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POLITICS

Here is what 2018 has in store for Germany

Next year, Germany will still be waiting on a government. But with everything from an upcoming World Cup to more benefits for parents, there is a lot to look forward to.

Here is what 2018 has in store for Germany
Photo: DPA.

1. Time's up: Merkel has to pick coalition partners

Chancellor Angela Merkel has still yet to successfully form a coalition government, even though federal elections took place three months ago.

With pressure mounting and her popularity waning, Merkel will have to go back to the political negotiating table with her opponents and form a government in 2018.

SEE ALSO: A very lonely Chancellor to 'green' energy: how we'll remember 2017

2. More economic growth, and in some cases, more jobs

Germany's economic upswing is expected to continue, according to a survey by the Institute of German Industry. Of 48 industry associations, two-thirds will continue to see production expansion in 2018.

Economic growth has been taking place for ten years and in 19 sectors, industry leaders said they planned to add jobs next year, while only nine said they intend to cut down on jobs.

3. Housing will get more expensive (but not exorbitantly so)

Real estate prices in major German cities will increase but not at the rate we have seen in recent years, Analyse Emperica told German public broadcasting channel ZDF.

Construction of new properties will keep housing prices in check, despite the demand for hundreds of thousands of flats.

4. More benefits for parents

For parents and soon-to-be parents there will also be a few silver linings in 2018, despite January's cloudy weather.

Mutterschutz (maternity leave) benefits will be extended to students, interns and even high school pupils, with financial assistance kicking in six weeks before birth and eight weeks afterwards.

And for people who already have children, Kindergeld (child benefits) will go up two euros per month per child in 2018.

Photo: DPA.

5. Another day off (for one state)

Lower Saxony is set to get an additional national holiday, most likely on Reformation Day, which was a nationwide public holiday in commemoration of Martin Luther's 500th birthday in 2017.

Though it is not yet clear which date this additional day off will fall on next year, Lower Saxony's Minister President Stephan Weil (SPD) has already vowed to fight for it. 

6. Free streaming for online subscription services across the EU

Starting on March 20th, there will be free streaming for users of Netflix, Sky Go or Maxdome – thanks to a change in the European Parliament's rules that previously barred free streaming.

This means that when on holidays in France or Spain, for instance, you'll be allowed a limited amount of free streaming with your online subscription services.

7. More protection when you book holidays online

If you plan on booking your next vacation online, especially if booking multiple services (flights, rental cars, hotels, etc.), there will be more protection to online consumers beginning July 1st 2018.

Consumers will also be protected in the event of bankruptcies and the deadline for travellers to claim travel defects will be extended from one month to two years.

8. Time for the World Cup

And after what feels like a long wait for many, the World Cup will take place again in June 2018 in Russia, with Germany playing its first match on June 17th against Mexico.

Who knows? Maybe household football favourites like Jerome Boateng, Mario Götze and Manuel Neuer could help lead Germany to another victory title?

A football stadium in Moscow built for the World Cup in 2018. Photo: DPA.

POLITICS

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

While far-right groups have been celebrating, other politicians in Germany see the results as worrying. Here's a look at the reaction.

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

According to initial projections following Italy’s election on Sunday, the coalition led by Georgia Meloni and her radical right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party has won a majority of seats in the two chambers of the Italian parliament and will lead the next government. 

Meloni is a euro-sceptic who has previously spoken about having an “aversion” to Germany and referred to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as “socialist” while on the campaign trail.

However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s deputy spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters on Monday: “We of course have to wait for the official final result from this election but at this time what the chancellor would say is that Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens and we assume that won’t change.” 

READ ALSO: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

A Finance Ministry spokesperson added that Berlin expected the new Italian government to continue to respect the stability pact that sets the fiscal rules for the eurozone.

Despite these reassurances from the central government, German politicians in the EU parliament have expressed concern about the new direction for Italy.  

Rasmus Andresen, spokesman for the German Greens in the EU Parliament, said the “unprecedented Italian slide to the right” will have massive repercussions for Europe and for the European Union.

“Italy, as a founding member and the third strongest economy in the EU, is heading for an anti-democratic and anti-European government.”

Though Meloni no longer wants Italy to leave the eurozone, she has said that Rome must assert its interests more and has policies that look set to challenge Brussels on everything from public spending rules to mass migration.

The Greens’ co-leader in Brussels, Thomas Waitz, told Die Welt that the EU can only function if it sticks together, for example on cooperation in energy markets, decisions on Russian sanctions or dealing with the Covid crisis. “Meloni, on the other hand, would back national go-it-alones. It can be a disaster for Europe,”  he said. 

READ ALSO: Euro falls to 20-year low against US dollar

The FDP’s expert on Europe, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, takes a similar view. He said on ARD’s Morgenmagazin that cooperation with Italy in the European Union will become more difficult. He said that it will now be much more difficult to achieve unity in Europe, especially on the issues of migration, reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the single market.

Speaking on RTL, Green Party leader Omid Nouripour called the election results in Italy “worrying” and pointed out that people within the Italian right-wing nationalist alliance have “very close entanglements with the Kremlin”.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that people in Moscow also popped the corks last night,” he said.

Germany’s own far-right party – Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – has been celebrating the victory. 

AfD member of the Bundestag Beatrix von Storch wrote “We cheer with Italy!” on Twitter late Sunday evening.

Referring to the recent elections in Sweden, where the right was also successful, von Storch wrote: “Sweden in the north, Italy in the south: left-wing governments are so yesterday.”

Her party colleague Malte Kaufmann tweeted, “A good day for Italy – a good day for Europe.”

With reporting from AFP

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