German state wants to keep minority blocking stake in VW

The German state of Lower Saxony wants to preserve a minority blocking stake in Volkswagen to ensure its stability, regional premier Christian Wulff said on Thursday.

“After the war, Volkswagen was destined to become a group owned by the people, with its shares distributed widely. There was not supposed to be a dominant shareholder,” Wulff told the daily Die Welt.

“That is why it should be possible to conserve a minority blocking stake, as in the past,” he added.

The Europe’s biggest carmaker is the focus of a determined push by luxury sports car maker Porsche to prevent new legislation that would preserve the state’s veto over strategic decisions and which has sparked tension between European Union and German authorities.

Porsche is in the process of taking over VW, but under a current and a proposed German law, strategic decisions by the carmaker must still be approved by a majority of at least 80 percent.

Lower Saxony, where VW is based, holds a stake of just over 20 percent, giving it a de facto veto over decisions such as plant relocations.

The current law was overruled by a European court in October following a complaint by the European Commission but the German government wants to enact new legislation that would retain the provisions overall, while addressing clauses specifically banned by the court’s ruling.

“The VW story is a success story,” Wulff said.

“It was made possible in part because Lower Saxony brought stability” to the group owing to its dominant position, he added.


How a German castle has sparked civil war in Monaco’s royal family

Prince Ernst August of Hanover, the husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, is suing his son to win back control of a German castle and prevent it from falling into public hands, a court has said.

How a German castle has sparked civil war in Monaco's royal family
Marienburg Castle in Lower Saxony pictured during the recent snow. Photo: DPA

Ernst August, 66, gave his son the fairytale-like Marienburg castle and several other properties between 2004 and 2007, but now wants them back citingĀ  “gross ingratitude”, the district court of Hanover said in a statement on Tuesday.

It is the latest public spat to hit the aristocratic family, whosepatriarch has over the years been nicknamed “the party prince” and even “the brawling prince” over his jetset lifestyle and drunken escapades.

According to the court statement, Ernst August filed a lawsuit at the end of last year seeking to revoke the gifts of Marienburg Castle, the Calenburg manor house and a royal property in Herrenhausen.

He accuses his son, Ernst August junior, of acting against his wishes and going behind his back by offering Marienburg Castle to the state of Lower Saxony as public property – partly because of the huge costs of maintaining the mid-19th century Gothic-style building.

READ ALSO: Just one sixth of Germans want own monarchy back

The plaintiff, who lives in Austria, also accuses his son of improperly appropriating artworks and antiques owned by the family.

Ernst August senior estimates the total value of the disputed properties and items at some five million euros, the court said.

Ernst August junior, 37, told German news agency DPA that the case had no merit, saying all the arguments raised “have already been invalidated out-of-court in the past”.

He said the deal struck to transfer ownership of Marienburg Castle to the regional authorities of Lower Saxony was “legally secure”.

“There's nothing that stands in the way of the long-term preservation of Marienburg as a central cultural monument of Lower Saxony, open to all,” he said.

The court has not yet set a date for a hearing.

Ernst August senior has been feuding for years with his son over the family's royal properties.

So severe was the spat that he declined his official consent to his son's 2017 marriage to Russian-born fashion designer Ekaterina Malysheva and stayed away from the wedding.

Princess Caroline, who has been separated from her husband since 2009, did attend the nuptials.