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UKRAINE

Germany to provide over 1 billion euros’ military aid to Ukraine

The German government on Friday said it plans to release more than a billion euros in military aid for Ukraine, amid complaints by Kyiv it is not receiving heavy weapons from Berlin.

A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Barvinkove, eastern Ukraine
A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Barvinkove, eastern Ukraine, on April 15, 2022. RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP

The funds will feature in a supplementary budget for this year.

In total, taking into account all countries, Berlin has decided to increase its international aid in the defence sector “to two billion euros” with “the largest part being planned in the form of military aid in favour of Ukraine”, a government spokeswoman told AFP.

This envelope of two billion euros “will go mainly to Ukraine”, Finance Minister Christian Lindner confirmed on Twitter.

The funds must be used by Ukraine to mainly finance purchases of military equipment.

The move follows growing criticism from Ukraine, and some EU partners such as Poland and the Baltic States, of an apparent lack of support in terms of armaments to Kyiv.

Diplomatic feathers were ruffled earlier in the week after Kyiv rejected a proposed visit by Germany’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a former foreign minister who recently acknowledged “errors” in a too conciliatory
stance toward Moscow in the past.

The Ukrainian presidency instead said it wanted to welcome Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Kyiv, but the chancellor indicated he had no plans to visit any time soon.

READ ALSO: Pressure grows on Scholz as German delegation visits Ukraine

The spat came as Scholz faced pressure to step up support for Ukraine.

He has come under fire at home for his hesitancy over sending heavy weapons to Ukraine, despite his dramatic U-turn on Germany’s defence policy prompted by Russia’s invasion.

Following visits to Kyiv by several other world leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, critics asked why Scholz himself was not making the trip.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, said a Scholz trip to Kyiv would send a “strong signal”, while the opposition CDU has urged him to “get an idea of the situation on the ground”.

Even a member of Scholz’s ruling coalition, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, of the liberal FDP, suggested in an interview with the business daily Handelsblatt on Monday that Scholz should “start using his powers of direction
and leadership”.

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POLITICS

Germany’s homegrown cannabis industry awaits legalisation

In the east German countryside, close to Dresden, a former abattoir is now home to the biggest indoor cannabis farm in Europe.

Germany's homegrown cannabis industry awaits legalisation

Behind the recently renovated concrete walls, the German startup Demecan has been growing marijuana in accordance with the law for the past year.

The company is one of only a handful in Germany to have a license for the production of this “green gold”, which has been legal in Germany for medicinal use since 2017.

But the budding industry is eyeing a bigger prize: Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government plans to legalise the drug for recreational use as soon as 2024, which would leave it with one of the most liberal cannabis policies in Europe.

READ ALSO: Germany agrees on plan to ‘legalise recreational cannabis’

‘Tenfold’

Inside the building, the smell of the plants — lined up in their hundreds under yellow grow lamps — is overwhelming.

“We will have the option to expand the facility to cultivate recreational cannabis,” Demecan’s managing director Philipp Goebel tells AFP.

The government coalition, led by Scholz’s Social Democrats, has put forward a roadmap for the legalisation of cannabis with a target date of 2024.

Under the draft plans, adults would be allowed to hold a maximum of between “20 and 30 grams” of cannabis for private consumption, via a network of licensed stores and pharmacies.

Demecan’s massive complex, which covers around 120,000 square metres, produces one tonne of cannabis a year, but it has yet to reach capacity.

The company could quickly increase production “tenfold” to meet growing demand, Goebel says.

Harvests at the farm happen every two weeks with workers plucking the flowers from the plant stems before they are dried.

“I like this job a lot, it is not like any other,” says 34-year-old Sven

Skoeries, who studies horticulture alongside his responsibilities at the farm.

Demecan has no trouble recruiting for its growing business, in a region otherwise marked by its ageing population and lack of workers.

“It’s a trendy product that generates a lot of interest,” Goebel says.

“It’s a new industry, that’s interesting for me,” says Jana Kleinschmidt, 25, as she snips off leaves with a pair of scissors.

As well as its own production efforts, Demecan has a license for the import of another 20 tonnes of cannabis into the country from Canada annually.

“We are currently supplying 55 percent of the German market,” says Goebel, who notes his firm is in “pole position” to capitalise on legalisation.

The Domecan campus, pictured in March 2022. picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

Snoop Dogg

The recreational cannabis market in Germany is a potential four-billion-euro business, according to a recent study by the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf.

In recent months, fundraising in the sector has taken off as businesses await the green light from legislators.

Berlin startup Cantourage, a manufacturer of cannabis-based medicines, floated 15 percent of its shares on the Frankfurt stock exchange in November.

Cansativa, the only online platform for the sale of therapeutic cannabis products in Germany, raised $15 million in February with the help of US rapper Snoop Dogg.

Sanity Group, a German company that focuses on cannabis-derived products, likewise raised $37.6 million in September.

Legalisation looks like a good deal for the government, too. The same study from Heinrich Heine University estimated the move would boost the public finances by €4.7 billion per year.

But the idea remains controversial.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany sets out plans for cannabis legalisation

At the end of October, Klaus Reinhardt, the head of the German Medical Association, called the plans “almost cynical”.

It was “shocking” to legalise a substance that could “lead to behavioural problems in adolescents, as well as addiction and psychological changes”, he said. The conservative opposition to the government has also set itself against the move.

The Bavarian state Health Minister Klaus Holetschek, who is part of the conservative Christian Social Union party, called the idea “a dangerous signal for all of Europe”.

First, however, the government’s plans need to be approved by the European Commission — or they risk going up in smoke.

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