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Today in Germany: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday

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Today in Germany: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday
German far-right politician of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) Björn Höcke and his lawyer Ralf Hornemann arrive for a session of his trial over the alleged use of Nazi phrases, at the regional court in Halle, eastern Germany on April 23, 2024. Photo by JENS SCHLUETER / POOL / AFP

Union threatens unlimited transport strikes in Saxony, German AfD politician denies using Nazi slogan and more news from around Germany.


Verdi threatens 'unlimited' strike from Friday on public transport in Saxony 

Trade union Verdi has called on employees in the transport sector in several areas in the state of Saxony to walkout on Friday as part of 'unlimited' strike action unless bosses improve their offer.

"If the employers stick to their stance and if they maintain this position and say that no new figures will be put on the table, then an indefinite strike in the regional public transport companies will begin on Friday," said Verdi negotiator Paul Schmidt. The deadline is 12 noon on Thursday.

The employees of several AVN operators have been called to strike if an offer isn't put on the table. These include transport firms in the districts of Vogtlandkreis, Zwickau, Erzgebirgskreis, Mittelsachsen, Meißen, Sächsische Schweiz-Osterzgebirge, Bautzen and Görlitz as well as in Chemnitz and Dresden.

Temporary strike action could affect the associated companies Stadtbus Plauen, Omnibusverkehr Oberlausitz Niesky, tram-bus company Plauen, as well as DB Regiobus Ost with a branch in Zittau.

It comes after the fifth round of negotiations in the collective bargaining dispute for improved pay and conditions with AVN failed.

READ ALSO: Why Germany is being hit by strikes almost every day

German far-right politician denies using Nazi slogan

A divisive German politician denied using a banned Nazi slogan as he appeared in court Tuesday ahead of key regional elections that could see him crowned the country's first far-right state premier.

"I have nothing to reproach myself for," Björn Höcke told the court in the central city of Halle during his half-hour of testimony, saying he was "completely innocent".

Höcke, 52, leads the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in Thuringia, one of three former East German states where the party is leading opinion polls ahead of regional elections in September.


He is accused of using the phrase "Alles fuer Deutschland" ("Everything for Germany"), once a motto of the Sturmabteilung paramilitary group that played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power, during a campaign rally.

The phrase is illegal in modern-day Germany, along with the Nazi salute and other slogans and symbols from the Nazi era.

Höcke, a former high school history teacher, told the court that "I actually did not know that (the phrase) was also used" by the Sturmabteilung.

He said he thought it was an "everyday saying" and even though he was a teacher, he would not necessarily know about the connection to the paramilitary group.

A conviction for using the phrase is punishable with a maximum prison term of three years. But the judge indicated Tuesday that the court considered a fine to be appropriate if the allegation is proven.

The trial began last week and is set to last until mid-May.


German forecast to offer signs if ailing economy on the mend

The German government will present its latest growth forecasts on Wednesday as Europe's crisis-hit top economy shows tentative signs it is finally turning a corner.

Improvements in key indicators, from industrial output to business activity, in recent months suggest that a hoped-for recovery may be slowly under way.

The German economy shrank slightly last year, hit by soaring inflation, a manufacturing slowdown and weakness in trading partners, and has acted as a major drag on the 20-nation eurozone.

Initial hopes for a strong rebound this year were dialled back as the economy languished, with Berlin in February slashing its growth forecast to just 0.2 percent. The International Monetary Fund followed suit last week and is now expecting the same figure.

But improving signs have fuelled hopes the lumbering economy -- while not about to break into a sprint -- may at least be getting back on its feet.

"The news flow is improving," said Berenberg bank economist Holger Schmieding. "The risks to our German call are tilting less to the downside than before."


Young people in Germany feeling disillusioned 

The young generation in Germany is feeling bleak about the future, a new survey shows. 

In the “Youth in Germany” study, which has been carried out regularly by researcher Simon Schnetzer since 2020, a high level of psychological stress was reported by 51 percent of those surveyed.

Many young people also felt exhaustion (36 percent) and helplessness (17 percent). A total of 11 percent of those surveyed stated that they were currently being treated for mental disorders.

READ ALSO: Why are people in Germany getting unhappier?

The economic situation is also a worry for young people. Among the respondents, 65 percent said they were worried about inflation, 54 percent were worried about expensive housing and 48 percent were concerned about poverty in old age. 

Young people were also worried about the division in society (49 percent) and the increase in refugees to Germany (41 percent).

The potential for right-wing populist attitudes among the young generation has increased significantly compared to previous studies, experts said. 

"We can speak of a clear shift to the right among the young population," said researcher Klaus Hurrelmann from the Hertie School Berlin.

"This is reflected in the political preferences of 14 to 29 year olds. While the parties in the 'traffic light' (coalition) government continue to decline in popularity, the AfD is particularly popular."


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