would say when they had to endure something exceedingly dull.

These days, water levels in Germany are anything but boring. The extreme and prolonged heat is drying out the country’s rivers fast, disrupting the transport of everything from coal and fuel to grain and paper. Industry captains wait with bated breath to hear if water levels remain high enough for shipping routes to stay navigable. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Tuesday, 2
August 2022
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11:48

Germany (still) refuses to go nuclear

The country's energy policy is purely ideological

As Germany stares down the barrel of an energy crisis, it’s lights out already in the capital. The Red City Hall, the presidential palace and the Victory Column are among the 200 sites in Berlin that will no longer be illuminated at night. The Deputy Governing Mayor, Bettina Jarasch, said her city wanted to make a “visible contribution” to the changes required in light of Putin’s weaponisation of Germany’s energy dependency.

But switching off 1,400 spotlights isn’t going to be enough to pull Germany back from the brink. Last week Russia cut gas deliveries through Nord Stream 1 down to 20% of capacity. Beginning this week, Germany will no longer import coal from Russia and from 1 January 2023 it will stop importing Russian oil too. Last year it still sourced 55% of its gas, 50% of its coal and a third of its oil from there. While much of the debate has concerned heat production, fossil fuels also still accounted for nearly half of electricity generation in 2021. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Tuesday, 21
June 2022
Explainer
13:30

Germany’s Greens embrace coal

But nuclear energy remains verboten

That German politicians spoke of ‘blackmail’, ‘neo-imperialism’ and even a ‘declaration of economic war’ when confronted with Germany’s energy dependency on Russia may hardly seem surprising. But those words weren’t uttered recently, nor were they about the Russian president. They were said two years ago and directed at the Americans — for trying to shake Germany over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

The war in Ukraine has finally opened Germany’s eyes to the fact that it Putin who is engaging in blackmail. Last week, Gazprom announced that it would cut gas flows to Germany by reducing supply to 40% of the regular amount. In response, Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said that the country would turn to coal...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Tuesday, 31
May 2022
Explainer
10:15

Germany’s dangerous dependency on China

It is now extremely difficult for Olaf Scholz to pursue an independent foreign policy

The war in Ukraine has asked a fundamental question of Germany: how far does an aggressor need to go before Berlin rethinks its economic ties to the regime? The answer may be uncomfortable in relation to Russia. But Germany’s reliance on China is even more worrying.

Amidst inflation, war and domestic politics, the Xinjiang Police Files are only the latest cache of evidence about human rights violations in China. Yet, according to one recent survey, 94% of German companies want to maintain their presence in China; 71% want to even increase investment. Volkswagen Group China alone employs 90,000 people including in a factory in Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang province. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Friday, 20
May 2022
Explainer
07:00

Unlike Sweden, Austria stays neutral

The country's founding principle is holding firm — for now

When Sweden and Finland formally submitted their applications to join NATO on Wednesday, General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg called it a ‘historic step’. Both Scandinavian countries have broken with long traditions of neutrality — a difficult decision, particularly for Sweden.

The move has also shone the spotlight on another neutral European country: Austria. The government in Vienna has come under immense pressure to rethink its relationship with NATO. But Austrian neutrality is more than a foreign policy principle — it is quite literally the founding principle of the state that exists today. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Thursday, 5
May 2022
Explainer
16:30

Why Olaf Scholz stopped acting like a ‘sulky sausage’

The German Chancellor may finally be travelling to Ukraine

Calling someone a ‘sulky liver sausage’ may sound more like something out of a script for Blackadder rather than an example of European diplomacy. But when the Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, used those words to describe the German chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this week, they appear to have forced the government into making an effort to patch things up between Berlin and Kyiv. 

Scholz had declared in a TV interview this week that he had no plans to travel to Kyiv to see the Ukrainian president because the German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier was snubbed last month. The Chancellor has since claimed that the rescinded invitation of his party colleague was not a personal affront to him but “a problem for the German people too”. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Friday, 29
April 2022
Reaction
08:00

European gas companies buckle under pressure from Putin

German giant Uniper claims that a loss of Russian gas would be 'impossible'

The cutting of Russian gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria appears to have had the intended effect this week: gas prices shot up by 20%. Energy companies having since been scrambling for ways to meet Russian demands, in spite of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen retort that this amounted to ‘blackmail’.

Ostensibly, the Russian energy giant Gazprom cut off Poland and Bulgaria ‘due to absence of payments in rubles.’ Moscow has demanded for some time that all payments for energy exports be made in the currency — a move as much intended to stabilise its economy as to exercise control over countries dependent on Russian gas and oil. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Friday, 22
April 2022
Explainer
10:46

Pressure mounts on Olaf Scholz to send weapons

The Chancellor is looking increasingly isolated in Germany

“We will not go it alone,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in defence of his refusal to send heavy weapons to Ukraine. He has drawn international criticism, but less reported has been the increasing domestic pressure. The public, the opposition and even his own coalition partners want Scholz to do more.

It is in fact the German Chancellor who is going it alone. At a press conference this week, Scholz argued that he was already doing as much as “many others who are taking the same course”. But his claim that sending heavy weapons to Ukraine would go against NATO agreements is a weak argument to rely on. The Belgians and the Dutch have already announced that they are sending more heavy weaponry, and talks are underway for Kyiv to receive MQ-9 Reaper armed drones from the US. The UK is set to deliver Stormer armoured vehicles. ...  Continue reading

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