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Scholz says Germany open to boosting troops in Baltics

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday said Germany was prepared to send extra troops to the Baltic states, ahead of a key trip to Washington where he will seek to bolster his influence in the Ukraine crisis.

German Chancellor
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Photo: Michael Sohn / POOL / AFP

“We are… prepared to do whatever is necessary to strengthen” Germany’s presence in NATO operations in the Baltics, Scholz said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

Germany leads a NATO operation in Lithuania and has around 500 soldiers stationed there.

Asked whether reinforcements could be agreed at a NATO defence ministers’ meeting in mid-February, Scholz said: “We are ready to make a decision.”

Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht had earlier said in an interview with the Funke media group that Germany was prepared to strengthen its presence in Lithuania.

“In principle, troops are… available for reinforcement, and we are now in talks with Lithuania about what exactly would be useful,” Lambrecht said.

The pledge comes amid growing fears that Russia may be preparing to invade Ukraine, with the West accusing President Vladimir Putin of amassing more than 100,000 troops at the border.

Russia denies it plans to invade but has demanded wide-ranging security guarantees from the West, including that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO.

With Scholz, facing growing criticism of Germany’s apparently ambivalent stance in the crisis, will travel to Washington for the first meeting of his chancellorship with US President Joe Biden on Monday.

He will also meet the leaders of the Baltic states in Berlin this week and will travel to Ukraine and Russia later this month.

Scholz, who in December succeeded veteran German leader Angela Merkel, on
Sunday doubled down on Germany’s refusal to send weapons to Ukraine.

“For many years, the German government has had a clear course that we do not deliver to crisis zones and that we also do not deliver lethal weapons to Ukraine,” he said.

Asked whether Washington saw Germany as the “weakest link” in NATO, he replied: “That is a false impression that does not prevail in Washington
either.”

Member comments

  1. I think Lithuania should thank NATO for the ‘offer’ but request UK or US troops instead. Much less chance that they will be withdrawn at the first sign of trouble.

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TRAVEL NEWS

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

Germany's cut-price transport ticket is supposed to go on sale next Monday - but a battle over financing is threatening to torpedo the government's plans.

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

An feud between the federal and state governments intensified on Monday as state leaders threatened to block the government’s most recent energy package when it is put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Friday. 

The battle relates to the government’s plans for a budget transport ticket that would allow people to travel on local and regional transport around Germany for just €9 per month.

Though the 16 states have agreed to support the ticket, transport ministers are arguing that the low-cost option will blow a hole in their budgets and lead to potential price hikes once autumn rolls around.

They claim that current funding promised by the Federal Transport Ministry doesn’t go far enough.

READ ALSO: 

“If the federal government believes it can be applauded on the backs of the states for a three-month consolation prize and that others should foot the bill, then it has made a huge mistake,” Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) told Bild on Monday.

The government has pledged €2.5 billion to the states to pay for the measure, as well as financial support for income lost during the Covid crisis. 

Transport Minister Volker Wissing. of the Free Democrats (FDP), said states would also receive the revenue of the €9 ticket from customers who take advantage of the offer. 

“For this ‘9 for 90 ticket’, the €2.5 billion is a complete assumption of the costs by the federal government,” said Wissing on Thursday. “In addition, the states are also allowed to keep the €9 from the ticket price, so they are very well funded here.”

Transport Minister Volker Wissing

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) speaks ahead of a G7 summit in Düsseldorf.

However, federal states want a further €1.5 billion in order to increase staff, deal with extra fuel costs and to plan for the expansion of local transport in Germany.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Reinhard Meyer (SPD), told Bild that there would be “no approval (on Friday) as long as the federal government does not provide additional funds.”

Baden-Württemberg’s Transport Minister Winfried Hermann (Greens) also warned that “the entire package of fuel rebate and €9 euro ticket could fail in the Bundesrat” if the government doesn’t agree to the state’s demands on funding.

The Bundesrat is Germany’s upper house of parliament, which is comprised of MPs serving in the state governments. Unlike in the Bundestag, where the traffic-light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) has a majority, the CDU is the largest party in the Bundesrat. 

What is the €9 ticket?

The €9 monthly ticket was announced early this year as part of a package of energy relief measures for struggling households.

With the price of fuel rising dramatically amid supply bottlenecks and the war in Ukraine, the traffic-light coalition is hoping to encourage people to switch to public transport over summer instead. 

The ticket will run for three months from the start of June to the end of August, and will allow people to travel nationwide on local and regional transport. Long-distance trains like IC, EC and ICE trains will not be covered by the ticket. 

It should be available to purchase from May 23rd, primarily via ticket offices and the DB app and website. 

Some regional operators, including Berlin-Brandenburg’s VBB, have also pledged to offer the ticket at ticket machines.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get hold of the €9 travel ticket in Berlin

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