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POLITICS

Germany offers €500,000 to aid storm victims in Burma

Germany will direct €500,000 ($777,000) in aid to victims of a tropical cyclone in Burma amid reports on Tuesday of at least 22,000 people dead and 41,000 missing.

Germany offers €500,000 to aid storm victims in Burma
Thai air force officers load food aid for Burma. Photo: DPA

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier appealed to the military regime that governs Burma, known under its military rulers as Myanmar, to cooperate with international aid organizations in a statement issued on Monday from Berlin.

“The cyclone Nargis is just one more heavy blow of fate for the sorely afflicted people of Myanmar,” Steinmeier said.

“German help is standing ready. Together with German aid organizations and international partners we are currently assessing where we can help most effectively.”

German aid is part of a European Union package of €2 million in initial aid announced on Monday after the Burmese government asked for international aid – a change from its stance after the 2004 tsunami, when it rejected help from abroad. The United States also offered $250,000 on Monday.

The German funding is to be targeted toward drinking water, emergency shelters, household items and mosquito nets, according to the German foreign office.

Nargis tore through Burma on Saturday, surprising a population with little access to radio, television or other news. Aid organizations estimate up to 1 million people may have lost their homes.

“Friends told us we should stay home because something was coming,” Heinrich Schoeneich, of Munich, told German press agency DPA of the situation in the Burmese capital of Rangoon the night before the storm. “I think that warnings did take place, but not to the degree there could have been.”

Schoeneich had spent two weeks in the mountains of central Burma as part of a team of German doctors.

Carsten Schmidt, manager of a travel bureau in Rangoon, described a scene of residents hacking away with axes and machetes at debris clogging the city’s streets. Schmidt said 70 to 80 percent of the city’s trees had been uprooted.

“The biggest problem is that there is no electricity or running water,” Schmidt told DPA, adding that residents stood in line with buckets in front of his office to get water from his generator-operated pump.

“But when the diesel is all gone, the pump will be useless,” he said.

POLITICS

EU ministers urge unity after Germany’s energy ‘bazooka’

EU finance ministers on Monday pleaded for unity after Germany announced a €200 billion plan to help German households and businesses pay for high energy prices, amid accusations that the EU's biggest economy was acting alone.

EU ministers urge unity after Germany's energy 'bazooka'

Europe is struggling with historically high energy prices as it faces an early autumn cold snap and a coming winter almost certainly to be endured without crucial Russian gas supplies because of the war in Ukraine.

Many EU countries have announced national programmes to shield consumers from the high prices. But Germany went the furthest on Friday when it announced its mammoth plan, which will see help pouring to Germans for two years.

Arriving to talk with his eurozone counterparts, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner insisted the spending was “proportionate” to the size of Germany’s economy and said his goal was to use as little of the money as possible.

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

But Germany’s largesse rankled several EU capitals, some of which feared their industries could take severe blows while Germany’s sits protected, deforming the EU’s single market.

Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has slammed Berlin for its lack of solidarity and coordination with EU partners.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, without directly criticizing Berlin, called on partners to agree a common strategy against the price shock and for countries to refrain from going it alone.

“The more this strategy is coordinated, united, the better it is for all of us,” he said.

Risk to ‘European unity’

Others pointed to the unprecedented solidarity shown in the Covid-19 crisis in which the 27 EU nations, against all expectations, approved a jointly financed €750 billion recovery plan.

“Solidarity is not only on the German shoulders, I think this is something that we have to deliver at European level,” said EU economics affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

“We have very good examples from the previous crisis on how solidarity can react to a crisis and also reassure financial markets. I think that this is our goal,” he said.

While a Covid-style recovery plan is not in the cards for now, Le Maire said €200 billion in loans and €20 billion in aid should be devoted to REPowerEU, a programme to help countries break their dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Will Germany set a gas price cap – and how would it work?

Bruegel, a highly influential think tank in Brussels, called the German plan a spending “bazooka” that many EU countries were unable to match, creating a potential source of animosity.

“If the German gas price brake gives German business a much better chance to survive the crisis than, say, Italian business, economic divergences in the EU could be deepened, and European unity on Russia undermined,” it said in a blog.

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