The European Union (EU) is facing the biggest test since its creation and should be resolutely defended during the coronavirus crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says.
The pandemic is a “symmetrical shock” that affects all countries equally, she said, arguing that it is in all EU member states’ interest that Europe emerges strong from this situation.
“Germany too will only do well in the long run if Europe is doing well,” she noted.
The answer to the coronavirus crisis can only be a strong Europe, Merkel said.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim
Merkel urges vigilance as officials probe restaurant virus outbreak
Health officials in north-western Germany were pursuing an investigation into a coronavirus outbreak at a restaurant in Lower Saxony on Monday, as the number of people testing positive rose.
Seven people initially tested positive for coronavirus after visiting the Alte Scheune restaurant in Moormerland, a municipality in the district of Leer in the north-western state, earlier this month.
That number had increased to 14 by Sunday, while four additional cases of people who had contracted the virus since then were also reported.
A total of 118 people have been placed under quarantine at home, up from an initial 50.
Regional authorities in Leer district said it was likely that the four additional infections had occurred following visits to the restaurant.
The outbreak is the first to have taken place in a restaurant since they were allowed to reopen in stages across Germany’s 16 states from May 9.
Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the governments of Germany’s states to be “courageous and watchful” as they ease restrictions imposed since mid-March to contain the pandemic.
Speaking through her spokesman Steffen Seibert, Merkel backed continuing “binding instructions” on social distancing, restriction of contact and hygiene rules.
Recommendations were insufficient, Seibert said, as federal officials continued discussions with their state-level counterparts on how to proceed with further easing.
The number of cases of the novel coronavirus had risen to more than 178,500 by Monday morning, according to figures from the individual states compiled by dpa.
At least 8,252 people diagnosed with the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen have died, up from 8,229 on Sunday morning.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
Merkel starts promoting 500-bln-euro EU recovery fund
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday began promoting a 500-billion-euro (547 billion U.S. dollars) European Union (EU) recovery fund to help the coronavirus-battered European economies and regions.
During a video conference with the prime ministers of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, Merkel presented the main points of the French-German initiative for Europe’s economic recovery after the coronavirus crisis, according to the German government.
On Monday, Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron had jointly proposed that the European Commission would borrow money on capital markets in the name of the European Union which would then be distributed as grants through the EU budget.
“We need to take action at the European level so that we emerge sound and stronger from this crisis,” said Merkel on Monday.
Before a scheduled video conference of EU finance ministers, German Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday that the “new 500 billion fund will enable us to ensure that Europe grows together out of the crisis and becomes stronger again.”
The proposed plan has to be adopted unanimously by all 27 EU member states, and Paris and Berlin will still have to convince other member states, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries in particular, to support their proposal.
On Tuesday, the German ifo Institute for Economic Research welcomed the German-French initiative as an “important signal” for European capacity for action and solidarity. “The whole of Europe has an interest in supporting the countries most affected by the crisis,” said ifo President Clemens Fuest.
Elysee: Macron and Merkel to join forces on EU Covid-19 response
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are to launch a joint initiative for a European response to Covid-19 later on Monday, the Elysee Palace has said.
Germany and the Netherlands have been more sceptical.
Merkel and Macron would be holding talks by videoconference at 3:30 pm (1330 GMT) followed by a joint press conference at 5 pm, the Elysee said.
The European Commission currently has the task of drawing up a compromise that can garner the consent of all 27 EU member states, set to be made public next Wednesday.
The full details are not yet known, but commission President Ursula von der Leyen has made clear it will be anchored within the next long-term EU budget, starting 2021.
The package is to be worth considerably larger than a 320-billion-euro (346 billion dollars) figure that circulated in recent days, according to a commission official familiar with the talks, and involve a large proportion of grants.
EU officials have previously spoken of an instrument worth at least 1 trillion euros.
EU countries already agreed on a half-trillion package of short-term crisis loan instruments.
The first credit lines worth 240 billion euros from the eurozone bailout went live on Friday.
Edited By: Halima Sheji/Salif Atojoko (NAN)
Merkel rules out tax increases for time being
The German government was currently not seeking to increase taxes to compensate for the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a questioning session by the parliament on Wednesday.
“As of today, no increases in charges and taxes are planned,” Merkel said but added that this only reflected the current status and that she would not presume to be a predictor of the future.
Merkel was glad that the pandemic had hit Germany when the country is in a “good economic situation” and stressed that the German businesses and employees would receive state aid, liquidity assistance and the reduction of value-added tax for restaurants.
“The fact that people are on short-time work shows that we have economic consequences,” said Merkel. However, companies using short-time work also meant that “we did not have to lay employees off to nowhere.”
In Germany, employees in short-time work currently receive up to 80 percent of their original net salary and even up to 87 percent if employees have at least one child living in their household.
“We have succeeded in slowing down the spread of the virus in recent weeks and months,” Merkel said but warned that she would see an “obligation not to jeopardize what we have achieved together.”
Merkel criticises Russia over 2015 hacking attack on German parliament
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday accused Russia of “outrageous’’ behaviour in connection with a 2015 hacking attack on the German Government.
She implied that there could be consequences.
“An investigation by Germany’s attorney general found hard evidence of Russian involvement in the attack,’’ she told lawmakers in Berlin.
Merkel said that trust had been damaged and warned of repercussions, adding that she continued to strive for good relations with Moscow.
“Of course, we reserve the right to take measures, including against Russia,’’ she said.
According to media reports, federal investigators hold Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency responsible for a major hacking attack that targeted the Bundestag in 2015.
The German attorney general reportedly obtained an international arrest warrant for a young Russian hacker called Dmitry Badin, following years of investigations by federal police.
Badin is accused of secret service agent activity and data espionage.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)
Merkel promises support for cultural sector amid pandemic
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday assured the public that the government would support the cultural sector, which had suffered huge losses due to the restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
In her weekly video message, Merkel said that strategies were being developed to ensure hygiene and safety measures could be adhered to in theatres, concert halls, opera houses and other venues once allowed to re-open.
“We are excited to take first steps toward normal everyday life, especially in the cultural sector.
“The crisis that started in March had been particularly tough on artists.
“My government is considering which supportive measures will be necessary for artists in the coming months,” Merkel said.
According to the latest figures collated by dpa, 168,300 had tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Saturday, with 7,337 death.
Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
Putin, Merkel speak by phone to commemorate end of World War II
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday spoke by phone to commemorate the end of World War II in Europe and the continent’s liberation from Nazism.
According to the Kremlin, Putin and Merkel emphasised the importance of preserving the historical memory of the war’s tragedies and reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining constructive ties.
The two leaders thought of the millions of victims and the immeasurable suffering caused by the war unleashed by Nazi Germany.
This Victory Day, marked in Germany on Friday and Russia on Saturday, is the 75th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s cessation of military activities in 1945.
The Kremlin added that Putin and Merkel expressed confidence that both countries would never forget about the German patriots who selflessly fought against the Nazi regime.
Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)
Putin, Merkel exchange congratulations on 75th anniversary of Nazi defeat
Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel exchanged congratulations Friday on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Europe and the world from Nazism on Saturday.
During a phone conversation, Putin and Merkel emphasized the importance of preserving the historical memory of the tragic events of those years, the Kremlin said in a press release.
“In particular, they expressed confidence that both countries will never forget about the German patriots who selflessly fought against the Nazi regime,” it read.
The leaders said that today Russia and Germany are partners in solving many pressing international problems, and they confirmed their wish to build bilateral relations constructively, according to the Kremlin.
Russian hackers got hold of emails from Merkel’s constituency office: Der Spiegel
Der Spiegel magazine reported on Friday, without citing its sources.
The report says federal criminal police and the federal cyber agency had been able to partially reconstruct the attack and found that two email inboxes from Merkel’s office had been targeted.
They contained email correspondence from 2012 to 2015 and Der Spiegel said the hackers appear to have managed to copy both mailboxes to another computer.
Germany’s Bundestag lower house of parliament discovered its systems had been broken into in May 2015 and concluded that the intrusions had been continuing since at least the beginning of that year.
It was impossible to determine what information had been stolen.
Edited By: Halima Sheji/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)
Germany eases lockdown as Merkel hails end of pandemic first phase
Germany went into lockdown in March to slow the spread of the virus.
Its reproduction rate had been falling for several days, and Merkel said it was now consistently below one, meaning a person with the virus infects fewer than one other on average.
“We are at a point where our goal of slowing the spread of the virus has been achieved and we have been able to protect our health system … so it has been possible to discuss and agree on further easing measures,” Merkel told reporters.
Under measures agreed with Germany’s 16 federal state leaders, people from two households will be allowed to meet, and more shops will open, provided hygiene measures are in place. But guidelines on keeping a distance of 1.5 metres and wearing mouth and nose masks on public transport would remain.
Germany’s Bundesliga soccer league could resume in the second half of May, Merkel said.
People in care homes may again receive regular visits from “a permanent contact person”, Merkel said after talks with regional leaders.
Their plan included, a fail-safe ‘emergency brake’, so restrictions would be reintroduced if an area registers more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days.
The federal and state governments would wait and see how the easing measures panned out, Merkel said, adding: “We now face a phase in which there will be a lot more contact than was the case up to now.”
“We are following a bold path. “We can afford to be a bit bold but we must remain cautious,” she said
Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)
Merkel supports ambitious increase of EU climate protection targets
A “comprehensive package of measures” with investments in climate-friendly infrastructures and appropriate CO2 pricing were needed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue on Tuesday.
Merkel “welcomed” the EU side’s proposals to include additional sectors and aim at a reduction of greenhouse gases by 50 to 55 percent compared to the 1990 level. The current target is a 40-percent reduction.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Petersberg Climate Dialogue, a two-day climate conference organized by Germany and this year co-hosted by Britain, was held as a video conference.
Merkel said that despite the coronavirus crisis, the task remained to implement the Paris agreement on climate protection “with seriousness and passion.”
One should “not only think nationally,” but also promote international commitments, Merkel stressed and called for a global and joint approach to the climate crisis.
Merkel, politicians to discuss rescue package for Lufthansa
Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to consider a possible rescue package for Lufthansa during talks with senior politicians and the troubled airline’s chief executive next week, dpa learned on Saturday.
As the airline struggles with the fallout from cancellations caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Merkel plans to meet with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer and Lufthansa’s chief executive, Carsten Spohr.
The government is said to be mulling a rescue package worth between 9 billion and 10 billion euros (9.7 billion and 10.8 billion dollars) according to sources close to the government.
Apparently some are reluctant to add additional yet more government oversight to the company, with some sources worrying that would add to the problems the company already faces.
The airline has been severely impacted by the pandemic and Spohr has already told employees to prepare for difficult times ahead.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
Germany’s EU presidency won’t leave out climate policy even amid pandemic: Merkel
Speaking of Germany’s presidency of the Council of the EU starting July 1, Merkel said it “will be clearly dominated by the issue of combating the pandemic and its consequences.”
But the climate issues will be “just as much on the agenda as health issues,” she stressed.
Merkel said Germany would promote an efficient European health care system for all member states, as well as a financial transaction tax, minimum tax rates and a joint carbon emissions trading system for ships and planes.
Merkel said her goal for Germany’s EU presidency was to forge a closer Europe that “will be better equipped to face the 21st century than it is today.”
German football waits for Chancellor Merkel raising her thumbs up
The 36 clubs of the first and second-tier approved an emergency plan containing games behind closed doors to finish the 2019-20 season orderly at a virtual meeting.
The league association CEO Christian Seifert said the final decision has to come from politics and health authorities. The association presented a strict hygiene plan to its members, outlining the needed measures.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 federal state prime ministers are expected to debate about possible so-called ghost games finally next Thursday.
The German league could return to action on May 9 or one or two weeks later. “No matter what decision will be made, we are ready either to start on May 9th or later,” Seifert commented.
Experts doubt that a re-start on May 9 can be achieved.
Reports spoke of the match-days 33, and 34 might be the starting ones as they contain unproblematic fixtures. The season was interrupted after match-day 25 on March 11 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
To avoid difficulties, the 41-page procedure plan suggests playing match 26 at a later date as it contains the delicate derby of the local rivals Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04.
The Bavarian prime minister Markus Soeder said football would be under close observation, and every match-day is under probation.
“We will do everything to avoid any fan gathering,” Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge promised. Security strategies have been set up.
Seifert said detail still needs to be fixed in collaboration with politics.
The head of the league association announced a deal with TV presenters had been achieved, and clubs can expect the pay-out of the last tranche of the TV money for this season at the beginning of May.
This will secure the liquidity of all clubs until June 30.
Seifert said football might have to stop its action again when infection rates worsen again.
The emergency plans contain strict rules for players and staff in the arena and outside. For weekly testing, around 25,000 tests are needed worth up to 2,5 million euros.
“We have proved that’s not the case. Football is only going to use a vanishing small quantity,” Seifert said, mentioning a figure of only 0.4 percent of the entire testing capacities.
Bayern Munich striker Thomas Mueller said he would welcome a re-start based on games without fans. “After all, we don’t play football just for fun, but it is our profession.”
The forward said extreme health precautions might be compulsory, but all footballers involved are ready to follow the rules.
Depending on the re-start date, two rounds of matches per week might be necessary to finish the season and run the 2020 German Cup final. The cup semi-finals still need to be played.
Seifert said the first half of the 2021/2022 season would take place without spectators as well. National League action and internationals won’t take place at the same time he added.
Merkel warns German citizens of long time of restrictions due to COVID-19
The restrictions during the coronavirus crisis in Germany would continue for a long time, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Thursday.
“We are not living in the final phase of the pandemic, but are still at its beginning,” said Merkel during her speech in the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament.
The numbers of new cases of COVID-19 and recoveries in Germany were only a “fragile interim success,” stressed Merkel. “We are moving on thin ice.”
She also stated that she supported “with full conviction” the decisions of Germany’s state governments to introduce face masks in public places while simultaneously reopening shops in Germany.
However, Merkel was concerned about the implementation of last week’s decisions by the federal governments which she described as “very brisk” or even “too brisk” in parts. She did not specify which federal states or which implementations she was referring to.
Last week, the contact restrictions in Germany were extended until May 3. As of Wednesday, all German states have successively decided to make masks compulsory in public transport. In some states, shopping without a mask is still allowed while most have made a face mask or equivalent mouth-and-nose cover mandatory.
Merkel again rejects ‘coronabonds’ ahead of EU leaders’ conference
German Chancellor Angela Merkel doubled down on her country’s rejection of joint European Union (EU) debt issuance, or “coronabonds,” in comments to lawmakers in Berlin ahead of an EU leaders’ video summit.
She argued that were was no time for such a measure, adding that each EU member state would have to get parliamentary approval for transferring an element of budgetary sovereignty to the bloc.
“This would be a time-consuming and difficult process and not one that could directly help in the current situation.
“It is now about helping swiftly and getting hold of quick instruments that ease the fallout of the crisis,” she said.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
Putin, Merkel discuss COVID-19, Ukraine over phone
Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the settlement of the Ukraine conflict in a phone conversation Wednesday, the Kremlin has said.
“The importance of close coordination of international efforts in this direction with active participation of the World Health Organization was emphasized,” it said in a statement.
Putin and Merkel examined in detail problems of the intra-Ukrainian conflict settlement, stressing the necessity of consistently implementing the Minsk agreements and decisions adopted at the Normandy format summits between leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France.
The two leaders positively assessed the recently held exchange of prisoners between Kiev and the non-government-controlled areas of Luhansk and Donetsk, the statement said.
In addition, the parties discussed issues related to the development of the situation in Syria and Libya, as well as the current situation in the world oil market, it said.
Germany’s Merkel spoke to Australian PM on coronavirus
Merkel added it would be important to establish facts about the outbreak to learn lessons for the future.
A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry reiterated the German position that it supported the World Health Organisation (WHO) and wanted it strengthened.
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
Merkel warns of false sense of security as Germany lifts first coronavirus measures
German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday called for a “gradual” and “cautious” exit strategy from COVD-19 measures, saying “Despite everything, we are still at the very beginning of the pandemic and are far from out of the woods.”
Merkel thanked German citizens who would had borne all government restrictions with “supreme discipline and overall a lot of patience.”
As of Monday, shops in Germany with a maximum sales area of up to 800 square meters are allowed to open under new regulations for hygiene as well as access and queue control, the government announced last week.
The consequences of the reopening of shops in Germany would be observable only in 14 days, said Merkel and warned that with a renewed exponential growth of confirmed COVID-19 infection cases, another lockdown would become “inevitable.”
The rate of new infections with COVID-19 in Germany continued to fall as the number of confirmed cases only increased by 1,775 within one day to almost 142,000, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Monday.
At the same time, the estimated number of people in Germany who had already recovered from COVID-19 went up by around 3,500 within one day to 91,500 on Monday, according to RKI, the federal government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention.
Merkel appealed to Germany’s state governments not to relax the protective measures too quickly and advocated to use the agreed margin of freedom “as narrowly as possible, not as widely as possible.”
In order to be able to cope with the coronavirus crisis, one would require a “precise tracing of all chains of infection,” said Merkel. In Germany, this could only be achieved though further strengthening the health care system.
Before a general obligation to wear face masks in Germany was introduced, Merkel wanted to make sure that at least one mask was provided for every citizen. However, Merkel referred to Germany’s state governments and stressed that this was “not a federal responsibility.”
Bavaria has become the third state in Germany with some form of face mask obligation. In Saxony, a mouth and nose protector or scarf must already be worn when shopping and using public transport while in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, masks will become mandatory in public transport on April 27.
Germany needs to produce its own protective gear, says Merkel
Germany has to build up its own production of protective wear as one consequence from the coronavirus crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says, announcing that a special unit will be set up in the Economy Ministry.
“It is important for us to learn, as one experience from this pandemic, that we need a certain sovereignty here or at least a pillar of self-production.
“That can be in Germany. But we will also try to coordinate it Europe-wide,” she said.
There has been some progress made on the supply of face masks, but not as much as would be desirable, the chancellor says.
“We have to work hard so that hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, facilities for the disabled, so that staff there really are adequately equipped with the appropriate protective gear and not living day to day,” she says.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim