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THE LOCAL'S MEDIA ROUNDUP

ECONOMY

Merkel’s bailout fund hits ‘stumbling block’

Germany's President said on Thursday he would delay signing the EU fiscal pact and new bailout fund until the top court has examined a legal challenge. The Local’s media roundup looks at how newspapers interpreted the move.

Merkel's bailout fund hits 'stumbling block'
Photo: DPA

German lawmakers are due to ratify both the pact and the bailout fund on June 29, but President Joachim Gauck’s decision to delay signing meant the planned timing for the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) bailout fund to enter into force on July 1 would no longer stand.

Many in the German media supported Gauck’s decision to give the Constitutional Court up to three weeks to consider a legal challenge put forward by the far-left Linke party.

In doing so, the President had skilfully “avoided an unprecedented constitutional conflict,” the Süddeutsche Zeitung said on Friday.

By buying the court enough time to properly examine the challenge, both Germany’s highest institutions could “escape the accusation of destroying the Euro with a rushed decision.”

And given what is at stake for Germany, more scrutiny of the the planned ESM permanent bail out fund cannot be a bad thing, said the Münchner Merkur.

After all, Germany will be responsible for 27 percent of contributions to the ESM fund – expected to contribute €21.7 billion in cash and provide guarantees worth a further €168.3 billion.

It is for the ESM “that Germany has got itself up to the neck in financial adventures,” the Munich-based paper added.

Daily paper Die Welt also showed sympathy with the President, who it said had taken a “political risk” when called upon to address “the core question of how German democracy and European politics can coexist in peace.”

“In the case of the bail out law, Gauck alone has the answer and also the responsibility. Only his signature gives it legal force in Germany.”

It is at times like this, said the paper, that Presidents show their “enormous power,” which is enough to challenge even the will of the Chancellor.

And the move is indeed a further blow for Chancellor Merkel, whose “room for manoeuvre is getting smaller,” said the left-leaning, Hannover-based Neue Presse.

Having – after long negotiations – finally succeeded on securing support from the opposition parties for the fiscal pact on Thursday, Chancellor Merkel was immediately dealt another “stumbling block,” wrote the paper.

Chancellor Merkel – and those looking to rescue the euro – had been hoping for a “strong signal from Germany” said mass-circulation daily Bild. Instead, all they got was “a hammering” from the Constitutional Court.

The Local/DPA/jlb

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ECONOMY

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

Russia's war in Ukraine is slowing down the economy and accelerating inflation in Germany, the Ifo Institute has claimed.

German consumer prices set to rise steeply amid war in Ukraine

According to the Munich-based economics institute, inflation is expected to rise from 5.1 to 6.1 percent in March. This would be the steepest rise in consumer prices since 1982.

Over the past few months, consumers in Germany have already had to battle with huge hikes in energy costs, fuel prices and increases in the price of other everyday commodities.

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With Russia and Ukraine representing major suppliers of wheat and grain, further price rises in the food market are also expected, putting an additional strain on tight incomes. 

At the same time, the ongoing conflict is set to put a dampener on the country’s annual growth forecasts. 

“We only expect growth of between 2.2 and 3.1 percent this year,” Ifo’s head of economic research Timo Wollmershäuser said on Wednesday. 

Due to the increase in the cost of living, consumers in Germany could lose around €6 billion in purchasing power by the end of March alone.

With public life in Germany returning to normal and manufacturers’ order books filling up, a significant rebound in the economy was expected this year. 

But the war “is dampening the economy through significantly higher commodity prices, sanctions, increasing supply bottlenecks for raw materials and intermediate products as well as increased economic uncertainty”, Wollmershäuser said.

Because of the current uncertainly, the Ifo Institute calculated two separate forecasts for the upcoming year.

In the optimistic scenario, the price of oil falls gradually from the current €101 per barrel to €82 by the end of the year, and the price of natural gas falls in parallel.

In the pessimistic scenario, the oil price rises to €140 per barrel by May and only then falls to €122 by the end of the year.

Energy costs have a particularly strong impact on private consumer spending.

They could rise between 3.7 and 5 percent, depending on the developments in Ukraine, sanctions on Russia and the German government’s ability to source its energy. 

On Wednesday, German media reported that the government was in the process of thrashing out an additional set of measures designed to support consumers with their rising energy costs.

The hotly debated measures are expected to be finalised on Wednesday evening and could include increased subsidies, a mobility allowance, a fuel rebate and a child bonus for families. 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s proposals for future energy price relief

In one piece of positive news, the number of unemployed people in Germany should fall to below 2.3 million, according to the Ifo Institute.

However, short-time work, known as Kurzarbeit in German, is likely to increase significantly in the pessimistic scenario.

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