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POLITICS

Bundestag passes debt-free budget for 2015

Germany signed off Friday on its 2015 draft budget, which foresees a balanced bottom line for the country's public finances for the first time since 1969.

Bundestag passes debt-free budget for 2015
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble fulfills a promise. Photo: DPA

Lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house of parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve the budget blueprint for next year which will entail no new debt, a first in 46 years.

The move was a campaign pledge by conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel in last year's general election.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said on public radio Deutschlandfunk that Germany was living up to its responsibility for future generations and contributing to sustainable growth.

He later said during a debate in parliament that agreeing on balanced budgets with no new debt was also a "commitment for the future".

Opposition parties and some economists have criticised Berlin's drive to achieve the 2015 balanced budget, claiming it makes no economic sense and has a restraining effect on growth and investment.

The level of debt already held by Europe's top economy, however, exceeds EU rules which lay out a ceiling of 60-percent of gross domestic product.

A survey conducted by public broadcaster ZDF showed that around two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents were in favour of the plan. 

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POLITICS

‘Winter of rage’: Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

Experts are warning that economic hardship may lead to protests throughout Germany in autumn and winter - and that they could be infiltrated by right-wing extremists.

'Winter of rage': Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

In view of rising energy costs, supply difficulties, growing unemployment and general pessimism about the future, authorities in Germany are warning that there will be mass protests this year – and that these are likely to be abused by extremists.

The warnings come from civil servants from the federal offices for the Protection of the Constitution or Bundesverfassungsschutz – Germany’s watchdog for safeguarding free democracy at the federal level and in the 16 states.

Stephan Kramer, president of Thuringia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told German broadcaster ZDF that, following the pandemic and the world events of recent months, there is a “highly emotionalised, aggressive, future-pessimistic mood” among the population, “whose trust in the state, its institutions and political actors is tainted by massive doubts”.

He expects that “legitimate protests” will be infiltrated by extremists, especially those from the so-called Querdenker (lateral thinking) scene and that it is likely that some will turn violent.

READ ALSO: How Germany is saving energy ahead of uncertain winter

“What we have experienced so far in the Covid pandemic in terms of partly violent confrontations on social networks, but also in the streets and squares, was probably more like a children’s birthday party in comparison,” Kramer said.

The head of Hamburg’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Torsten Voß, told the Funke Mediengruppe that he expects “extremist conspiracy ideologues and other enemies of the constitution” will try to abuse protests for their ideological purposes.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said “a spectrum of radical opponents of vaccination and so-called Covid deniers have built up a protest infrastructure, with contacts and channels for mobilisation”. This group will try to use this infrastructure for the energy security protests in the autumn, he said.

READ ALSO: German households could see ‘four-digit’ rise in energy costs this winter

Brandenburg’s head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Jörg Müller, also fears that extremists could exploit the energy crisis and high inflation fears for their own purposes.

“Extremists dream of a German winter of rage” he told Welt am Sonntag. “They hope that the energy crisis and price increases will hit people particularly hard so that they can pick up on the mood and advertise their anti-state aspirations. We are following these goings-on with watchful eyes and open ears.”

Vocabulary:

Constitution – (die) Verfassung

Rage – (die) Wut

Violent – gewalttätig

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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