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‘Winds of change’: EU’s von der Leyen bids Germany goodbye with Scorpions hit

EU president-elect Ursula von der Leyen chose the Scorpions' smash hit "Wind of Change", which has become an anthem for the fall of the Berlin Wall, for her official departure ceremony in Berlin on Thursday.

'Winds of change': EU's von der Leyen bids Germany goodbye with Scorpions hit
von der Leyen and new defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer during the ceremony Thursday evening. Photo: DPA

The so-called 'Großer Zapfenstreich' (Great Tattoo) is the highest military ceremony of the Bundeswehr (armed forces) in which Germany's President, Chancellor and Defence Minister are bid farewell.

The power ballad by the German rock band, which has sold an estimated 14 million copies since its release in 1991, was performed by a military brass band during the ceremony attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Von der Leyen, who takes office on November 1st, replacing outgoing European
Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, last month handed over as defence
minister to Merkel's favoured successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

SEE ALSO: Germany's von der Leyen steps down as defence minister to run for EU's top job

The politician “probably did not choose the song because it was a worldwide success by a group that comes from the same region of Hanover as she does”, Scorpions lead singer Klaus Meine, who also wrote the ballad, told the DPA news agency.

German broadcaster ARD's 'Das Erste' features a video of von der Leyen watching the song played by a military brass band. Photo: DPA

“The song has a deeper meaning especially in relation to her new role as head of the European Commission,” he said.

“The dream of peace continues to live from generation to generation,” he added.

Von der Leyen, who was visibly moved by the ceremony, also chose the European Union's anthem Ode to Joy and Mozart's Ave verum.

Choices by previous defence ministers have included “Live is Life” by Austrian pop group Opus and “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple.

'A notoriously difficult portfolio'

Von der Leyen is the only Merkel cabinet member to have been there since the beginning of 2005, when the Chancellor took office, having run first the family affairs and then the labour ministry.

In 2013 she became Germany's first female defence minister, a notoriously difficult portfolio given post-war Germany's touchy relationship with military affairs and frequent defence equipment failures.

During her term, Germany has deployed troops in missions from Afghanistan to Mali while drawing frequent political fire from US President Donald Trump for what he considers Berlin's insufficient military spending.

In the tough post, von der Leyen has weathered scandals over far-right extremists within the army, controversial contracts with business consultancies and cost over-runs, including for the renovation of a vintage naval vessel.

SEE ALSO: Who is Germany's Ursula von der Leyen, the surprise candidate set to take the EU's top job?

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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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