Germany’s Scholz dims lights on Christmas tree amid energy squeeze

The Christmas tree outside Chancellor Olaf Scholz's office in Berlin will not be lit as long this year, a government spokesman said Thursday, as Germany seeks to save energy through the winter.

The Christmas tree outside the Chancellery in Berlin.
The Christmas tree outside the Chancellery in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

The lights on the tree will only shine for four hours each evening from four o’clock to eight, instead of burning constantly as they did last year, the spokesman told AFP.

The fir, plucked from the forests of nearby Brandenburg, is decorated with 4,920 low-energy LED lights, which will consume 287 watt-hours.

A children’s choir on Thursday sang the classic carol “O Tannenbaum” (O Christmas Tree) at the foot of the tree in Scholz’s presence.

Last year, the tree was put up while conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel was still in office.

The erstwhile German leader stepped down on December 8th to make way for Social Democrat Scholz, and his coalition partners, the Greens and the liberal FDP.

A few hundred metres from the chancellery, the Christmas tree in front of the Brandenburg Gate will also only be lit for six hours a day instead, as opposed to 24. 

READ ALSO: Cold showers to turning off lights: How German cities are saving energy

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 upturned global energy markets, sending prices soaring and confronting Europe with the possibility of shortages over the winter.

To avoid acute problems around the turn of the year Germany has set about tapping new sources of natural gas and encouraging energy saving measures.

Floodlights that illuminate some 200 public monuments and buildings in Berlin — including its red-brick city hall, State Opera House and Charlottenburg Palace — have also been turned off overnight since July.

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Norway and Germany seek Nato-led cooperation for key undersea structures

Germany and Norway want to start a NATO-led alliance to protect critical underwater infrastructure, their leaders said on Wednesday, weeks after explosions hit two key gas pipelines in the fallout from the war in Ukraine.

Norway and Germany seek Nato-led cooperation for key undersea structures

 “We are in the process of asking the NATO Secretary General to set up a coordination office for the protection of underwater infrastructure,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a press conference in Berlin.

“We take the protection of our critical infrastructure very seriously and nobody should believe that attacks will remain without consequences,” he said.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said the alliance would be “an informal initiative to exchange between civilian and also military actors” with NATO providing “a centre, a coordination point”.

Underwater cables and pipelines were “arteries of the modern economy” and it was necessary to create “a coordinated joint effort to ensure security for this infrastructure”, he said.

Scholz said he and Store would propose the plan to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is due in Berlin for a security conference. The Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines off the Danish island of Bornholm were targeted by two huge explosions at the end of September.

The pipelines, which connect Russia to Germany, had been at the centre of geopolitical tensions as Moscow cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected
retaliation to Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Although they were not in operation when the leaks occurred, they both still contained gas which spewed up through the water and into the atmosphere.

Russia and Western countries, particularly the United States, have traded bitter barbs over who is responsible for the blasts.

Several European countries have since taken steps to increase security around critical infrastructure. 

The G7 interior ministers warned earlier this month at a meeting in Germany that the Nord Stream explosions had highlighted “the need to better protect our critical infrastructure”.

Norway has become Europe’s main gas supplier in the wake of the war in Ukraine, taking the place of Russia.

The Scandinavian country has a vast network of pipelines, stretching for almost 9,000 kilometres, linking it to the continent, which experts have said are at risk of sabotage.