Eastern states in the black – with western cash

Half of Germany’s federal states have pulled themselves into the black, new figures show, while their overall debt has practically halved over the last year. The eastern state of Saxony has the healthiest finances.

Eastern states in the black - with western cash
Photo: DPA

The Handelsblatt newspaper reported on Wednesday that a Finance Ministry report showed the total debt of the states amounted to €4.2 billion at the end of September – €3.7 billion less than a year previously.

Half of the country’s 16 states are in the black, with Saxony leading the way – in total figures and per-capita rates. It showed a surplus of €1.4 billion, which works out as €349 per resident.

Saxony is followed in the per-capita finances rankings by three other former eastern states – Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Berlin and Thuringia. The first state from the former west is Bavaria in fifth place.

The figures are likely to reignite the debate about the financial transfer which still functions between western and eastern states, the Handelsblatt said.

The four top states in the per-capita surplus ranking receive between them two-thirds of the €7.3 billion that is redistributed from west to east, the paper said.

Berlin in particular relies on this money to keep its head above water, while of the net donor states, only Bavaria has managed to remain in surplus. Baden-Württemberg, Hamburg and Hesse are all deeply in debt, the paper said.

The continuing solidarity payments was briefly a topic this March in the run-up to the North Rhine-Westphalia state election, with the mayors of several cities in the Ruhr region complaining they were raiding their budgets to help eastern colleagues who did not need it as much as they did.

A veteran Bavarian politician also took aim at the fiscal transfers in a book published this summer which called for independence for the southern state – at least in part to free it from the solidarity payments to the east.

The Local/hc

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Four injured as WWII bomb explodes near Munich train station

Four people were injured, one of them seriously, when a World War II bomb exploded at a building site near Munich's main train station on Wednesday, emergency services said.

Smoke rises after the WWII bomb exploded on a building site in Munich.
Smoke rises after the WWII bomb exploded on a building site in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Privat

Construction workers had been drilling into the ground when the bomb exploded, a spokesman for the fire department said in a statement.

The blast was heard several kilometres away and scattered debris hundreds of metres, according to local media reports.

Images showed a plume of smoke rising directly next to the train tracks.

Bavaria interior minister Joachim Herrmann told Bild that the whole area was being searched.

Deutsche Bahn suspended its services on the affected lines in the afternoon.

Although trains started up again from 3pm, the rail operator said there would still be delays and cancellations to long-distance and local travel in the Munich area until evening. 

According to the fire service, the explosion happened near a bridge that must be passed by all trains travelling to or from the station.

The exact cause of the explosion is unclear, police said. So far, there are no indications of a criminal act.

WWII bombs are common in Germany

Some 75 years after the war, Germany remains littered with unexploded ordnance, often uncovered during construction work.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about WWII bomb disposals in Germany

However, most bombs are defused by experts before they explode.

Last year, seven World War II bombs were found on the future location of Tesla’s first European factory, just outside Berlin.

Sizeable bombs were also defused in Cologne and Dortmund last year.

In 2017, the discovery of a 1.4-tonne bomb in Frankfurt prompted the evacuation of 65,000 people — the largest such operation since the end of the war in Europe in 1945.