Angela Merkel this week became the first German Chancellor to address the Israeli Parliament. Merkel's three day visit aimed to upgrade ties between Israel and Germany and was described by both countries as exceptional. Seven German ministers also accompanied the Chancellor for a joint sitting with the Israeli cabinet - a level of consultation Germany usually reserved for a small number of EU states. Paying tribute to the "special relationship" between the two countries Chancellor Merkel said the genocide by the Nazis filled Germans with shame. However, more than sixty years after World War two an address in German in the Israeli parliament remains controversial.
Crossing borders - something very easy to do in Europe. It's now three months since nine new EU member states entered Europe's border free travel zone, known as the Schengen area. Back in December last year border checkpoints were ceremonially decommissioned and there was a sense of optimism and excitement about what Schengen might bring for trade, tourism and stronger links between countries. But have things really changed?
Pity the poor, or soon to be poor, tax evaders in Germany. They’re either shaking in their boots or hiding behind their lawyers at the moment. This week, teams of auditors fanned out across the country in a blitzkrieg of suspected tax cheats. It’s the country's biggest tax fraud investigation ever. The names under scrutiny come from a CD containing a client-list of a bank in Liechtenstein. The tiny principality of Liechtenstein, between Switzerland and Austria, is a well-known tax haven. The whole affair reads a bit like a James Bond thriller – there's a mysterious informant, a spy agency, large amounts of cash paid for information, as well as some diplomatic mud-slinging thrown in for good measure. From Berlin, Kyle James reports on the men with a licence to audit.
The Berlinale, Berlin’s annual film festival has again provided a feast of moving pictures this week. Along with the Venice film festival it’s considered one of the most important exposés for the movie world outside of Hollywood. This year, as in previous years, eyebrows have been raised at certain movies making it into the line-up. Some for being controversial, some for being not good enough. Film critic Brendan O’Shea has been at the festival all week and he was impressed by a brave film dealing with homosexuality in the Moslem community.
It’s Carnival season all around the world at the moment, and for a lot of people taking part it’s an excuse to get dressed up in decadent costumes and go a bit wild. The Carnival season leads up to Lent, the logic goes, enjoy yourself now and then give things up in the run up to Easter. Carnival has its roots in Roman Catholicism and in Germany, the people of Cologne are famous for celebrating Carnival with an almost religious fervour. That hasn’t always been true for the city’s immigrant community though who have found it difficult to get into the mood. Until now that is.
Nokia, the Finnish mobile phone giant, plans to close down its huge factory in the German city of Bochum and move it to Romania. It’ll mean job losses and serious knock-on effects for the local German economy. But why is it moving? Nokia couldn't resist the temptation of producing their phones at a fifth of the current cost. 16 hundred kilometers east, everything from labour to electricity is a lot cheaper.
Critics of mosque projects often bring up the spectre of minarets eclipsing church steeples. In Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel made a comment that mosque “cupolas” shouldn’t be built “demonstratively higher than church steeples”. Work on a mosque in Cologne, whose most famous landmark is its cathedral, is set to start this spring. The plans have made people question the role of Islam and the success of integration in Germany. Most of Germany’s Muslims are Turkish who came as “guest workers” starting in the 1960s. Many stayed and settled. Peter Phillips says the reason there is resistance to mosques in Germany is because Germans don’t know much about Islam and the Muslims who live among them.
Staying with the issue of national identity now, but from a rather different angle... The Second World War is high on the agenda again in Germany. But this time not because of German war crimes, but instead because of German war victims: the millions of Germans that were expelled from territories the country lost to Poland and Russia. The German government wants to erect a "visible sign", or a permanent exhibition, describing their fate. The proposal has sparked a fierce debate with neighboring Poland. Radio Netherlands Worldwide correspondent Laurens Boven spoke with Hertha Mahlow, an elderly woman from Berlin who experienced the expulsion as a young woman.
People in industrialized nations are getting taller ... and fatter. But no one really knows how bodies are changing. In Germany, the last time anyone surveyed people’s body sizes was back in 1956. You might wonder why we need to survey bodies at all. Well, think about clothes, or getting in and out of car or bus seats. Germans will soon know how big they really are. The ‘Size Germany’ project is touring the country, using high-tech 3D body scanners to measure 12-thousand Germans.
Let’s turn the clock back now – 46 years – as that’s when construction began on the Berlin Wall. This year a document came to light which seems to prove that East German border guards had explicit orders to shoot people trying to flee to West Berlin. Deutsche Welle’s Joanna Impey filed this report as old wounds were reopened
In Germany there’s been something of a storm in a wineglass over apples and the definition of wine. Apple-wine, known in German as ‘Eppelwoi’, has a long and rich tradition in the state of Hesse. Last week, Hessians were outraged to discover an EU proposal to define wine as a product only made from grapes. Faced with this potential re-branding as an alcoholic wine-style apple-based beverage, Hesse’s State Premier, Roland Koch, leapt to the defence of his state’s favourite drink.
As the years pass, the tragedy of the Holocaust, now more than six decades ago, is fading from living memory. The last survivors and eye witnesses are dying, and there are concerns that communicating the scale of the Nazi genocide and its importance to current and future generations will become more difficult. To try and counter that, the Berlin campus of a Jewish-American university has put together Germany's first master's degree dedicated to communicating the Holocaust to the public. This week the seven master students attended their first seminar.
The headscarf issue is not only controversial in Turkey. In France, Germany and other parts of Europe the question of wearing a headscarf in school - be it as a student or teacher - often raises the question of whether Muslims are integrated here in Europe. But it's the construction of mosques that's stirring up more debate than any other integration issues. Major mosque projects from Marseille, to Amsterdam, Seville, London and Cologne have met with fierce opposition. Some fear these new mosques will serve as a breeding ground for extreme Islamic views and possibly terrorism. Cologne is famous for its religious architecture, including Germany's most spectacular Gothic cathedral. But this medieval cathedral may soon share the skyline with Germany's biggest mosque. Plans are well under way to construct a mosque featuring two minarets more than 50 meters high and these plans are highly controversial.
Let’s first have a look at the business perspective. It's not easy for European businessmen to set up shop in China. They’re still prevented from running wholly owned foreign enterprises there because of trade barriers. But what about the other way around, Chinese businesses coming to Europe? Back in 2005, Fritz Schramma, the mayor of the German city of Cologne, launched a programme to encourage Chinese companies to settle in and around the city. It was called China Offensive. Deutsche Welle’s Monika Manke has been finding out how successful the initiative has been.
urning now to Germany- A fresh series of racially-motivated attacks on foreigners over the past two weeks has refuelled a debate over banning the far-right National Democratic Party. The European Union’s justice Commissioner, Franco Frattini, was quoted as saying he’d back a ban. A previous attempt to ban it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2003, after it came out that some testimony came from informants in the party. From Berlin, Deutsche Welle’s Hardy Graupner has more.
Britain no doubt is the hot spot for tabloids, but actually it's Germany that has Europe’s biggest tabloid: BILD - which means picture. With a daily readership of 11 and a half million, Bild has enormous influence, and politicians know it’s the best way to reach the masses. But its tabloid character isn’t for everyone.
It was 46 years ago this week that construction began on the Berlin Wall. It divided the city for close to three decades and became one of the most notorious symbols of the Cold War. Many who tried to flee over the wall paid with their lives. But the former East German leadership always denied that there was an official order to kill. Now, a document has come to light proving that East German border guards had explicit orders to shoot at people who were trying to flee to West Berlin.
What is art? An obvious place to look for an answer for the next couple of months is at the Documenta art exhibition in the German town of Kassel. It’s one of the biggest and most important art exhibitions in the world. Taking place just once every five years the Documenta is considered a good indicator of what today’s artists have on their minds.
In a new feature we have a brief Postcard snapshot from one of Network Europe’s producers. This week Deutsche Welle’s Liah McDonell is in the famously rude Berlin, where it seems being nice is suddenly all the rage.
The G8 Summit this week, geared up to discuss global warming – but in contrast, it was "geopolitical cooling" alongside the widespread protests that made headlines. Russian president Vladimir Putin’s fiery broadside at US plans to deploy an anti missile defence system in Eastern Europe caused a stir. But is Putin following a international or domestic Russian agenda? Helen Seeney put that question to Duetsche Welle’s Moscow correspondent Bill Gasperini.
Coastlines are threatened, deserts are advancing, and the effects of climate change are set to displace millions of people as resources are becoming more scarce. The World Future Council wants to stop that and gathered for its founding congress in Hamburg this week. This new council is the brainchild of Jacob von Uexkuell, who also founded the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the alternative Nobel prize. The goal of his international institution is an ambitious one: in a nutshell its aim is to save the planet. Deutsche Welle’s Barbara Gruber asked him how this can be done.
From an idea that may not work to a German car that's famous for not working. To many, Germany's the home of the high-performance car: the much coveted BMW's and Mercedes. But don't forget the Trabi, or Trabant - the small, two-cylinder East German cold war car with no heater. It looked like a cross between a golf cart and a bumper car and the GDR produced it for three decades. It's even gained cult status in today's unified Germany. And this year the car turns 50, and some will be fondly celebrating.
A former member of the left-wing extremist Red Army Faction, which terrorized pre-unification West Germany in the 1970s, is slated for an early release from prison after serving 24 years of a life sentence. But, as DW's Gregg Benzow reports, the German court ruling that Brigitte Mohnhaupt can be let out for good behavior has unleashed a storm of protest across the country.
World War II is taboo in Europe, particularly in Germany. But a movie released this month breaks the long-standing German taboo against laughing at Adolf Hitler. Making fun of the Nazi Dictator is nothing new in the English-speaking world. Charlie Chaplin did it in "The Great Dictator", as did Mel Brooks in the Producers. Deutsche Welle's Sabina Casagrande has this report about "My Führer--The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler", the new comedy that has sparked a national debate in Germany.
Come what may in 2007 Britain will have a new Prime Minister and France a new president. The EU will celebrate its 50th Birthday and Germany will raise taxes and finally catch up on anti-smoking laws. Daniel Franklin executive editor of the Economist takes a closer look at what else might lay ahead in 2007.
January 1st also sees Germany take over the rotating presidency of the European Union from Finland. The six-months at the helm of the EU does not give a lot of time to tackle big issues but there are high expectations of Germany. Many members are looking to Berlin to make progress on the European constitution which was rejected by French and Dutch voters last year. There are also several other sensitive issues on the agenda including energy security, relations with Russia, climate change and the Middle East. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will need to maneuver carefully through a potential diplomatic minefield.
The Nazi regime and the atrocities of World War II almost wiped out Jewish life in Germany. But, the number of Jews has been steadily increasing since the early 1990s, mainly a result of many Jews from the former Soviet Union moving to Germany. Comprehensive education for rabbis is once again available in Germany. This year, for the first time since the war, three Rabbis were ordained in Dresden. Germany's Jewish communities are awakening to new life. Kirsten Rulf visited one of them as he settled into his new job.
Berte is a Jewish holocaust survivor. In 1943, in Nazi occupied Holland, Berte was rounded up with her parents by the Nazis and sent to Camp Westerbok in the netherlands and then on to Bergen Belsen, the notorious concentration camp in Germany, where she spent the rest of the war. When she was freed by the Russian army in 1945 she was 7 years old. Last month she and 69 other Dutch survivors returned to the site of the camp to finally inaugurate a Dutch memorial. Radio Netherlands' Jonathan Groubert went with her...
Germany's far-right National Democratic Party held a convention last weekend that sparked debate about whether or not to try to ban them. An effort was made to do just that 3 years ago but the whole plan was scuppered when it came to light that some of the intelligence agents who'd infiltrated the party undercover had got a little too into character and were shown to be involved in provoking some of the behaviour being complained about. Some politicians in Germany want to muzzle the party, but are asking if a ban is either useful or realistic?
German government officials and representatives of Muslim organizations have met for the very first time in an attempt to initiate a dialogue between the state and Muslims living in Germany. The government hopes the talks will continue for at least two years and will result in a political pact with the Muslim community.
German’s were shocked to find that those believed to be behind the attacks on the US five years ago, had worked on their plan in one of its own cities. The authorities try to work out how to move forward, to protect themselves and others, while dealing with its particular history, and recent policy of welcoming foreigners.
Ask locals in the German city of Munich and they'll tell you that they have great beer. They might also mention that, with a national high of sunny days, the state of Bavaria is the California of Germany. While Munich doesn't have a Pacific Ocean or a Malibu Beach, that's not stopping intrepid locals surfing. Albeit on the local river The Eisbach. Deutsche Welle’s Guy Degen reports.
After last month’s failed bomb attacks on two German trains, German police identified both men with the help of video footage from closed ciruit TV cameras, or CCTV. The two men were caught on video cameras dragging their suitcases containing the bombs through Cologne's central station. The release of the images has prompted a flurry of calls by German politicians for increased video surveillance. For one, Deutsche Bahn, the German railway operator, has announced that it will significantly beef up video surveillance in many of Germany’s train stations.
Cologne is housing German-Lebanese refugees in temporary shelters. Despite the problems that now face her, one mother is thankful to have gotten her family to safety. Deutche Welle's Kirsten Rulf hears how this family of six escaped with just one suitcase.
In Germany, royals stopped playing a role in politics back in 1918, when the last emperor, Wilhelm the Second, abdicated. The new law of the land, the Weimar Constitution, then put an end to the monarchy. But it didn't put an end to Germans' interest in all things noble. Since there are no German kings or queens to talk about, Germans simply look beyond their borders to those countries which still have active royal households, like England, Denmark, or the Netherlands. Republicanism is nice, most Germans will tell you, but modern-day fairy tales with sparkling princesses dripping with glamour are also good to have around, even if they're seen from a distance.
One of Germany's most colourful politicians - former foreign minister Joschka Fischer is pulling the plug on his electrifying political carrer. The charismatic leader of the Green party is bringing to an end more than two decades in German politics in which he led his party from an ecologist fringe grouping to a respected government party which has left their stamp on sweeping social, energy and foreign policy changes. Joschka Fischer is to start on an academic career at an American university leaving behind shoes too large to fill by his political successors. Uwe Hessler reports from Berlin.
The Football World Cup is in full swing in Germany. Teams from 32 countries have been battling it out on the playing field, in international football' s biggest event. The Germans are very proud to play host country, which partly explains why the mood there is one of celebration. One aspect of that, appears to be the development of what is being called "positive patriotism." An odd expression, but in Germany, where patriotism has been viewed with much suspicion since the end of World War Two, it marks a real change in attitude.
The world's biggest football event in the world is taking place in Germany at the moment. Inevitably, big business makes the most of an event of this kind. But the World Cup's commercialisation has reached epic proportions. Emirate airlines, McDonalds, Mastercard, and all the other brands crowd in to try and profit from the feel-good factor that surrounds the championships. Phenomena such as VIP areas, the World Cup lottery, and the privileges of sponsors have created a gap that leaves the 'poor' fan on the outside, looking in. German investigators are currently investigating one sponsor - the EnBW energy group - which stands accused of giving match tickets to politicians and government employees. Deutsche Welle reports.
The World Cup football which kicked off on June 9, will draw hundreds of thousands of football aficionados from around the planet. Here is a piece for football fans who were lucky enough to bag tickets for the event, and who do not know Germany nor the Germans very well. Deutsche Welle has this humorous Postcard.
The German-Russian deal struck last autumn to build a pipeline under the Baltic Sea continues to raise concerns in the Baltic States, Poland and Ukraine. The leaders of these countries said they felt uneasy about what they thought was a deal made behind their back on an issue as vital as energy. Radio Polonia reports from Estonia.
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