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by Katja Hoyer
Thursday, 9
March 2023

Cracks emerge in Germany’s coveted education system

A new study found that nearly two million young people have no qualifications

Germany likes to think of itself as the land of poets and thinkers. It enjoys a global reputation for excellent craftsmanship. The label ‘Made in Germany’ continues to evoke high standards. But, behind the scenes, Germany’s rigid education system is creaking at the seams, creating a shortage of skills and an imbalance in life chances that have begun to undermine an economy reliant on a well-trained workforce. 

A study published on Monday revealed that the proportion of pupils leaving school without anything to show for it has risen to 6.2%, while there are 1.7 million young people between 20 and 30 years old who have no professional qualifications at all — that’s nearly one in five of the total. Klaus Klemm, who led the team that conducted the study, warned of a “huge waste of human potential”. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Friday, 6
January 2023

From the EU to Olaf Scholz, Germans are losing faith

A new poll shows a drop in confidence in nearly every institution

“I just don’t know who to vote for anymore. I don’t think it makes any difference,” grumbled a friend of mine when I met him for a beer in Berlin over Christmas. And he is not alone. Over the last year, Germans’ trust in politics and public institutions has imploded, a new poll suggests.

Of course, general dissatisfaction with politics is nothing new, but the poll suggests there has been an astonishing drop in the German public’s confidence in every single one of the institutions that govern them, from local administration to the European Union, which only 31% said they still trusted. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Wednesday, 21
December 2022

Was this Germany’s last ever Nazi war crime trial?

Irmgard Furchner's conviction brings belated justice to Holocaust survivors

Irmgard Furchner was 18 in 1943 when she took up a job in the concentration camp of Stutthof, where more than 60,000 people were killed during the Holocaust. As secretary to the camp commandant, Paul-Werner Hoppe, she was accused of being complicit in the murder of over 10,000 people. 

On Tuesday, what may well have been the last Nazi war crime trial reached its verdict, handing Furchner a two-year suspended sentence. It had taken nearly eight decades to convict the former camp typist, now a 97-year-old care home resident. But the trial marked an important step for Germany and for the victims of its dark past. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Sunday, 27
November 2022

Germany loses patience with climate extremists

Protestors' radical tactics are failing to win over the masses

“A red line has been crossed,” one member of the German parliament said, when it emerged that climate activists managed to break into Berlin Airport on Thursday and disrupt flight traffic for around 90 minutes. 

While previous coverage of such incidents included supportive voices, this time the radicals have lost just about all sympathy, even in a country as keen to be green as Germany. Politicians from across the spectrum, climate experts and even the Green Party itself have now distanced themselves from the protests.

Against this backdrop, the activists seem to revel in the disruption and dismay they cause. A live video shared on Thursday shows three of them crawling through a hole they cut in the fence at the airport. The post attempts to justify the disruption that followed by arguing that “Airoplanes are no mean of transport for common people. 80% of people never ever went anywhere by plane. Only one very wealthy percent is responsible for about of emissions caused by air traffic [sic].” ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Thursday, 27
October 2022

The Franco-German alliance is falling apart

These two great powers have fundamentally different visions for the continent

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron met for a working lunch yesterday: two and a half hours to talk about mounting divergence in energy policy, inflation and security strategy. Germany and France have had their differences before. But this time it’s not a squabble that can be resolved over a friendly glass of Merlot.

Cracks in the relationship between the two biggest European powers have deepened to a point where they can no longer be papered over by diplomacy. While Scholz tweeted after Wednesday’s meeting that “Germany and France are standing close together,” Macron said in Brussels last week that he felt Germany was isolating itself, something that was “not good for Germany, nor for Europe.” ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Friday, 30
September 2022

AfD support surges in east Germany

Soaring energy prices and rising unemployment is driving voters to the Right

“Bring an extra jumper, we can’t afford to heat the house properly this year,” was my aunt’s cheerful advice when I told her I’d drop by on my annual Christmas visit to Germany. She lives in Thuringia, in the former East of the country. Like her, many people there are deeply concerned about the coming winter — the mood has reached a tipping point, which is spilling into politics.

A new poll showed that the Right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) would emerge as the strongest political force in the former East Germany were elections held now. 27% of people there would vote for them while only 12% of former West Germans would. ...  Continue reading

by Katja Hoyer
Tuesday, 16
August 2022

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

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

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