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

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Today in Germany: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday
An employee inspects a heat pump in front of a newly built residential building. Associations are calling for efforts to boost sales of heat pumps. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weißbrod

New round of heating grants open for homeowners, Germany sees surge in number of naturalisations, bus drivers' strike starts in Hesse, French President's state visit comes to an end and more news from around Germany.

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New round of heating grants opens for homeowners 

People in Germany can apply for subsidies to replace their heating system with climate-friendly alternatives after a new funding round opened. 

The move is part of the German government's pledge to go green. According to the 'heating law', which came into effect on January 1st this year, it is mandatory for new buildings in new development areas to have heating that is powered at least 65 percent by renewable energies. 

Meanwhile, homeowners, landlords and housing associations can apply for government subsidies to replace gas and oil heating systems with climate-friendly alternatives such as heat pumps. 

According to the Economics Ministry, around 80 percent of residential buildings in Germany are heated with oil and gas. Private homeowners who live in the home themselves have been able to apply for support to switch to climate-friendly heating since February 27th. Around 27,000 applications have been received so far.

In the latest round, more groups can now apply for grants. It is now also possible for owners of existing apartment buildings with more than one residential unit, or Home Owners' Associations (WEG) that collectively represent the owners of flats in an apartment block to apply. 

From August 2024 owners of buy-to-let homes and apartments will also be able to apply.

READ ALSO: Who can apply for Germany's new renewable heating grants for homes?

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Germany sees surge in naturalisations

More than 200,000 people became German in 2023 - the highest number recorded since 2000.

The newly-naturalised Germans come from 157 countries. By far the largest group were Syrians. 75,500 Syrians gained German citizenship last year - an increase of 27,100 compared with 2022.

When the new dual nationality law comes into force on June 27th, authorities are expecting another surge in citizenship applications.

READ ALSO: Who's behind the latest surge in applications for German citizenship?

A German citizenship certificate and passport.

A German citizenship certificate and passport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez

Strike action begins in state of Hesse

Passengers travelling in the central state of Hesse face disruption due to a bus drivers' strike.

Trade unions called for bus drivers of several companies to take part in the strikes, which come just days ahead of an agreed arbitration.

The strike began in the early hours of Wednesday at 3:30 am and were set to last until the end of the late shift on Thursday night.

Thursday is also Corpus Christi, a public holiday in parts of Germany, including Hesse.

Several routes are affected, and passengers should expect delays and cancellations. 

READ ALSO: Which transport routes will be affected by bus strikes in Hesse?

French President Emmanuel Macron discusses Ukraine on German state visit 

France's Emmanuel Macron's official state visit to Germany came to an end on Tuesday. 

The President spent the day in various official engagements, which included holding a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

During the press conference, Macron said Kyiv should be allowed to "neutralise" Russian military bases used to fire missiles into Ukraine.

"We think that we should allow them to neutralise military sites where missiles are fired, from where Ukraine is attacked," said Macron.

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz address their joint press conference ending a Franco-German cabinet meeting of ministers at Schloss Meseberg Palace in Meseberg near Berlin on May 28, 2024, on the third and last day of the French president's state visit.

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz address their joint press conference ending a Franco-German cabinet meeting of ministers at Schloss Meseberg Palace in Meseberg near Berlin on May 28, 2024, on the third and last day of the French president's state visit. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

He stressed however that "we should not allow them to touch other targets in Russia, and obviously civilian capacities".

His comments come as calls grow to allow Ukraine to strike inside Russia using Western-supplied longer-range weapons.

But the issue has divided Kyiv's allies.

Germany has been reluctant to permit Ukraine to strike over the border, fearing it could lead to a direct conflict with nuclear-armed Moscow.

After Macron's comments, Scholz said there were rules for using weapons supplied to Ukraine, and that this "must always be within the framework of international law".

He also noted that Germany and France had "provided different weapons".

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German online bank N26 says new customer limit lifted

German online bank N26 has said restrictions placed on its customer growth by financial regulators over money laundering concerns would end.

A cap of 60,000 new customers a month imposed by the German financial watchdog BaFin would be lifted on June 1st, N26 said in a statement.

BaFin imposed the cap in 2021 over concerns the bank was not doing enough to promptly report suspicions of money laundering to the regulator.

The restrictions came with a multi-million-euro fine and increased oversight measures by BaFin.

CEO Valentin Stalf said in a statement N26 would continue its "close exchange" with regulators going forward.

"In recent years we have been able to make significant progress in preventing and combating money laundering and financial crime," Stalf said.

The online bank, founded in 2013, says it has some eight million clients in 24 countries.

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