October 7, 2022

Inside Europe: Economy Is a Casualty in Germany’s ‘Noncampaign’

BERLIN — Germans sleep better, Bismarck once said, when they don’t know how sausages and laws are made.

A century and a half later, Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to be modeling an election campaign on the musings of Bismarck, the “Iron Chancellor.” She is avoiding detailed discussion of what she would do with a third term, emphasizing instead her personal appeal over policy prescriptions.

In five weeks, Germans will vote in what has been billed as the most important election of the year in Europe, a continent struggling to emerge from years of financial and economic crisis. Yet there is virtually no debate about the major problems facing Germany — like handling its departure from nuclear energy, the aging of its population and articulating a vision for the euro zone.

Differences between the major parties are also hard to identify. Ms. Merkel has pushed her Christian Democrats so close to the opposition Social Democrats and Greens on energy, wages and family policy that the parties have become virtually indistinguishable for many voters.

This has given the parliamentary election campaign a surreal feel. There is no doubt that it is finally under way: Colorful party posters in the streets and Ms. Merkel’s first week of rallies, after her return from an Alpine hiking vacation, attest to that.

But there is no excitement in the air. The opinion polls showing the conservatives with a comfortable lead over the Social Democrats have barely budged for months.

As so often happens in Germany, a new word — Nichtwahlkampf, or noncampaign — has cropped up in the media to describe the state of affairs.

Compounding the angst have been two studies, from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Bertelsmann Foundation, showing a sharp drop in German voter participation.

According to the Friedrich Ebert study, 18 percent fewer Germans vote in national elections than did three decades ago, the second-largest decline among West European democracies after Portugal.

At about 70 percent, Germans still vote at a higher rate than their counterparts in Britain and the United States, at 65 percent and 57 percent, respectively. But that hasn’t prevented soul-searching, with Germans asking whether the absence of political debate represents a threat to democracy itself.

“One reason people are voting less is that the parties have become so similar,” said Klaus-Peter Schöppner, the head of the polling institute Emnid. “The big ones no longer distinguish themselves from each other on the important issues.” In the early 1990s, Mr. Schöppner says, about 30 percent of Germans said it made no difference to them whether the Christian Democrats or Social Democrats were in government. Now that figure stands at a stunning 70 percent.

Last month, President Joachim Gauck, who traditionally steers clear of domestic politics, publicly chastised German lawmakers for failing to articulate their policy differences.

“Those who avoid clarity today are creating the nonvoters of tomorrow,” said Mr. Gauck, a former Lutheran pastor and East German dissident.

Asked last week about that, Ms. Merkel was dismissive. “If there are similarities between the parties, that is not such a bad thing,” she said. “I don’t think the people want to hear about differences all the time. They just want their problems solved.”

It would be unfair to put all the blame for rising voter apathy on Ms. Merkel, said Mr. Schöppner and Manfred Güllner, head of the Forsa research institute.

A major factor, they argue, is the increasingly fractured party landscape that has forced politicians to contemplate coalitions that would have been unthinkable in the past.

In this new world, voters can back the Social Democrats or the Greens only to see their party of choice end up in a partnership with the traditional archenemy, Ms. Merkel’s conservatives. That has convinced some Germans that there is no point in showing up on election day.

Another explanation is a growing sense that politicians are looking out for themselves instead of working for the public good, Mr. Güllner says.

That feeling has deepened with a series of scandals. Two of Ms. Merkel’s ministers were forced to resign for plagiarizing their doctoral theses. The campaign of her Social Democrat challenger Peer Steinbrück got off to a disastrous start when it emerged that he had made €1.2 million, or $1.6 million, in speaking fees while he was a member of Parliament. Now many dismiss him as greedy.

Another reason why voters are tuning out may be the complexity of the issues. Many simply do not understand the ins and outs of the euro zone crisis, the intricacies of shifting from nuclear power to renewable energy or the details of online surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency.

“Who really understands what is going on there? And who really understands what politicians are calling for on these issues?” Mr. Schöppner asked.

Ms. Merkel’s response is to keep things simple, like Bismarck.

At her first major campaign rally last week, she skated over the surface of the issues. Speaking in Seligenstadt, a medieval town near Frankfurt, Ms. Merkel barely touched on Europe and made no mention of the biggest policy initiative of her second term — the Energiewende, or energy shift.

Her popularity ratings of about 60 percent are the envy of other leaders in Europe. Still, it is difficult to find a German who is genuinely enthusiastic about Ms. Merkel. Her monotone 25-minute speech in Seligenstadt left even the most ardent supporters cold.

But she does represent stability, security and continuity. According to a new book “The German: Angela Merkel and Us” by Ralph Bollmann, she is in “perfect sync” with the national mood.

She does not overburden Germans with detail. What she lacks in vision and inspiration, she makes up for in trust.

Strip the pageantry and policy out of an election campaign, and all you have left is the person. That may mean fewer voters show up Sept. 22, but the outcome is not in doubt.

Noah Barkin is the Berlin bureau chief for Reuters.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/20/business/global/economy-is-a-casualty-in-germanys-noncampaign.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

European Union and China Settle Solar Panel Fight

The settlement essentially involves setting a fairly high minimum price for sales of Chinese-made solar panels in the European Union, so as to prevent them from undercutting European producers. Those producers had accused Chinese manufacturers of benefiting from massive loans from state-owned banks and other government assistance so as to charge prices that would otherwise by uneconomical.

The accord “will remove the injury that the dumping practices have caused to the European industry,” Karel De Gucht, the European Union’s trade commissioner, said in a statement. “We have found an amicable solution that will result in a new equilibrium on the European solar panel market at a sustainable price level,” he said.

Mr. De Gucht’s decision in June to carry out his threat to impose tariffs on solar panels from China generated significant fears within the Union about retribution from China. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany had called for further negotiations to avoid harm to German exporters, and European importers of solar products from China also expressed fury over the tariffs.

At the time, Mr. De Gucht said he had been left with no choice to impose the tariffs since his investigators found a systematic effort by Chinese companies to sell solar panels in Europe below the cost of making them, a practice known as dumping.

On Saturday, officials at the European Commission, the European Union’s executive agency, said they could not give details of the deal, including the price that Chinese exporters would pay to sell their panels in Europe, until the arrangement had been formally approved by the commission. But an official from the bloc, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been formally approved, said the two sides had agreed a minimum price of 0.56 euros per watt ($.74), which would base any potential surcharge on the amount of electricity generated by each imported panel.

The deal immediately met with ferocious criticism, including a promise to sue, from the European solar manufacturers who have strongly lobbied in favor of tough action against the Chinese exporters.

The agreement “is contrary in every respect to European law,” Milan Nitzschke, a vice president of SolarWorld, a German manufacturer, and the president of EU ProSun, an industry group. A minimum price of between 0.55 euros and 0.57 euros was at the level of “the current dumping price for Chinese modules,” EU ProSun said in a statement.

The arrangement would cover exports from about 90 of approximately 140 Chinese exporters that were examined during the bloc’s investigation, and that represent about 60 percent of the panels sold in the Union, the bloc official said. Those 90 companies would no longer face tariffs that were put in place in June.

Chinese exporters that do not agreed to the terms of the deal still face tariffs that are set to rise to 47.6 percent on Aug. 6 from the current level of 11.8 percent, the official said.

The Chinese government had been hoping from the start of the trade case with the European Union for a negotiated settlement instead of a legal battle, so Saturday’s deal comes as a relief, said He Weiwen, the co-director of the China-United States-European Union Study Center at the China Association of International Trade in Beijing.

“This is what China expected because at the very beginning, we said we would proceed in two ways, one is with the legal dispute and one is with bargaining,” Mr. He said. “China and the European Union have had the desire to settle this case through negotiation rather than a trade war.”

The European settlement with Beijing in some ways complicates a current similar dispute between the United States and China. The United States Commerce Department imposed final anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs last spring on imports of solar panels from China.

China retaliated on July 18 by announcing that it was preparing to impose tariffs exceeding 50 percent on polysilicon, the main material for solar panels, on imports from the United States and South Korea.

James Kanter reported from Brussels and Keith Bradsher reported from Hong Kong.

 

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/28/business/global/european-union-and-china-settle-solar-panel-fight.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Sore Feelings as U.S. and Europe Begin Trade Talks

European officials have called the potential free trade agreement with the United States a “once-in-a-generation prize,” with the prospect of adding hundreds of billions of dollars in yearly growth and thousands of jobs to the still-lagging European and American economies.

But big deals come with big stakes, and analysts expect months of intense negotiations as officials rush to complete a comprehensive agreement — under the title of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — before a deadline of the end of 2014.

Companies and countries have started maneuvering in an effort to broker special carve-outs, exclusions or inclusions. Sensitive issues like agricultural policy, airline rights, data privacy and intellectual property are likely to face serious headwinds.

Michael Froman, the United States trade representative, urged those taking part in the talks here to “think outside of the box as necessary to make progress.” He added both sides were entering the talks “with eyes wide open” but with the knowledge that “there is strong political will at the highest levels on both sides of the Atlantic determined to stay focused and get this done on one tank of gas.”

Despite the push on both sides of the Atlantic, reports that the United States’ National Security Agency has been secretly tracking European diplomatic offices in Washington overshadowed the start of the talks.

In recent weeks, several European leaders expressed outrage over the reports, which were based on information supplied by the former government contractor Edward J. Snowden, who remains in legal limbo in a Moscow airport. France, in a show of deep discontent, called for postponement of the trade talks. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany criticized American espionage agencies for “cold war” tactics.

Last week, the European Parliament voted to start an investigation into the matter. Parallel negotiations on security and surveillance concerns started Monday as well, covering “data protection and privacy rights of E.U. citizens,” European officials said in a statement.

Even so, the interlinked economies — still suffering from low growth rates and high unemployment in the wake of the recession — desperately need a shot in the arm.

The International Monetary Fund predicts that the euro zone will contract again this year, with the broader European Union scarcely growing. The outlook is better in the United States, but not much; the fund expects modest growth of about 1.9 percent.

“We are convinced that this trade agreement will result in more jobs and more growth — and that will help to get us out of the economic crisis,” Karel de Gucht, the European trade commissioner, said at a news conference on Monday. “That would be good news for Europe, but also a very good message for the whole world economy.”

One major study by the London-based Center for Economic Policy Research found that a comprehensive trade and investment deal could increase the European economy by about 119 billion euros, or $150 billion a year, and the American economy by an annual $122 billion.

Households are expected to benefit, too. An average family of four in the European Union might see an additional 545 euros in disposable income, the study found. An American family might benefit by about $841.

“This is a once-in-a-generation prize, and we are determined to seize it,” David Cameron, the British prime minister, said last month at a meeting with President Obama and other leaders at the Group of 8 summit meeting in Northern Ireland.

The similarity of the American and European work forces, corporate structures and legal systems — and the depth and breadth of the existing ties between the two economies — have eased the way for an ambitious deal on tariffs, regulations and other issues.

But entrenched interests have started lobbying in earnest behind the scenes. For instance, France has pushed to retain its subsidies for its domestic film industry. And farm and food safety standards are expected to be a major sticking point in the negotiations. Genetically modified crops, which Europe largely abhors and which the United States produces billions of dollars’ worth a year, are just one issue.

On Monday, public interest groups also raised concerns that the negotiations would weaken consumer protection standards, and that corporate interests were too strong.

“We are highly skeptical that an agreement focused on regulatory harmonization’ will serve consumer interests, workers’ rights, the environment, and other areas of public interest,” said a large coalition of American and European consumer groups in a statement. “It could lead to lower standards and regulatory ceilings instead of floors,” the statement said. The coalition called for negotiating texts to be released to the public.

But officials have put in months of legwork on the negotiations, and they were optimistic as the deal talks formally began.

“We will work hard to get a result,” said Mr. De Gucht, the European trade commissioner. “We will of course meet a lot of problems and stumbling stones, but if we reach an agreement, it would be a historic one.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/09/business/global/sore-feelings-as-us-and-europe-begin-trade-talks.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Memo From Berlin: Germany Extends Its Success to the Soccer Field

“There is one subject where Germany’s image is certainly bad,” Mr. Moscovici told an auditorium full of students at the Free University in Berlin. “Germany wins too often at soccer, particularly now in the Champions League.”

Europe’s equivalent of the Super Bowl does not kick off for more than two weeks, but in a development that feels all too fitting under the current circumstances here, Germany has already won. Two German clubs, one from Dortmund in the Ruhr Valley and the other from Munich in deepest Bavaria, will face off for the European title, which means the nationality of the champion is already assured.

The local news media is calling it the “dream final.” The daily newspaper Berliner Kurier summed up the mood in Germany perfectly in a front-page headline last week that read simply: “We versus us.”

“One thing is certain,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “Germany wins.”

Of course, a game is just a game, but when the game in question is European soccer, it tends to be viewed as a Rorschach test for the health and confidence of nations. The success on the field of German teams has helped reinforce the broader narrative of Teutonic dominance that has emerged during the years-long debt crisis.

Germany’s stock market is riding high, its unemployment rate has remained stubbornly low and the Continent’s best and brightest are moving here in droves. Attitudes toward Germany in Europe are more complicated than they would seem from the images of angry protesters waving signs with swastikas on the streets of Athens.

Europe’s largest economy is viewed not only with resentment but with a mixture of apprehension, envy and admiration, informed by a belief that the Germans have cracked the code of how to compete in the globalized world, coupled with an uncertainty about whether their efficient, export-driven economic model can be replicated.

Much the same is true currently with soccer. After Bayern trounced Barcelona for the second time in a row last week, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera wrote that “the lesson of order and talent goes beyond soccer.” In Britain, the cover of the New Statesman magazine this week shows photographs of Angela Merkel and German soccer star Bastian Schweinsteiger with the question, “Why can’t we be more like Germany?”

Just this past weekend Spain’s Socialists discussed the German model for helping companies pay for idled workers to stay home without laying them off. “There is resentment at the current austerity policies attributed to Merkel,” said Jordi Vaquer i Fanés, a political scientist and director of the Open Society Initiative for Europe in Barcelona, “but Germany still comes out at the top of the most admired countries.”

Europeans are voting with their feet: The government statistics office reported Tuesday that 2012 saw the largest net gain in migration here in 17 years. Nearly 1.1 million people moved to Germany last year, with rising numbers of jobseekers arriving from crisis-stricken countries and Eastern Europe. Nationwide, unemployment is just 5.4 percent, and on Tuesday Germany’s main stock index, the benchmark DAX, hit an all-time high.

Spain is losing not just engineers and software designers to Germany, but players and coaches. Pep Guardiola, Barcelona’s former coaching genius, announced this year that he would move to Germany to coach Bayern. A decade ago the idea of a coach like Mr. Guardiola leaving Spain for Germany would have seemed absurd.

Chris Cottrell contributed reporting from Berlin; Elisabetta Povoledo from Rome; and Raphael Minder from Madrid.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/08/world/europe/germany-extends-its-success-to-the-soccer-field.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Euro Zone Crisis Has Increased I.M.F.’s Power

One was Chancellor Angela Merkel. The other, who delivered the keynote speech, was Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Ms. Lagarde’s presence reflected her close, longtime friendship with Mr. Schäuble. But it also was a confirmation of the enormous stature that Ms. Lagarde and the I.M.F. have acquired in Europe as a result of the euro crisis.

The I.M.F. has more say over crisis management than many euro zone members, and Ms. Lagarde has become a quasi head of state, whose views carry more weight than those of many elected leaders. Without the I.M.F.’s money and advice, the euro zone might have fallen apart by now.

Because she has Mr. Schäuble’s ear and respect, Ms. Lagarde has also played an important role overcoming German reluctance to accept proposals designed to strengthen the euro zone, like a centralized bank supervisor.

Recently, there have been signs that Ms. Lagarde could be nudging Mr. Schäuble and the German leadership to moderate their views on an issue that is central to the crisis: the degree of austerity that should be imposed on countries like Greece and Portugal. For most of the past three years, the I.M.F. and Germany have insisted that aid recipients must cut government spending and raise taxes. But lately Ms. Lagarde has been arguing that too much austerity could be counterproductive.

A shift by the I.M.F. would transform the debate in Europe. But the fact that the organization is so tangled in European affairs is controversial both inside and outside the Continent, and could be a source of discord as the I.M.F. and World Bank hold their spring meetings in Washington. The policy-making bodies of both organizations meet on Saturday, while related conferences and other events began on Monday and continue through Sunday.

Poorer nations that contribute to the I.M.F.’s funding have grumbled about having to prop up rich Europe. More than half of the I.M.F.’s lending goes to the euro zone, from virtually nothing a few years ago. The I.M.F. has contributed about a third of the money used to rescue countries like Portugal, Ireland and Greece, with the rest coming from other euro zone countries.

“Historically, Europe took no I.M.F. lending,” said Guntram Wolff, the deputy director of Bruegel, a research organization in Brussels. “Now lending has increased since the beginning of the crisis dramatically. Is it appropriate? That is a very big question.”

Leaders and citizens of countries like Greece, Portugal and Ireland have complained bitterly about the terms that the I.M.F. has imposed in return for loans. In addition to budget cuts and tax increases, governments have been pressured to roll back rules that protect some workers from dismissal and impose other unpopular changes. Even if the I.M.F. is rethinking its stance on austerity, it will continue to demand strict conditions because that is the only leverage the organization has to get its money back.

Ms. Lagarde, the former finance minister of France, is perceived as less doctrinaire than the Germans, but she was at the table last month when leaders negotiated an ill-fated plan to make ordinary bank depositors help pay for a bailout in Cyprus. Although the I.M.F. had reservations about imposing a levy on insured depositors in Cyprus, Ms. Lagarde went along with the accord. After an outcry, the plan was revised to put the burden on large depositors.

But even those who have doubts about the I.M.F.’s role in Europe see no alternative. The organization will inevitably be a force in Europe for years to come, because of the money that it has lent and because of its traditional role as watchdog over the economic and budget policies of its members.

“If the I.M.F. wasn’t participating at all, the crisis would have been worse,” said Morris Goldstein, a former deputy director of research at the I.M.F. who is now a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a research organization in Washington.

Besides the money the I.M.F. has provided, which comes from members including the United States and Japan as well as those in Europe, the organization has played the role of outside expert, aloof from national politics. In the absence of a strong federal government in Europe, Ms. Lagarde helps impose order on quarreling national leaders.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/business/global/euro-zone-crisis-has-increased-imfs-power.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Cyprus Rejects Bank Deposit Tax, Scuttling Bailout Deal

The lawmakers sent President Nicos Anastasiades back to the drawing board with international bailout negotiators to devise a new plan that would allow the country to receive a financial lifeline and avoid the specter of a devastating default that would reignite the euro crisis.

Lawmakers rejected the plan with 36 voting no and 19 abstaining arguing that it would be unacceptable to take money from account holders. Some in the opposition party even suggested abandoning a European Union bailout altogether and appealing to Russia or China to lend Cyprus the funds it needs to keep the economy and its banks afloat. One member of Parliament who was out of the country did not vote.

Analysts had also raised the possibility of bank runs and a halt in liquidity to Cypriot banks from the European Central Bank if the measure did not pass, meaning banks might not be able to open their doors Thursday, the day that a scheduled bank holiday was supposed to end.

The measure failed despite a revision that would remove some objections by exempting small bank accounts from the levies.

The original terms of the bailout called for a one-time tax of 6.75 percent on deposits of less than €100,000, or $129,000, and a 9.9 percent tax on holdings of more than €100,000. The levies, a condition imposed by Cyprus’s fellow E.U. members, are designed to raise €5.8 billion of the total €10 billion bailout cost.

Under a new plan put forward by Mr. Anastasiades early Tuesday, depositors with less than €20,000 in the bank would be exempt, but the taxes would remain in place for accounts above that amount.

The rejection drew loud cheers and cries of joy from a crowd of more than 500 protesters who had gathered in front of Parliament since late afternoon, carrying banners denouncing what they said was a confiscation of their private funds. Some wielded unflattering posters of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, a day after a demonstrator breached security at the German Embassy and climbed to the roof, throwing down the German flag.

“Today, Germany is engaging in Nazism again, not with the weapon of force, but with money,” said a pensioner, Dimitris, 67, who would give only his first name.

The central bank governor, Panicos O. Demetriades, had said the revised plan would fall €300 million short of the €5.8 billion demanded by the international lenders. The gap would be considered a breach of the bailout agreement, he said, and “perhaps might not be accepted” by the bailout negotiators.

And even as Mr. Anastasiades submitted the revised plan to Parliament, he had acknowledged that the changes probably would not be enough to secure a majority in the 56-member legislature. “I estimate that the Parliament will turn down the package,” he said on state television as he headed into a series of meetings.

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said earlier Tuesday that she was in favor of modifying the agreement to put a lower burden on ordinary depositors. “We are extremely supportive of the Cypriot intentions to introduce more progressive rates,” she said in Frankfurt.

She had urged leaders in Cyprus to quickly approve the plan agreed by European leaders in Brussels last weekend. “Now is the time for the authorities to deliver on what they have commented,” Ms. Lagarde said.

She complained that critics have not recognized the value of the agreement, in that it would force banks in Cyprus to restructure and become healthier.

In Brussels, Simon O’Connor, a spokesman for Olli Rehn, the E.U. commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, said Tuesday that finance ministers from countries using the euro had agreed the previous night in a teleconference that Cyprus could adjust the way the levy would operate.

But Mr. O’Connor said the E.U. authorities were still waiting to see whether the adjustments being discussed in Cyprus delivered “the same financial effect” as the agreement between Cyprus and international lenders in the early hours of Saturday.

“On the parameters of this levy, we will not comment as long as that’s a process that’s still under way,” Mr. O’Connor said.

On the prospect that expatriates in Cyprus may not have access to their bank accounts any time soon, the British Ministry of Defense said Tuesday that it had sent a Royal Air Force plane to Nicosia with €1 million on board to offer loans to British military personnel there.

The money, it said, was meant to “provide military personnel and their families with emergency loans in the event that cash machines and debit cards stop working completely.”

The ministry also said that it offered to pay the salaries of employees in Cyprus into British bank accounts. “We’re determined to do everything we can to minimize the impact of the Cyprus banking crisis on our people,” the ministry said in a statement.

James Kanter contributed reporting from Brussels, Jack Ewing contributed from Frankfurt and Julia Werdigier contributed from London.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/business/global/cyprus-rejects-tax-on-bank-deposits.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

German Copyright Law Takes Aim at Google Links

As originally proposed by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel last year, the law was seen as a clear attempt by a European government to force big Internet companies like Google to share some of the billions of euros they earn from the sale of advertising placed alongside the news that Google links to.

But a last-minute change, proposed last week by the Free Democratic Party, the junior partner in Ms. Merkel’s government, allowed for the use of “individual words or the smallest excerpts of text” free, meaning that only those companies who reproduce full texts for commercial use will be required to compensate the news publishers.

The weakened bill passed Germany’s lower house, the Bundestag, 293 to 243. But it will require approval by Germany’s upper house, the Bundesrat, which is controlled by the Social Democrats and the Greens, in the opposition, which have sought to have the bill scrapped altogether.

“No one except for a few big publishers wants this law,” said Tabea Rössner, a member of the Greens and a media expert, in the debate before the vote on Friday. “Certainly no one in the online world.”

Google welcomed the fact that only a weakened version had passed but made clear its opposition to any form of legislation.

The company had bitterly opposed the original proposal and waged a campaign called “Defend Your Net,” both online and through full-page ads in the same publications that would profit from the proposed law, known as an ancillary copyright law because it extends copyright to new areas.

Google argued that the law would impinge on the free flow of information and innovation online.

“As a result of today’s vote, ancillary copyright in its most damaging form has been stopped,” said Ralf Bremer, a spokesman for Google in Germany, who argued that the law was “not necessary because publishers and Internet companies can innovate together, just as Google has done in many other countries.”

Google does not sell advertising on its German news aggregation service, which displays snippets of articles and links to the originating sites. But the company earns billions of euros from advertising on its search engine and other services.

Most German newspaper publishers, on the other hand, generate only minuscule revenue online from advertising or other sources, like so-called pay walls around their content.

Consequently, they welcomed the law, even in its weakened form, as an instrument that would allow them to determine the conditions under which material produced by their journalists and writers could be used by search engines and other third-party aggregators that reproduce their material online.

“With the ancillary copyright law, publishing houses now have a right that other intermediaries have long had,” the Federation of German Newspaper Publishers said.

Members of the European Publishers Council, a lobbying group in Brussels that has been pushing for a fundamental change in the relationship between publishers and Google, also hailed the law as an important step toward recognizing “clearly in copyright law both the value and the cost of investment in professional journalistic content.”

“The E.P.C. believes that this law will help establish a market for aggregator content,” said Angela Mills Wade, the council’s executive director. “New innovative business models can now be built based on legally licensed content.”

But critics contend that a watering-down law not only fails to grant full legal clarity to either of the two sides but also opens the door to long legal disputes over the exact definition of a snippet and how much text can be legally reproduced by the search engines without incurring charges.

“The Bundestag passed a law today that will make neither the publishers, nor the critics nor the general public happy,” the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote in an opinion piece. “Who is helped by a law that does not have any winners, only both sides somehow lose?”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/02/technology/german-copyright-law-targets-google-links.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: A Chance to Rub Shoulders With the Elite of Business and Politics

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank.Michel Euler/Associated PressMario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, is scheduled to be a keynote speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The minimum $20,000 entry fee has been paid. Fur hats and silk underwear are in the luggage. And stacks of business cards are ready to be slipped into the palms of the business and political elite gathering this week at the snowy alpine fortress that is the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

For the more than 2,500 people making the pilgrimage this year, some personalities will command more attention than others. On the Continent, where fears of the euro’s imminent demise dominated thinking for the last year, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and the president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, are being credited rather than pilloried these days for saving the euro from disaster.

Together with Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy and the International Monetary Fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, they will be among the keynote speakers on whether Europe’s fortunes will at last take a turn for the better.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain may throw cold water on that idea, if he attends. But in Davos, if he does turn up, his main task may be to explain why investors should not be spooked by his warning that Britain may drift away from the European Union.

World Economic Forum in Davos
View all posts

With plenty of dynamism stirring outside Europe, emerging markets leaders will be making the case for investment dollars to flow their way. Executives and academics from China and India will swarm the halls to discuss the evolution in their economic climate, which has cooled since a year ago but remains well ahead of those in Western economies.

Prime ministers from a number of African countries will also make the trek to explain how dynamism continues to build, especially on the southern part of the continent. Two years after the Arab Spring unfolded, numerous decision-makers from North Africa will outline plans for overhauls and address the political, social and economic transitions, and upheavals, in their countries.

With fighting in Mali still making headlines and the Algerian gas-field hostage disaster still being sorted out, North African issues are very likely to be prime topics.

Not everyone has been panting to get to Davos. Officials from the United States, for example, will barely be represented. But those coming — including Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who is a regular at the forum, and Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations and a former candidate to be the next secretary of state — are likely to stir controversy.

And some of the highest-wattage regulars are turning their attention elsewhere. Three notable absentees will be the top Google executives, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Eric E. Schmidt. (For Mr. Schmidt, Davos evidently doesn’t have the same allure as North Korea, where he visited recently.) Google has not said why its leaders are not attending.

But some other men with big money will be on hand, though Jamie Dimon, the chief of JPMorgan Chase, can’t count on quite as much money as before, now that the bank’s board had decided to dock his pay after a multibillion-dollar trading loss in 2012.

Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group, Brian T. Moynihan of Bank of America and George Soros will all be sniffing out investments. So will Lloyd C. Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, who has shunned Davos in the past but decided to join the party this time.

It’s not all about deals, though. Bill and Melinda Gates, hardy Davos perennials, will again be there to preach the need to invest in what counts for future generations: education, health and related philanthropic activity.

For celebrity sizzle, the South African actress Charlize Theron will be in town to promote her Africa Outreach Project. The forum discouraged celebrities for a while after Sharon Stone stole the show in 2005 and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie did the same the following year. Since then, a few stars have swanned in, mostly, it seems, out of curiosity.

Last year, Mick Jagger sidled into a spate of private Davos parties wearing a velvet plum jacket and a lilac shirt, speaking eruditely about current events with people like Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, before busting a few lanky dance moves late in the evening.

This year, another power broker expected to prowl the corridors is Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees. Whether anyone will consider face time with him a must probably depends on a given attitude toward American baseball generally, and the widely followed Yankees specifically.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/01/21/a-chance-to-rub-shoulders-with-the-elite-of-business-and-politics/?partner=rss&emc=rss

German Lawmakers Back Latest Round of Aid for Greece

BERLIN — Lawmakers in Germany’s lower house of Parliament easily passed the next round of financial support for Greece on Friday, despite growing doubt among members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition and opposition parties that the measures will be sufficient to resolve the Greek problem.

As expected, a clear majority of 473 out of 584 lawmakers casting ballots voted in favor of the package of measures agreed to by European finance ministers and international lenders last week that will unlock loan installments totaling €43.7 billion, or $56.7 billion. One hundred lawmakers voted against the measure and 11 abstained.

Germany is one of Greece’s largest creditors and support from Berlin is crucial for the success of the program. Yet with a parliamentary election scheduled for Sept. 22, German politicians from all sides have been reluctant to take on extra financial burdens.

Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, defended the latest bailout package and praised the restructuring efforts that have been made by the government of Antonis Samaras, prime minister of Greece. But he warned that the current discussion of writing down Greek debt would sap Athens’s drive to continue with the painful course of reforms that Germany has required in exchange for more financial assistance.

“If we say that the debt will be forgiven, then the readiness to save in exchange for further help is weakened. Consequently, this is the false incentive,” Mr. Schäuble said. “If we want to help Greece along this difficult path, then we must go forward step by step.”

The current package aims to cut Greek debt, currently estimated at 175 percent of gross domestic product, down to 124 percent by 2020. Mr. Schäuble acknowledged for the first time that the bailout would cut into Germany’s federal budget, but warned that failure to approve it could be disastrous for the nation and the rest of Europe.

Already the 17 European Union nations using the common currency are in recession. Unemployment in the bloc has also climbed to 11.7 percent, its highest rate since 1995, according to official European figures released Friday.

While the German economy remained largely immune to the suffering on its borders, the most recent official figures show growth slowing and investor confidence dipping.

Against this backdrop, Ms. Merkel has been able to quell calls from within own her center-right coalition for Greece to leave the euro zone, by insisting that the consequences of such a step would be far more dire for Germany than providing more financial assistance.

Ms. Merkel’s government rests on an alliance of her own conservative Christian Democratic Union with the sister party for the state of Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, and the liberal pro-business Free Democrats. It was not immediately clear if a fully majority of her government had supported the bailout measure.

The leading opposition parties, the Social Democrats and the Greens, criticized Ms. Merkel’s government for taking too long to agree to help Greece and for failing to level with German taxpayers about the true cost of the effort, but nevertheless backed the package.

“We will vote for it because we don’t want our reliability as European partners left in any doubt,” Ms. Merkel’s main challenger for the election, Peer Steinbrück of the Social Democrats, told German public television ahead of Friday’s vote. “It has nothing to do with the government.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/business/global/german-finance-minister-urges-lawmakers-to-approve-greek-debt-deal.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Memo From Berlin: In Germany, Weighing Debt Relief Against Debt Reduction

While Germany has tried to hold the line at providing loan guarantees, most economists say the Continent’s lingering troubles will never be resolved without a reduction in the overall debt load, particularly in Greece, a costly and unpopular step. Led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany has instead preached austerity, even as public-spending cuts have deepened recessions in the periphery, actually increasing the debt load as a percentage of gross domestic product.

Early on Tuesday, finance ministers from the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund, meeting for the third time in three weeks, cobbled together yet another stopgap solution for Greece. Their debt relief measures — lowering interest rates on some debt, lengthening deadlines for debt payments, buying back debt and handing profits on Greek bonds bought by the European Central Bank back to Athens — amounted to a kind of backdoor debt forgiveness.

While the measures seemingly ensured that Greece would receive its next portion of aid, avoiding a short-term meltdown and keeping Athens afloat for the near future, they were immediately criticized as insufficient. “They did not solve a single problem in any long-term way,” said Lüder Gerken, head of the Center for European Policy in Freiburg, Germany. “They merely agreed to buy a little time for a lot of money.”

But time may be exactly what Ms. Merkel wants — 10 months to get past national elections in the fall and into a coalition with the Social Democrats, who have supported bailouts and even the jointly issued debt known as eurobonds. That might free her hands to take more far-reaching steps to address the crisis, as her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, hinted during the negotiations leading to this week’s agreement — and his opponents acknowledged, sardonically.

“The debt cut has not been avoided, it has been postponed to a time after the parliamentary elections,” said Frank-Walter Steinmeier, parliamentary leader of the left-leaning Social Democrats, speaking on ZDF German Television on Tuesday. “We are realistic and try to tell the people honestly and sincerely what’s going on. Schäuble and the present government try once more to finagle their way around the truth.”

Greece’s debt is now more than 170 percent of economic output, a figure that will only grow as the country’s economy continues to contract. Reducing the country’s debt to the sustainable levels required by the International Monetary Fund “means with certainty a debt reduction later on, because the goal can’t be reached any other way,” said Claudia Schmucker of the German Council on Foreign Relations.

“That’s also clear to the federal government, even if they continue to reject it publicly,” she added.

Mr. Schäuble did exactly that, saying at a news conference in Berlin that “it was clear to everyone, including the I.M.F.,” that debt forgiveness “is no solution for the problem.” Mr. Schäuble instead repeated the line popular with the German electorate that only Greek discipline could fix the country’s problems.

“If Greece does not implement the necessary difficult reforms and adjustment measures step by step itself, then it’s a mission impossible,” Mr. Schäuble said. But those very austerity measures have been part of the vicious circle that has driven the Greek economy into a depression.

German policy makers have had plenty of chances in the past three years to give in and tell the public that many of the billions they have guaranteed are already lost, but they have not done so.

Yet the German public, after years of debate, may be a bit savvier than politicians are giving it credit for. “There has to be a debt cut,” said Jochen Slotta, 57, a taxi driver out for a stroll here on Tuesday. “Greece can’t get back on its feet any other way, but the politicians just don’t want to say it, that’s all, because then they won’t be re-elected.”

But there are legal concerns as well as political ones. The powerful and influential German Constitutional Court might strike down a haircut for public-sector debt holdings for violating the no-bailout clause. There are also concerns that other program countries like Ireland and Portugal would demand similar concessions.

“Our endeavor was to prevent sending the wrong signal that a public-sector debt cut would represent, reducing the pressure to make adjustments not just for Greece but for all the program countries,” said Norbert Barthle, a senior member of the Ms. Merkel’s party.

Tuesday’s agreement is expected to pass the German Parliament easily because of the support of the Social Democrats and the Greens. It is in the ranks of Ms. Merkel’s own coalition of conservative Christian Democrats and pro-business Free Democrats that many of the staunchest opponents to further bailouts and debt relief stand. Opinion surveys suggest that the likeliest coalition after next year’s elections would be the so-called grand coalition with the Social Democrats, which would give Ms. Merkel a broad majority and perhaps even the mandate she would need for unpopular decisions.

As the Greek debt talks grind on, a familiar pattern has come to the fore once again: it all comes down to trade-offs between what is good for Greece and the euro and what is good for Ms. Merkel and her party in domestic German politics. Every arithmetic calculation of interest and principal over Greece’s unmanageable debt burden is matched by yet another political recalibration of the latest surveys over attitudes among German voters.

“I don’t think that Merkel right now is prepared to go ahead and tell the Germans, ‘Folks, this costs us some billions and say goodbye to them,’ ” said Thomas Risse, professor of international politics at the Free University in Berlin. “The issue is really when to tell the Germans how much money we actually lost.”

Chris Cottrell contributed reporting from Berlin, and Rachel Donadio from Rome.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/28/world/europe/in-germany-weighing-debt-relief-against-debt-reduction.html?partner=rss&emc=rss