Germany paves way to clamp down on Google activities

Germany's antitrust regulator on Wednesday classified Google a company of "paramount significance across markets", a move paving the way for the authorities to clamp down on any potentially anti-competitive activities.

Germany paves way to clamp down on Google activities
Germany paves way to clamp down on Google activities Photo: AFP

The decision is the first after an amendment of the German Competition Act came in force January 2021, allowing the authority to intervene earlier, particularly against huge digital companies.

“This is a very important step since based on this decision the Bundeskartellamt (regulator) can now take action against specific anti-competitive practices by Google,” said Andreas Mundt, president of the Federal Cartel Authority, in a statement.

Wielding the new legislation, the authority has over the last year opened probes into US tech giants such as Amazon and Facebook.

In the cases surrounding Google, Mundt said his authority was looking at how the company processes personal data.

It is also examining the US group’s Google News Showcase, which was launched in Germany in 2020 and allows publishers to place journalistic content more prominently online.

Big tech companies have been facing increasing scrutiny around the globe over their dominant positions as well as their tax practices.

In November, Google lost an appeal at the European Union’s second-highest court against a 2.4 billion euro ($2.8 billion) fine imposed by Brussels for abusing its search engine dominance.

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Revealed: The German town where boats take the elevator

Germany's whopping new boat lift could lug the weight of 50 blue whales over a stretch of canal between Poland and Berlin.

Revealed: The German town where boats take the elevator

The powerful concrete elevator – the country’s largest – is designed for big modern barges, and began welcoming ships for the first time on Wednesday.

The engineering feat in Niederfinow, eastern Germany, measures 133 by 46 metres and stands at 55 metres tall.

German Transport Minister Volker Wissing said it was “taking inland waterway transport into the future”.

The lift around 50 kilometres from Berlin takes a few minutes to hoist boats over a height of 36 metres – allowing them to travel smoothly from the Polish port of Szczecin to the German capital.

With its mesh of metal cables, the huge concrete structure rises up against a backdrop of green fields by the Oder-Havel Canal in the state of Brandenburg.

The lift was built to replace an old one in the same location, commissioned in 1934 but no longer sufficient for modern maritime traffic.

Tourist attraction

The new version is 30 metres longer than its predecessor and can carry nearly twice as much weight — equivalent to “50 adult blue whales or 1,600 elephants”, Wissing said at the official opening on Tuesday.

A ship comes out of the new lift in Niederfinow.

A ship comes out of the new lift in Niederfinow. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Patrick Pleul

Building the structure was not plain sailing, though – the process was delayed eight years by late deliveries, a supplier going bankrupt, worker shortages and the coronavirus pandemic.

Local media dubbed the project the maritime BER, a reference to Berlin’s long-delayed airport which finally opened in 2020.

The old structure was the tallest boat lift in the world when it was built.

That record has long since fallen to a mighty lift at the Three Gorges Dam in China, which raises and lowers boats over a distance of 113 metres.

Niederfinow’s old lift will continue operating until 2025, and live on as the main tourist attraction in the rural village of around 600 inhabitants.

 By Isabelle LE PAGE