Russian interest in Deutsche Bahn raises concerns

Interest from Moscow in buying part of German rail carrier Deutsche Bahn when it is partially privatized later this year has drawn skepticism from conservative MPs in Germany's ruling coalition, according to a newspaper report on Thursday.

Russian interest in Deutsche Bahn raises concerns
Yakunin (r) and Bahn CEO Mehdorn in 2007. Photo: DPA

“I think it is by no means a good idea,” Dirk Fischer, transport policy spokesman for the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), told the newspaper Berliner Zeitung.

Fischer, an MP from Hamburg, said Russian interest could be grounded in political and strategic goals and that allowing Russia to buy into the rail carrier could be risky because of the political situation in Moscow.

“They want to enter our market also because of the transport routes,” he said, suggesting that Germany should first seek partners and investment from other European Union members.

Fischer admitted, however, that the German parliament will have little influence on who invests in the Deutsche Bahn. Parliamentary approval is expected later this month for partial privatization of the Deutsche Bahn under a plan approved by Germany’s ruling parliamentary coalition of the CDU, their Bavarian sister party the Christian Socialists (CSU) and centre-left Social Democrats in late April.

Private investors will be able to invest in up to 24.9 percent of the rail unit involved in freight and passenger traffic. Deutsche Bahn’s 34,000 kilometre (21,127 miles) network of tracks, train stations and energy supplies will remain in public ownership.

Vladimir Yakunin, president of RZD Russian railways, expressed interest in Russian investment in the Deutsche Bahn on Wednesday during an international transport conference in the southern Russian city of Sochi.

“This is a good idea, and we have discussed it with (Bahn chief executive) Hartmut Mehdorn,” Yakunin said.



Germany’s centre-right CDU to elect new leadership by end of the year

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party will elect its new leadership by the year's end, general secretary Paul Ziemiak said Monday, detailing plans for a clean slate after a disastrous election that the party lost to the Social Democrats.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and CDU leader Armin Laschet on the election campaign trail in Aachen before the election.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and CDU leader Armin Laschet on the election campaign trail in Aachen before the election. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

In power for 16 years under Merkel, the Christian Democratic Union is grappling with its deepest crisis in decades after turning in a historic low score in September’s election.

Its leader Armin Laschet last week signalled his readiness to step aside, setting the ball rolling for renewal at the top.

READ ALSO: Laschet signals he’s ready to step down as CDU leader

Ziemiak said a date for the congress to determine the new makeup of the party’s top brass as well as how rank and file members can participate in the leadership selection process will be announced on November 2nd.

But the party’s leaders “today agreed unanimously that we will elect a completely new executive board,” he said, adding that in terms of the calendar, the “window for this is year’s end”.

Bild daily had reported that the party has made a tentative booking for December 6th-13th in Dresden for its possible congress.

READ ALSO: Germany edges a step closer to a government led by Social Democrats

Laschet, who is state premier of Germany’s most populous region North Rhine-Westphalia, was elected head of the CDU in January.

For some time, he was the clear favourite to succeed Merkel, who is bowing out of politics after running four consecutive coalitions.

But his party’s ratings began to slide as he committed a series of gaffes, including being caught on camera laughing in the background during a solemn tribute to flood victims.

With the CDU’s ratings plunging, Merkel tried to boost Laschet’s campaign with joint appearances, but was unable to help the conservatives pull off a win on election day.