Lufthansa takeover of Austrian Airlines on final approach

Lufthansa’s takeover of Austrian Airlines (AUA) took what could be one of the final steps towards being a done deal, with the European Competition Commissioner giving the proposal a green light on Friday.

Lufthansa takeover of Austrian Airlines on final approach
Photo: DPA

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, “has instructed her services to draft a conditional clearance decision,” her office announced on Friday.

There are some fears among EU authorities that the takeover could lead to higher prices and or fewer flights on some routes.

Lufthansa has been negotiating with the authorities to allay these concerns, with one insider telling AFP news service that the German giant had offered to give up 19 airport slots in Vienna in order to allow for greater competition.

Austrian Finance Minister Josef Proell said the European green light, even though conditional, laid the basis for the loss-making Austrian carrier’s future.

“I’m aware that, once the formal decision has been announced, the company will face difficult weeks and months. But I regard today’s decision as the foundation stone for the future,” he said after the Competition Commissioner’s decision was announced.

If AUA was owned by Lufthansa, thousands of jobs would be saved from a possible bankruptcy, not only at the airline itself, but also Vienna’s Schwechat airport, he said.

The draft conditional approval will now be examined by the Advisory Committee of the Member States and a final proposal will be presented to the College of Commissioners for their approval, the Competition Commissioner’s office said.

Lufthansa said early in the week it expected its improved offer to be enough to secure approval by the end of August.

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Emergency numbers fail in several German states

Callers to the emergency numbers 110 and 112 weren’t able to reach operators Thursday morning in several German states.

The 112 emergency number on an ambulance.
The 112 emergency number on an ambulance. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

The emergency number 110 for police and 112 for fire crews failed around the country early Thursday morning, with callers unable to reach emergency operators for urgent assistance between about 4:30 am and 5:40 am local time.

The Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Aid is looking into these outages, which were reported in states including Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, and  Brandenburg, and in major cities like Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. Cologne was further affected by cuts to electricity, drinking water, and regular telephone services. Lower Saxony also saw disruptions to the internal phone networks of police and hospitals.

Emergency services are not reporting any more disturbances and people should be able to once again reach 110 and 112 around the country as normal.

Investigators are looking into the problem, but haven’t yet established a cause or any consequences that may have happened due to the outage. Provider Deutsche Telekom says they have ruled out the possibility of an attack by hackers.