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Germany, Austria agree on plan to put an end to traffic spat

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Germany and Austria have agreed on a 10-point plan to reduce traffic in Austria’s Tyrol region and across the border in Bavaria, putting an end to a week-long row.

The two countries met in Berlin on Thursday to hash out details of the plan.

The German Transport Minister, Andreas Scheuer, said they had agreed on measures to improve the situation on the border.

The plan include: moving a large portion of lorry traffic to rail freight, as well as faster dispatching and better terminals.

Passenger cars will be able to cross the border without toll fees.

The spat came to a head in June after Austria began implementing certain hourly quotas for lorries generally 250 to 300 across the border to prevent traffic jams on the Austrian motorways.

On the German side of the border to Austria, however, this resulted in longer traffic jams.

However, Tyrol’s regional president, Guenther Platter, said he wanted to continue implementing bans on vehicles taking alternative routes at the weekends.

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Germany’s biggest health insurer reports rise in prescription drug spending before lockdown

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During the week before contact restrictions came into force in Germany in mid-March, expenditure on pharmaceuticals by Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) had already increased by 44 percent year-on-year, the country’s biggest statutory health insurance fund said on Friday.

TK’s expenditure on pharmaceuticals totaled about 104 million euros (117.6 million United States dollars) during the second week of March, said the insurer.

The number of prescriptions, which included an unusually large number of large drug packages, was 10 percentage points higher than in the same week last year, according to the TK.

Patients in Germany had “stocked up on prescription drugs before the so-called lockdown, this applies in particular to insured people with chronical diseases,” said Jens Baas, chair of the TK’s Board of Directors.

The sharp increase in expenditure on drugs shows that the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany are currently difficult to estimate, according to the TK.

During March, expenditure on pharmaceuticals per insured person increased around 26 percent, but returned to the level of the previous year in April, according to the TK’s initial evaluation.

“Due to the economic consequences of the pandemic, enormous slumps on the revenues side are already apparent for the entire statutory health insurance system,” said Baas.

(XINHUA)

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Germany continues to report lower COVID-19 infection numbers

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New infections with COVID-19 in Germany were slightly above last week’s average as the number of confirmed cases increased by 507 within one day to 183,271, the Robert Koch Institute said on Friday.

According to the RKI, the number of deaths from the new coronavirus in Germany increased by 32 to 8,613 on Friday. The fatality rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Germany remained unchanged at 4.7 percent.

The number of people currently infected with COVID-19 in the country continued to fall to around 14,770 on Friday, as the estimated number of recoveries increased by around 600 within one day to 168,500, according to the RKI.

The four-day average reproduction rate (R-number) of COVID-19 in Germany decreased to 0.57, according to the daily situation report by the RKI for Thursday.

Since new daily infections have fallen well below peak values, the RKI has been stressing that the R-number in the country was “sensitive to short-term changes.” Following a local cluster infection after family celebrations in the district of Goettingen, 120 people had been tested positive by Thursday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told the German broadcaster ZDF on Thursday that she would “get anxious when people think we no longer need the distance measures. We need them.”

Basic measures such as keeping a distance of 1.5 meter and wearing a face mask if the distance could not be maintained was “absolutely necessary,” said Merkel, adding that the rule would remain until there was a vaccine or medication.

(XINHUA)

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Chelsea set to sign Germany forward Werner

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Chelsea have agreed a deal in principle to sign Germany striker Timo Werner from Bundesliga club RB Leipzig, Sky Sports said on Thursday.

The report added that Werner has a 55 million euro ($62.45 million) release clause which expires on June 15 and that Premier League club Chelsea had offered the 24-year-old a contract worth 200,000 pounds per week.

Werner is second-top scorer in the Bundesliga this season with 25 goals, four behind Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.

He has made 29 appearances for Germany, scoring 11 times.


Edited By: Felix Ajide (NAN)

 

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Economic institutes, industry welcome Germany’s stimulus package

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The economic stimulus package presented by the German government includes numerous “right impulses” to fight the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) said on Thursday.

The package, worth 130 billion euros (146 billion U.S. dollars) for the years 2020 and 2021, was presented by Chancellor Angela Merkel late on Wednesday after a two-day government session in Berlin.

The single biggest measure is the reduction of the value-added tax (VAT) from 19 percent to 16 percent until the end of this year, which would cost around 20 billion euros, according to the government.

“The temporary reduction in VAT is a courageous attempt to support consumption, even if it is not clear whether and how much of this reduction will be passed on to consumers,” commented Marcel Fratzscher, president of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW).

“Support of private consumer spending and corporate liquidity, each with a good one percentage point of economic output before the end of this year, will significantly mitigate the recession,” stressed Dieter Kempf, president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI).

Furthermore, the German government has agreed on a child bonus for families, which would entitle parents to receive a one-off payment of 300 euros per child.

Although the child bonus would help families, “it will not be able to compensate for the lack in opening day-care centers for children and schools, which would be much more important for many parents,” added Fratzscher.

Another key element of the economic stimulus package is to promote innovation, especially in view of climate protection and digitization, according to the government.

“The planned increased promotion of new technologies in key areas, such as mobility and climate protection, is constructive,” said Kempf. “These are strong sectors that will be further strengthened” by the economic stimulus package.

The Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel) noted that the German government’s measures — including the liquidation of social security reserves but excluding credit programs, the economic stabilization fund as well as aid programs by the European Union — now amounted to 350 billion euros.

“While such a strong, short-acting stimulus in a crisis is in principle the right strategy, the question now arises whether the sum total of all aid packages does not already result in an overdose of state aid,” said IfW Kiel President Gabriel Felbermayr. (1 euro = 1.13 U.S. dollars)

(XINHUA)

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Germany unveils 130-billion-euro stimulus package to boost virus-hit economy

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Germany has agreed on an economic stimulus package worth 130 billion euros (146 billion U.S. dollars) to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel said late Wednesday.

“The size of the package will amount to 130 billion euros for the years 2020/2021, 120 billion of which will be spent by the federal government,” Merkel said during a news conference after coalition meetings over stimulus measures to boost the severely-hit economy.

“We have an economic stimulus package, a package for the future, and in addition, we’re now dealing with our responsibility for Europe and the international dimension,” she noted.

The comprehensive economic stimulus measures include billions in aid for struggling industries, additional funding to deal with unemployment and lost tax revenue, and a one-time 300-euro per child bonus.

Merkel said the main value-added tax (VAT) rate will be temporarily reduced from 19 percent to 16 percent for six months, starting from July 1. The usual VAT rate for hospitality of 7 percent will be reduced to 5 percent over the same period.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said that an additional supplementary budget will need to be passed for the stimulus, without naming any figures.

The stimulus programme follows a 750-billion-euro rescue package agreed by the German government in late March to mitigate the damage of the pandemic.

(XINHUA)

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Egypt FM holds phone talks with Russia, Germany FMs on regional issues

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Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry held separate phone talks on Wednesday with his Russian and German counterparts where they discussed regional issues of mutual concern, said the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

In his talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and later with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Shoukry focused on the situation in the war-torn Libya and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, according to statements by Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez.

“Minister Shoukry stressed the necessity of supporting the UN efforts to reach a comprehensive political solution that would restore security and eliminate all aspects of terrorism in Libya,” Hafez said.

Both Egypt and Russia support Khalifa Haftar, head of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA), in his conflict against the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) led by his rival Fayez al-Serraj.

Libya has been locked in a civil war since the ouster and killing of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The situation escalated in 2014, splitting power between two rival governments: the UN-backed GNA based in the capital Tripoli and another in the northeastern city of Tobruk allied with Haftar’s LNA.

The separate phone conversations also addressed efforts to revive the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis, urging for a comprehensive and just settlement based on the UN-proposed two-state solution and warning against Israeli plans to further annex occupied Palestinian lands.

They also discussed chances for resuming Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, stressing that any relevant unilateral measures “would push the region towards further complication.”

The Egyptian minister also explained Egypt’s willingness to resume tripartite negotiations with Sudan and Ethiopia regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that Ethiopia is building on their shared Nile River.

Over the past few years, tripartite talks on the rules of filling and operating Ethiopia’s grand hydropower dam have been fruitless, amid Egyptian concerns that the GERD construction would affect Egypt’s annual share of Nile water.

(XINHUA)

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Germany loses ground in patent-power ranking: study

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Germany lost some of its “patent power” in a global comparison as the international balance in innovation had shifted towards east Asia between 2000 and 2019, according to a study conducted by the German Bertelsmann Stiftung and published on Wednesday.

“While still the strongest European patent power, Germany is losing ground worldwide,” the study found. Although Germany still showed “impressive results” across nearly the entire bandwidth of technologies, its status as a leading technology nation was “increasingly challenged.”

In 2010, Germany had still been among the top three countries worldwide by patent numbers in 47 out of 58 considered technologies. By 2019, this had more than halved to 22, according to Bertelsmann.

South Korea and China in particular have “developed enormously in terms of patent quality in the last ten years,” the study noted. Especially China‘s strength in the field of nutrition would not come as a surprise in light of “growing prosperity and high population numbers” in the country.

In 2019, China was among the three countries with the largest numbers of top patents in 42 of the 58 technologies, according to the study. Almost 20 years ago, Chinese patents did not even reach a top five ranking in a single category.

The United States would remain the “greatest patent power in the medium term,” according to the study.

The 27 member states of the European Union (EU) were able to maintain top positions in the categories of wind energy and functional food. However, the study revealed that Europe was bound to fall behind in new developments, such as 5G or block chain.

“Europe needs a clear political commitment towards a common initiative. The competition lies not within the European countries or their respective organizations,” stressed Brigitte Mohn, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board.

(XINHUA)

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Germany reports 342 new COVID-19 cases, total now at 182,370

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New COVID-19 infections in Germany remained under last week’s average as the number of confirmed cases increased by 342 within one day to 182,370, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Wednesday.

Over the course of last week, an average of 457 daily cases had been recorded by the RKI, the federal government agency for disease control and prevention.

According to the RKI, the number of deaths from the new coronavirus in Germany increased by 29 to 8,551 by Tuesday. The case fatality rate in Germany was unchanged at 4.7 percent.

The number of people currently infected with COVID-19 in Germany continued to fall to around 15,000 by Tuesday as the estimated number of people who had already recovered increased by around 800 within one day to 167,300, the RKI noted.

The 4-day average reproduction rate (R-number) of COVID-19 in Germany once again fell below one and decreased to 0.89, according to the RKI daily situation report for Tuesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the RKI had stressed numerous times that the R-number had to be below one in order to ease restrictions in Germany. An R-number below one indicates that one infected person is passing on the disease to less than one person on average.

Since new daily COVID-19 infections in Germany have fallen well below peak values, the RKI has been stressing that the R-number in Germany was “sensitive to short-term changes” as caused by a local cluster infection after family celebrations in the district of Goettingen.

On Tuesday, the city of Goettingen announced that 80 people so far tested positive for COVID-19. The city was planning to test an additional 700 contact persons and all schools in the city area would be closed as a preventive measure until the end of the week.

(XINHUA)

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Germany lifts travel warning for European countries from June 15

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Germany’s travel warnings for member states of the European Union (EU), Schengen associated states as well as for Britain would be lifted on June 15 and be replaced by individual travel advice, Foreign Office announced on Wednesday.

As entry restrictions by Norway and Spain would apply beyond June 15, the lifting of Germany’s travel warning for these two countries was delayed and would be adjusted later, according to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

There had been “intensive talks” with Germany’s European partners in recent weeks, Maas said after a government meeting on Wednesday. Across Europe, lockdown measures were being gradually lifted and hotels and restaurants were reopening.

In many places, the spread of COVID-19 was under control, Maas said, adding that this “positive development” had been taken into account. The decision to lift travel warnings to European countries would “awake great hopes and expectations.”

However, Maas stressed that travel warnings for certain countries or regions could be reactivated again. If more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within one week were recorded in a certain country or region, Germany’s Foreign Office would reevaluate the situation.

An emergency mechanism, which was reached between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany‘s states, uses the same benchmark for deciding whether the partial easing of COVID-19 restrictions has to be reverted.

“We must not lull ourselves into a false sense of security,” stressed Maas. “The pandemic is far from over and together we must prevent a resumption of tourism from leading to a second wave in Germany and elsewhere.”

(XINHUA)

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