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POLITICS

Germany, France begin fight to close borders

Germany and France began moves this week to reclaim the power to close their borders for up to 30 days, in a simmering battle over immigration in Europe's passport-free Schengen travel zone.

Germany, France begin fight to close borders
Photo: DPA

In a joint letter to the European Union’s Danish chair ahead of talks among interior ministers in Luxembourg on April 26, France’s Claude Guéant and Germany’s Hans-Peter Friedrich say the Schengen set-up, which abolished frontier controls in 1995, needs a radical revamp.

Schengen is an area that is home to 400 million Europeans and covers 25 states. Once inside Schengen illegal immigrants can theoretically move freely between countries, as people passing between the borders of two member states do not have to show identification.

Friedrich and Guéant said that where a government within the area fails to meet its obligations to manage external frontiers – Greece for one is under intense migratory pressures at Europe’s south eastern fringe – partners should have “the possibility, as a last resort, to reintroduce internal frontiers for a period not greater than 30 days.”

Currently, only the European Commission, or EU civil service, can decide short-term emergency blocks on individual frontier pressure-points.

The ministers also insisted that such decisions should not be left to permanent Brussels officials – but be left as the sole preserve of national ministers voting in the European Council of EU member states.

Fighting to hold onto power ahead of Sunday’s first-round election, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a rally last month that without “serious progress” on a rewrite of the Schengen treaty over the coming year, that France would leave the group completely.

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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