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POLITICS

New president: dare to have more Europe

Joachim Gauck used his first speech as German President on Friday morning to call for the country to “dare to have more Europe” in times of crisis, and for determination in facing down extremists.

New president: dare to have more Europe
Photo: DPA

Gauck, who is the first head of state from the former communist east, delivered the impassioned appeal for more European “solidarity” to members of both houses of parliament, in the sunlight-filled main chamber of the Reichstag building.

“We must keep saying yes to Europe,” he said. “Particularly in times of crisis, we must dare to have more Europe.”

Languishing under the Nazi and then the communist dictatorships had fuelled his dream a united Europe living in peace and prosperity, the 72-year-old said.

“Europe was the promised land for my generation.”

“For my grandchildren, Europe has long been part of their day-to-day reality, with freedom across borders and the opportunities and concerns of an open society. This reality is an achievement, not only for my grandchildren.”

Germany, as the rescue-fund paymaster for Europe’s stricken member states, has come under pressure throughout the sovereign debt crisis to boost its contributions to the bailouts in the face of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s resistance.

The turmoil has also exposed old rifts, with protesters on the streets of Athens branding Merkel a “Nazi” for her hard-line stance.

Gauck, a Lutheran pastor and former East German democracy activist, said he would make the integration of Germany’s large immigrant population and the struggle against the far right priorities of his presidency.

In a rousing passage of the 23-minute inaugural speech, Gauck said Germany would stand united in the fight against extremists.

“Your hatred will only spur us on,” he thundered in reference to a group of neo-Nazi militants thought to have killed 10 people – mostly shopkeepers of Turkish origin – over a seven-year period.

The murder spree has sparked a new drive to ban the anti-immigrant National Democratic Party of Germany, which had ties to the suspected murderers.

Gauck will make his first trip abroad as president to Poland next week.

AFP/jcw

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POLITICS

Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

Germany will reinstate its so-called debt brake in 2023 after suspending it for three years to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, sources in the finance ministry said Wednesday.

Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The government will borrow 17.2 billion euros ($18.1 million) next year, adhering to the rule enshrined in the constitution that normally limits

Germany’s public deficit to 0.35 percent of overall annual economic output, despite new spending as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the sources said.

The new borrowing set out in a draft budget to be presented to the cabinet on Friday is almost 10 billion euros higher than a previous figure for 2023 announced in April.

However, “despite a considerable increase in costs, the debt brake will be respected,” one of the sources said.

Although Germany is traditionally a frugal nation, the government broke its own debt rules at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and unleashed vast financial aid to steer the economy through the crisis.

READ ALSO: Debt-averse Germany to take on new borrowings to soften pandemic blow

The government has this year unveiled a multi-billion-euro support package to help companies in Europe’s biggest economy weather the fallout from the Ukraine war and sanctions against Russia.

Berlin has also spent billions to diversify its energy supply to reduce its dependence on Russia, as well as investing heavily in plans to tackle climate change and push digital technology.

But despite the additional spending, Finance Minister Christian Lindner has maintained the aim to reinstate the debt brake in 2023.

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