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POLITICS

Germany blocks sale of two chipmakers to China

Germany on Wednesday blocked the sale of two chipmakers to Chinese investors because of a potential threat to security.

Germany blocks sale of two chipmakers to China
Robert Habeck giving a press statement on Wednesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler
“We must look very closely at company takeovers when it relates to important infrastructure or when there is a danger that the technology would flow to buyers from non-EU countries,” said Economy Minister Robert Habeck.
 
Chinese company Sai MicroElectronics had been seeking to buy the Dortmund factory of Elmos through its Swedish subsidiary Silex.
 
The German government had rejected the planned takeover because “the purchase could endanger the order and security of Germany,” said the economy ministry.
 
 
Other ways of reducing the risks, including allowing the acquisition under certain conditions, were “unable to eliminate the identified dangers”, it added.
 
A second acquisition had been turned down, Habeck said, without naming the companies involved because of “trade secrets”.
 
But Germany’s minister for research Bettina Stark-Watzinger named the company as Bavaria-based ERS Electronic, which supplies a cooling technology to wafer manufacturers.
 
Fears have been growing in Europe’s economic powerhouse about an over-reliance on Beijing, and letting critical infrastructure fall into the hands of Chinese state-linked companies.
 
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its subsequent dwindling of crucial gas supplies to Europe has further accentuated the concerns.
 
In particular, the microchip industry has come under scrutiny, as it produces key components used across industry from consumer electronics to battery-powered vehicles.
 
Earlier this year, the European Union unveiled a multibillion euro “Chips Act” aimed at doubling Europe’s market share in semiconductors and reducing dependence on supplies from Asia.

Elmos’ mascot stands outside of its headquarters in Dortmund. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Dieter Menne
 
‘Not naive’

Elmos, which primarily builds components for the automobile industry, said late last year it intended to sell the production facility at its headquarters.

Silex was seeking to buy the site for €85 million.

But business weekly Wirtschaftswoche said Elmos had been the recipient of €5.9 million from the German state for two research projects. It had also received €8.1 million from an EU project on autonomous driving.

Habeck said that Germany remained open to investors, but that “we are also not naive”.

Beijing has been trying to glean knowledge about production and development, underlined the minister, saying that the “statements from China are very clear”.

Habeck, of the ecologist Greens party, has recently locked horns with Chancellor Olaf Scholz over investments from China.

He deeply opposed a plan by Chinese shipping firm Cosco to buy a stake in a Hamburg port terminal, forcing Scholz to pull rank to force through the deal by allowing the purchase of a reduced stake.

Scholz has repeatedly underlined the importance of strong trade ties with Beijing, something that German industry leaders have also stressed.

China is a major market for German goods, particularly for auto giants Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and many jobs in Europe’s top economy depend directly on the relationship.

On a controversial visit to Beijing last week, Scholz, accompanied by a delegation of German business bosses, told Chinese leaders that Berlin expected equal treatment on trade.

But Scholz’s trip has sparked controversy for coming so soon after Xi Jinping strengthened his hold on power in China last month.

With tensions between the West and Beijing running high on issues ranging from Taiwan to alleged human rights abuses, there had been concerns that the high-profile trip may have unsettled both the United States and the European Union.

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POLITICS

Berlin says goodbye to part of Germany’s colonial past

Berlin on Friday stripped a street and a square of German colonialists' names and dedicated them to African resistance figures, as the country looks to reckon with historical guilt beyond World War II atrocities.

Berlin says goodbye to part of Germany's colonial past

“For far too long in Germany we have minimised our colonial past, understated colonial injustices and the crimes committed,” said Stefanie Remlinger, the Green leader of Berlin’s central borough of Mitte.

During the renaming ceremony in the middle of the capital’s “African Quarter”, Remlinger called on participants to “look not just to the past, but the future, as well”, and to improve the teaching of colonialism in schools.

Built in the early 20th century, before World War I, when Germany presided over a sizeable colonial empire, Berlin’s “African Quarter” has stood as a symbol of the failure to look closer at colonial injustices.

‘Symbol’

After years of protest from various campaign groups, “Nachtigalplatz” (Nachtigal Square) was renamed “Manga-Bell-Platz”.

The explorer Gustav Nachtigal, who lent his name to the square, played a key role in the 19th century in the creation of German colonies in west Africa – Togo and Cameroon – and Namibia, which was known as German South West Africa.

His name has been replaced by that of Emily and Rudolf Douala Manga Bell, the heads of the royal family of the Douala people from Cameroon.

Leader of the resistance against the expulsion of the Douala people from their ancestral home, Rudolf was executed in 1914.

“The inauguration of this square… rehabilitates him 108 years after his execution in Douala,” said Victor Ndocki, Cameroon’s ambassador to Germany.

The royal couple’s descendant, the Douala king Jean-Yves Eboumbou Douala Manga Bell, who came from Cameroon for the occasion, told AFP the new name was an “extraordinarily important symbol of recognition”.

Princess Maryline Douala Manga Bell, Rudolf’s great-granddaughter, who also travelled to Berlin, said the move could alert “young Germans to what happened before these young people were born”.

A few hundred metres (yards) from the square, “Luederitzstrasse” (Luederitz Street) was renamed after Cornelius Fredericks, a resistance fighter from the Nama people in Namibia, who died in a camp in 1906.

Genocide

A trader from the port city of Bremen, Adolf Luederitz was long celebrated as a “pioneer of colonisation” and the founder of German South West Africa. He is now accused of having deceived the local Nama people by buying their lands for a pittance.

During the ceremony, Namibia’s ambassador to Germany Martin Andjaba said the name change should be “a tool supporting this process leading to reconciliation for the living generation and those to come”.

“Engaging these colonial legacies should not separate us but bring us together,” he said, noting the twinning of the two towns of Luederitz in Germany and Namibia.

In Namibia, Germany was responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908.

Last year after long negotiations with the Namibian side, Berlin recognized the acts as a “genocide” and pledged to send development aid to support the indigenous groups.

However last month, Namibia asked to begin renegotiations on the terms of the agreement.

Despite Friday’s ceremony, many vestiges of colonialism are still to be found, such as Mohrenstrasse – the street of the Moors – in the centre of the capital.

For 25 years, campaigners from the black community have been lobbying to get rid of the name. Local authorities agreed a change in 2021, but a complaint was lodged against the move and a legal process is under way to determine the street’s fate.

Germany’s vaunted culture of remembrance in atoning for its World War II crimes is frequently cited as exemplary among modern nations.

However, campaigners argue that with its intense focus on the Nazi period and the Holocaust in particular, Germany has neglected to fully reckon with other dark periods of its past.

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