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TECHNOLOGY

From sick notes to taxes: Germany votes to digitalize its paper trail

On Thursday evening, the Bundestag passed several pieces of legislation to ease the infamous German bureaucracy.

From sick notes to taxes: Germany votes to digitalize its paper trail
You no longer need to worry about pronouncing Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung. Photo: DPA

The Bundestag (German Parliament) has decided that yellow sick notes should be discontinued. Paper sick notes are going to be replaced by a digital certificate, which will be sent directly to the employer.

READ MORE: How Germany plans to ditch paper sick notes for digital ones

This earmarks several pieces of legislation passed in Parliament on Thursday evening in order to reduce bureaucracy. However, the approval of the Bundesrat (Federal Assembly) is also required. 

Anyone who has ever received a sick note from the doctor up until now would end up receiving several. One had to be sent to their employer, one to their health insurance, and one for their personal files. 

READ MORE: The 10 rules you need to know if you get sick in Germany

Jens Spahn (CDU), the Minister of Health, has already drove forth a new regulation, which will allow “incapacity to work certificates” to be transmitted digitally from treating physicians directly to health insurance companies from 2021 onward.

According to the new law, which has now passed, the next steps will involve the health insurance fund informing the employer electronically about the beginning and duration of their employee’s sick leave.

Which other sectors does the new law affect?

If the Federal Assembly also gives the go-ahead, the new legislation will have an effect on hotel operations, as hotel guests will also no longer have to fill in paper registration forms. 

This eliminates the need for hotels, guesthouses and campsites to be constantly throwing out around 150 million registration forms every year. 

Furthermore, the amendment to the law makes it simpler to archive existing electronic tax documents.

Thanks to additional changes to reduce bureaucracy for businesses, in six years time company founders will be required to pay VAT quarterly, rather than monthly.

These numerous changes are intended to free up more than €1.1 billion annually in federal funding.

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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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