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Germany’s vaccine committee (Stiko) has advised giving the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine only to people aged 60 + because of a risk of rare blood clots.

The German drugs regulator found 31 cases of a type of rare blood clot among the nearly 2.7 million people who had received the vaccine in Germany.

Canada earlier suspended use of the AstraZeneca jab in people under 55.

AstraZeneca said international regulators had found the benefits of its vaccine outweighed risks significantly.

The company said it was continuing to analyze its database to understand “whether these very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia occur any more commonly than would be expected naturally in a population of millions of people”.

“We will continue to work with German authorities to address any questions they may have,” AstraZeneca added.

The EU and UK medicine regulators both backed the vaccine after previous cautionary suspensions in Europe this month.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the UK Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency stressed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine continued to outweigh the risk of side effects.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is one of the most widely used coronavirus vaccines in the West, and is meant to be supplied on a not-for-profit basis to the developing world.

The EU’s rollout of its vaccination program has been dogged by delays because of delivery and production problems, and Germany is among several states now fearing a third wave of infections.

On March 30, Italy’s PM Mario Draghi and his wife, who are both 73, received their first doses of AstraZeneca in a display of confidence in the vaccine.

Ahead of the Stiko announcement, the German cities of Berlin and Munich, and the region of Brandenburg, halted use of the vaccine in people below the age of 60.

“After several consultations, Stiko, with the help of external experts, decided by a majority to recommend the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine only for persons aged 60 years and older on the basis of available data on the occurrence of rare but very severe thromboembolic side effects,” the committee said, as quoted by Reuters.

“Regarding the question of administering the second vaccine dose to younger persons who have already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, Stiko will issue a supplementary recommendation by the end of April.”

Germany was one of the European states which briefly suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month pending an EMA review into the possible link to blood clots.

When the EMA declared the vaccine “safe and effective”, Germany and others resumed its use but investigations continued.

The German medicines regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, has found 31 cases of cerebral sinus vein thrombosis (CSVT) among people who received AstraZeneca in Germany.

Almost all the cases are reportedly in younger and middle-aged women.

France already limits use of AstraZeneca to those aged over 55.


Germany has announced plans to make face masks compulsory to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Bremen became the final federal region to back the measures, with its senate set to confirm the decision on April 24.

Face mask use will be compulsory on public transport throughout Germany, and nearly all states will also make face coverings mandatory when shopping.

Last week, when she announced the ease of lockdown measures, German Chancellor Angela Merkel strongly recommended the use of face masks.

Different European countries have issued different guidance on the use of face masks.

Austria made them compulsory when shopping at the start of this month.

On April 22, Switzerland confirmed it would not make its citizens wear masks as it loosened its restrictions.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has confirmed 145,694 cases and recorded 4,879 deaths in total.

April 22 data showed a second consecutive day that new infections rose, with 281 deaths compared with 194 reported on April 21. Johns Hopkins University in the US puts the number of German deaths at 5,117.

Germany’s federal vaccines institute approved clinical trials for a possible vaccine involving humans on April 22. About 200 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55 will be tested with variants of the drug, developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German company BioNTech.

Scientists at the University of Oxford are set to start trials on humans on April 23, the UK government says. Separate trials are also taking place in Seattle.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Coronavirus: Germany Announces Gradual Loosening of Lockdown Measures

The new rules come into force in most German lands from April 27, once they pass in local legislatures. However, where face masks will be required differs from state.

All 16 lands will make facial coverings a necessity on public transport. However, in Berlin, it will not be compulsory to wear a mask when shopping.

This is also the case in the northern land of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: that land has announced a fine of €25 ($27) for anyone caught without one on public transport. Other states have yet to specify punishments.

Rhineland-Palatinate in the south-west says pupils will be given reusable masks as they slowly start to return to school at the beginning of May, while in Bavaria masks are mandatory for everyone aged seven and over from April 27.

Even the type of mask is not consistently specified. PM Winfried Kretschmann of Baden-Württemberg has said medical masks should be reserved for health workers, while scarves or cloth covers would be sufficient for people on the street.

Many land leaders had previously questioned the need to impose the measures on residents.

Thuringia’s premier, Bodo Ramelow, said that as neighboring lands Bavaria and Saxony had announced measures, his eastern state had decided to follow suit.

Since the outbreak began, the World Health Organization (WHO) has consistently said only the ill and those caring for the ill need to wear masks.

Research suggests face masks are not as effective as frequent hand washing with soap and water, and can give users false confidence.

A number of European countries are starting to make masks compulsory on public transport and in shops, including Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay

Russia and Germany have reacted angrily to sanctions approved by President Donald Trump on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between the two countries.

The sanctions target companies building the undersea pipeline that will allow Russia to increase gas exports to Germany.

The US considers it a security risk.

However, Germany accused Washington of interfering in its internal affairs, while Russia and EU officials also criticized the sanctions.

Congress voted through the measures as part of a defense bill last week and the legislation, which described the pipeline as a “tool of coercion”, was signed off by President Trump on December 20.

The almost $11 billion Nord Stream 2 project has infuriated the US, with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers opposing it.

The Trump administration fears the pipeline will tighten Russia’s grip over Europe’s energy supply and reduce its own share of the lucrative European market for American liquefied natural gas.

President Trump has said the 1,225km (760-mile) pipeline, owned by Russia’s state-owned gas company, Gazprom, could turn Germany into a “hostage of Russia”.

House Votes to Impose Fresh Sanctions on Russia

Donald Trump on Angela Merkel, Brexit and NATO

Speaking on German TV, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the sanctions were an infringement of sovereignty.

He said: “It is up to the companies involved in the construction of the pipeline to take the next decisions.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said the sanctions amount to “interference in autonomous decisions taken in Europe”.

The US sanctions have also angered Russia and the EU, which says it should be able to decide its own energy policies.

An EU spokesman told AFP on December 21: “As a matter of principle, the EU opposes the imposition of sanctions against EU companies conducting legitimate business.”

Russia’s foreign ministry also strongly opposed the move, with ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accusing Washington of promoting an “ideology” that hinders global competition.

The consortium behind Nord Stream 2 confirmed that it would build the pipeline as soon as possible, despite the sanctions.

It said: “Completing the project is essential for European supply security. We, together with the companies supporting the project, will work on finishing the pipeline as soon as possible.”

However, Allseas, a Swiss-Dutch company involved in the project, said it had suspended its pipe-laying activities in anticipation of the sanctions.

Russia currently supplies about 40% of the EU’s gas supplies – just ahead of Norway, which is not in the EU but takes part in its single market. Nord Stream 2 will increase the amount of gas going under the Baltic to 55 billion cubic meters per year.


A “probable terrorist attack” is being investigated in Germany after a man ploughed a truck into a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 48.

German police have detained the driver, who security sources reportedly say is an Afghan or Pakistani asylum seeker.

The man arrived in Germany in February as a refugee, the DPA news agency said.

According to the Tagesspiegel, he was known to the police for minor crimes, but not terror links.

Berlin police tweeted: “All police measures related to the suspected terrorist attack at Breitscheidplatz are progressing at full steam and with the necessary diligence.”

German politicians had avoided branding the bloodshed a terror attack in the hours immediately following, but Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ARD television, “there are many things pointing to one”.

The Christmas market is at Breitscheidplatz, close to the Kurfuerstendamm, the main shopping street in Berlin’s west.

The crash happened in the shadow of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was damaged in a World War Two bombing raid and preserved as a symbol of peace.

The truck, which was loaded with steel beams, veered into the market at 20:14 local time,one of its busiest times. It crashed through wooden huts and stands packed with tourists and locals.

The truck driver was reportedly seized after leaving his truck and fleeing on foot.

Image source Twitter

Berlin police spokesman Winfried Wenzel told die Welt that the man ran down the street towards the Tiergarten, a large public park.

A witness followed him at a distance for more than a mile, and called the police, who quickly detained him near the Victory Column monument.

The police spokesman speculated that the driver may have wanted to “find shelter in the darkness of the park”.

According to German media, the suspect was from Afghanistan or Pakistan and had entered the country as a refugee in the past year.

Police confirmed that a passenger was found dead in the truck, and said he was a Polish national. There are fears he may have been the original driver of the vehicle, and that he was subject to a hijacking.

Ariel Zurawski, the Polish owner of the truck, confirmed that his driver was missing and had been unreachable since 16:00 on December 19.

“We don’t know what happened to him,” he told the AFP.

“He’s my cousin, I’ve known him since I was a kid. I can vouch for him.”

The truck was registered in Poland and police said it was believed to have been stolen from a building site there, the AP reports.

Both ISIS and al-Qaeda have urged their followers to use trucks as a means to attack crowds.

The US labeled the tragedy an apparent “terrorist attack” and pledged its support.

President-elect Donald Trump blamed “Islamist terrorists” for a “slaughter” of Christians in Berlin.

Donald Trump tweeted: “Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany – and it is only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking!”

Voters in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania are going to the polls in a vote seen as a test of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policies towards migrants and refugees.

The anti-migrant and anti-Islam Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) could get more votes than Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

This would weaken Angela Merkel ahead of national elections in 2017.

However, all Germany’s other parties have ruled out forming a governing coalition with the AfD.

So the AfD stands no chance of forming a government in the state.

However, the party has seen huge gains in various regional elections over the last year.Angela Merkel on migrant crisis

Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, in the former East Germany, is where Angela Merkel’s own constituency is located.

Polls show Merkel’s CDU polling behind the AfD, and the chancellor told voters in the state: “It’s going to be a tight race – every vote counts.”

One voting intentions poll showed the centre-left Social Democrats first with 28%, while the AfD edged ahead of the CDU with 23% to 20%.

The AfD is believed to be attracting voters away from the center-right CDU.

Germany is taking in large numbers of refugees – 1.1 million in 2015 – and anti-immigrant feeling has increased.

The AfD, initially an anti-euro party, has become the outlet of choice for voters frustrated by the chancellor’s policy of welcoming migrants.

The party’s slogan nationwide is: “Let’s end asylum chaos.”

On September 3, Angela Merkel told Bild newspaper: “We did not reduce benefits for anyone in Germany as a result of the aid for refugees. In fact, we actually saw social improvements in some areas.

“We took nothing away from people here. We are still achieving our big goal of maintaining and improving the quality of life in Germany.”

Only 2% of refugees arriving in Germany have gone to live in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.


Model Gina-Lisa Lohfink has been convicted of making false rape allegations against two men in a case that has sparked debate across Germany.

Gina-Lisa Lohfink was fined €20,000 ($22,600) by a court in Berlin.

The two men were cleared of rape and Gina-Lisa Lohfink was accused of making false testimony.

Gina-Lisa Lohfink is a former competitor on reality TV show Germany’s Next Top Model, and the high-profile case partly informed a recent change to Germany’s rape laws.

Photo Facebook

Photo Facebook

A new law was passed in July clarifying that “no means no” even if the victim did not fight back.

After the verdict was read out, Gina-Lisa Lohfink cried: “I don’t need to put myself through this” before storming out of the courtroom.

He defense lawyer described the verdict as “a scandal”.

Burkhard Benecken said he would discuss with her whether she had the strength for an appeal.

She was now concerned for all women who wanted to report a rape, he said.

The case has been extensively covered throughout the German media.

Bild reported the verdict as “a bitter setback” for Gina-Lisa Lohfink, and said the verdict was greeted with boos from the public gallery.

Die Zeit said that the trial showed “how disrespectfully we treat people, when it comes to the accusation of rape”. The case will stigmatize all parties in the long run, the newspaper said.


German comedian Jan Boehmermann could be prosecuted for insulting Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the Turkish president filed a complaint.

Jan Boehmermann had recited a satirical poem on television which made sexual references to Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Under German law, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government had to approve a criminal inquiry.

Angela Merkel stressed that the courts would have the final word, and it was now up to prosecutors to decide whether to press charges.

The chancellor added that her government would move to repeal the controversial and little-used Article 103 of the penal code, which concerns insults against foreign heads of state, by 2018.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

Jan Boehmermann is a satirist and TV presenter well-known for pushing the boundaries of German humor. He was given police protection earlier this week.

Some experts say the comedian has a strong defense against potential charges, because his poem could be seen as part of a wider piece of satire about free speech, rather than a deliberate insult.

An earlier remark by Angela Merkel that the poem was “deliberately offensive” had led to accusations in Germany that she was not standing up for free speech.

The poem was broadcast on ZDF TV two weeks ago. The public TV channel has decided not to broadcast Boehmermann’s weekly satire program this week because of the furor surrounding him.

Before announcing that Jan Boehmermann could be prosecuted, Angela Merkel stressed her government expected Turkey to comply with EU democratic norms in the areas of free speech and judicial independence.

“In a state under the rule of law, it is not a matter for the government but rather for state prosecutors and courts to weigh personal rights issues and other concerns affecting press and artistic freedom,” the chancellor said.

“The presumption of innocence applies,” Angela Merkel added, explaining that she was not making any prejudgement about Jan Boehmermann.

In her statement in Berlin, Angela Merkel said that the approval of the federal government was a legal precondition for the prosecution of this specific offence.

“The foreign office, the justice ministry, the interior ministry and the chancellery took part in this review,” she said.

“There were diverging opinions between the coalition partners… The result is that in the present case the federal government will grant its approval.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has drawn much criticism in Turkey and internationally for attacking opponents, including harassment of journalists. Many accuse him of authoritarian methods, stifling legitimate dissent and promoting an Islamist agenda.

Some Germans worry that Angela Merkel is compromising on freedom of expression in order to ensure Turkey’s continued co-operation to stem the influx of refugees into the EU.


According to Germany’s transport minister, around 98,000 VW petrol vehicles are caught up in the automaker’s latest emissions scandal.

That follows an admission by VW that it had found “irregularities” in CO2 emissions levels that could affect 800,000 vehicles.

It came to light as a result of an internal investigation by the firm following the diesel emissions scandal.

On November 3, VW admitted that an internal investigation had revealed that carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption were understated during standards tests on about 800,000 cars.

The company said the issue mainly affected diesel cars.VW petrol cars CO2 emissions

However, on November 4, Germany’s Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt told the country’s parliament: “Today we were told that among the affected vehicles are 98,000 petrol vehicles”.

VW, Skoda, Audi and Seat vehicles could be affected and the company estimates the CO2 problem could cost it about €2 billion.

Volkswagen had already set aside €6.7 billion to meet the cost of the initial emissions scandal.

News of the issue with CO2 emissions sent VW shares down by 5.6% on November 4.

The company’s shares have lost about a third of their value since September, when the scandal first broke.

It came to light after the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found VW software had detected when vehicles were undergoing emissions tests, and altered the way they operated to give more favorable results.

On November 2, the EPA also alleged that VW had fitted nitrogen oxide defeat devices on 3.0 liter diesel engines used in Porsche, Audi and VW vehicles – a claim VW denied.

Porsche also denied the allegations, but its North American division announced it is discontinuing sales of Porsche Cayenne diesel sport utility vehicles until further notice.

The carmaker is recalling 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide that were fitted with the software that circumvented tests for emissions of nitrogen oxide.

That recall is for cars with variants of the EA 189 diesel engine built to the “Euro 5” emissions standard.

Meanwhile, VW is recalling 92,000 cars in the US over a mechanical problem that could affect vehicles’ brakes.

The German carmaker said part of the camshaft could shear off, causing loss of vacuum in the power brakes, which could lengthen stopping distances.

Today’s recall includes Beetle, Golf, Jetta and Passat models from 2015 and 2016. The cars have 1.8 liter and 2 liter turbocharged petrol engines.

VW discovered the problem after getting reports of camshaft failures. A fix is expected by the end of March.


In a “state of the union” annual address in front of the European Parliament, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has announced plans that offer a “swift, determined and comprehensive” response to Europe’s migrant crisis.

Under the proposals, 120,000 additional asylum seekers will be distributed among EU countries, with binding quotas.

It comes after a surge of thousands of mainly Syrian migrants pushed north through Europe in recent days.

Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament it was “not a time to take fright”.Jean Claude Juncker on refugee crisis September 2015

He was heckled by UK anti-European Union politician Nigel Farage, but dismissed his comments as “worthless”.

Germany, the main destination for many migrants, supports quotas, but some EU countries oppose a compulsory system.

Hungary – a key point on a migrant route – has been warned to expect an additional 40,000 migrants by the end of next week.

In a separate development Australia, which has been under pressure to do more to help displaced people, has announced plans to take in more Syrian refugees.

The Australian government said it would accept 12,000 Syrian refugees from persecuted minorities.

During his address, Jean-Claude Juncker outlined the priorities of the European Commission.

He opened his speech by admitting the European Union was “not in a good situation… There is a lack of Europe in this union, and a lack of union in this union”.

He said tackling the crisis was “a matter of humanity and human dignity”.

“It is true that Europe cannot house all the misery in the world. But we have to put it into perspective.

“This still represents just 0.11% of the EU population. In Lebanon refugees represent 25% of the population, which has just a fifth of the wealth of the EU. Who are we to never make such comparisons?”

Among Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposals:

  • EU member states to accept their share of an additional 120,000 refugees, building upon proposed quotas to relocate 40,000 refugees which were set out in May (though governments then only actually agreed to take 32,000)
  • A permanent relocation system to “deal with crisis situations more swiftly in the future”
  • Commission to propose list of “safe countries” to which migrants would generally have to return
  • Efforts to strengthen the EU’s common asylum system
  • A review of the so-called Dublin system, which states that people must claim asylum in the state where they first enter the EU
  • Better management of external borders and better legal channels for migration

“It’s 160,000 refugees in total that Europeans have to take into their arms and I really hope that this time everyone will be on board – no rhetoric, action is what is needed,” Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament.

The proposals will be discussed by EU home affairs ministers on September 14 in Brussels.

The new plans would relocate 60% of those now in Italy, Greece and Hungary to Germany, France and Spain.

The numbers distributed to each country would depend on GDP, population, unemployment rate and asylum applications already processed.

Countries refusing to take in migrants could face financial penalties.

The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Romania have opposed the idea of mandatory quotas.

On September 8, though, Poland appeared to soften its position. PM Ewa Kopacz said Poland would accept more migrants than the 2,000 it first offered to take.

Germany has welcomed Syrian migrants, waiving EU rules and saying it expects to deal with 800,000 asylum seekers this year alone – though not all will qualify as refugees and some will be sent back.

The mass migration has seen those seeking an end to persecution, conflict and hardship travel by boat, bus, train and on foot, from Turkey, across the sea to Greece, through Macedonia and Serbia, and then to Hungary from where they aim to reach Austria, Germany and Sweden.


According to a German IWH institute study, the Greek debt crisis has saved the German government some €100 billion ($109 billion) in lower borrowing costs because investors have sought safety in German bonds.

The IWH study says that even if Greece defaults on all its debt, Germany would still benefit.

Greece is hoping to reach a third bailout agreement, worth up to €86 billion, with its creditors this week.

Germany has funded €90 billion so far and wants tough conditions for a new deal.

Greece missed two key payments to the IMF in June and July, before a deal on a bridging loan was thrashed out by EU leaders.Germany and Greece debt crisis

The terms of the third bailout need to be reached by August 20, when Greece’s next debt repayment to the European Central Bank becomes due.

Greek officials said negotiations were in the “final stretch”, prompting shares in Athens to jump more than 2%. But leading figures in Berlin were cautious that a final deal was close.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said “thoroughness comes before speed”.

German officials are keen for Greece to sign up to credible pension reforms and privatization plans, while the Athens government is looking for urgent funding to recapitalize the country’s ailing banks.

Any deal will have to be ratified by German parliament, many of whom object to handing more funding to the left-wing Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras.

However, the study by Halle Institute for Economic Research said Germany had made interest savings of more than 3% of GDP between 2010 and 2015, and much of that was down to the Greek debt crisis.

Greece sought its first EU-IMF bailout in 2010 and Germany provided funding over the past five years either directly or through the IMF or the European Stability Mechanism.

The IWH study says every time this year there was a spike in the Greek debt crisis, which made Greece’s exit from the euro appear more likely, German government bond yields fell. Whenever the news looked better, Germany’s bond yields increased.

Even if the situation were to calm down suddenly, Germany would still be expected to profit from the situation, the IWH argues, because medium- and long-term bonds issued in recent years are still far away from maturing.


Germany’s top prosecutor Harald Range, who had accused the government of interfering with a treason investigation, has been fired by Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection Heiko Maas has announced.

Heiko Maas said he no longer had confidence in Harald Range, dismissing his statements as “incomprehensible”.

Prosecutors are investigating whether the Netzpolitik website revealed state secrets in articles about plans to step up state surveillance.

News of the case sparked street protests last week over press freedom.Harald Range fired

The outcry put the German government on the back foot, with senior officials stressing that Germany was committed to press freedom and casting doubts over whether the articles constituted treason.

On August 4, in a rare public row between the German judiciary and the state, Harald Range said the government had asked him to drop an independent investigator from the inquiry, who concluded that one of the articles published did amount to a disclosure of a state secret.

The request, said Harald Range, amounted to “an intolerable encroachment on the independence of the judiciary”.

He said that while the freedom of press was valuable it was not “limitless”.

Minister Heiko Maas responded at a news conference in which he called Harald Range’s comments “incomprehensible and misleading”.

He said his trust in the prosecutor’s ability had “suffered lasting damage” and he had requested his dismissal.

Harald Range, who is 67-year-old, was due to retire in 2016. Munich’s chief public prosecutor, Peter Frank, has been named by Heiko Maas as his successor.

The state investigation, into two journalists at Netzpolitik.org, is currently paused. The journalists have called for the case to be dropped.

Their first story, in February, alleged that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency wanted additional funds to increase its online surveillance program.

A later article in April concerned the spy agency’s efforts to set up a special unit to monitor social networking websites.

Critics have accused Harald Range of double standards, with the prosecutor earlier this year dropping an investigation into alleged tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone by the US National Security Agency (NSA) over lack of evidence.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been criticized for appearing to be unsympathetic when a 14-year-old Palestinian refugee described what her life was like under threat of deportation.

Angela Merkel had told Reem Sahwil that not all migrants can stay in Germany.

However, Reem Sahwil has defended the way Angela Merkel dealt with her after she burst into tears while talking about her future.

Angela Merkel “listened to me and she also told me what she thinks about it, and I think that’s OK,” Reem Sahwil told ARD TV.

The conversation took place during a government-organized forum for young people, which was filmed and then broadcast.

In the video, Reem Sahwil tells Angela Merkel that her family had been waiting four years to gain permanent residency in Germany.Angela Merkel crying Palestinian refugee

They were told they would have to return to a camp in Lebanon imminently – only to receive a last-minute temporary German residency permit, she said.

“I would like to go to university,” said Reem Sahwil, in fluent German.

“It’s really very hard to watch how other people can enjoy life and you yourself can’t. I don’t know what my future will bring.”

Angela Merkel replied that “politics can be tough”, adding: “You are an extremely nice person but you also know that there are thousands and thousands of people in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.”

Germany could not manage if all of them wanted to move there, she said.

When Reem Sahwil began to cry, Angela Merkel went over to her and began stroking her on the back and telling her she had done well to highlight the difficulties facing refugees in Germany.

Within hours of the video being broadcast, the term #Merkelstreichelt (Merkel strokes) trended on Twitter.

Some social media users complained that Angela Merkel had “petted” the girl and failed to show enough sensitivity, although others defended the leader’s reaction.

Germany says it expects 400,000 asylum applications by the end of 2015 – more than double the amount it received in 2014.

The right-wing Pegida group has marched against what it calls the Islamization of Germany, and the country’s newest political party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), has called for tighter immigration control.

Al-Jazeera reporter Ahmed Mansour has been freed in Germany after being detained following an extradition request from Egypt, German prosecutors confirmed.

Ahmed Mansour, who works for the network’s Arabic-language service, was held on June 20 as he tried to board a flight from Berlin to Qatar.

A court in Egypt’s capital Cairo sentenced Ahmed Mansour to 15 years in prison in absentia last year on torture charges.

Al-Jazeera says the accusations against Ahmed Mansour are absurd and false.

“This was an unfortunate incident in Germany, but we are pleased that the mistake has been rectified,” said al-Jazeera’s acting director general, Mostefa Souag.Ahmed Mansour freed in Berlin

“We hope that this will be a lesson to the Egyptian authorities that the rest of the world values freedom of the press,” he added.

Ahmed Mansour’s lawyer, Patrick Teubner, told Associated Press that there were no further legal matters pending against his client in Germany.

Ahmed Mansour was released into a cheering crowd on June 22.

“Thanks to people around the world who supported me in the last days,” he said, according to AFP.

Earlier, the German government had said that it could veto an extradition decision from the court.

Foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer told a news conference that Germany has repeatedly questioned the rule of law in Egypt.

“Against this background, you will surely understand that there are doubts in the Mansour case,” he said.

“I don’t think one can say this loudly enough: Of course, nobody will be extradited from Germany who risks being sentenced to death abroad.”

Ahmed Mansour, along with two Muslim Brotherhood members and an Islamic preacher, is accused of taking part in the torture of a lawyer in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011, during protests against then President Hosni Mubarak.

Video footage of the incident shows the lawyer being kicked but does not show Ahmed Mansour, according to AP. The journalist later interviewed the preacher about the incident, the news agency says.

Al-Jazeera senior journalist Ahmed Mansour has been arrested in Germany at the request of Egypt.

Ahmed Mansour, who works for the channel’s Arabic-language service, was detained as he tried to board a flight from Berlin to Qatar.

Egyptian authorities had issued an international arrest warrant for Ahmed Mansour, a German police official said.

A Cairo court sentenced Ahmed Mansour, 52, to 15 years in prison in absentia in 2014 on torture charges.

Al-Jazeera says the claims made against Ahmed Mansour, who has dual British and Egyptian citizenship, are absurd and false.Al Jazeera Ahmed Mansour detained in Berlin

Ahmed Mansour tweeted on Saturday night: “I am still under arrest at Berlin airport, waiting to be taken before an investigating judge.”

Al-Jazeera reporter that Ahmed Mansour is expected to remain in custody until June 22 when he will go in front of a German judge.

A police spokesman said the arrest was made at 15:20 local time.

He added that the Egyptian-issued arrest warrant accused Ahmed Mansour of committing “several crimes” but he gave no further details.

Al-Jazeera said the Egyptian warrant was previously rejected by international police body Interpol as it did not meet its rules.

In a video recorded while detained, Ahmed Mansour described the incident as a “misunderstanding” and said he hoped it would be resolved quickly.

“It is quite ludicrous that a country like Germany would enforce and support such a request made by a dictatorial regime like the one we have in Egypt,” he added.

“Other countries must not allow themselves to be tools of this media oppression, least of all those that respect freedom of the media as does Germany,” said al-Jazeera acting director General Mostefa Souag.

Relations between Doha and Cairo have been strained by Qatar’s support for the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood organization in Egypt.

Three al-Jazeera journalists, including Australian Peter Greste, were arrested in Egypt in 2013 on charges of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi visited Germany earlier this month and met with Chancellor Angela Merkel.


A German walker was attacked and killed by an elephant which had escaped from a circus, police say.

The 65-year-old man was taking his regular morning walk in woods near the town of Buchen, south-west Germany, when he encountered the female African elephant, called Baby.

The 34-year-old elephant was later captured and returned to the circus.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

German police are now investigating how the elephant got out of its enclosure and why it acted so aggressively.

“There’s evidence of third-party involvement,” Heidelberg police spokeswoman Yvonne Schmierer told the AP news agency.

“Either someone forgot to shut the enclosure, or the elephant was released intentionally.”

The elephant had previously injured at least two people – including a man who was thrown in the air and a 12-year-old boy who suffered a broken jaw when he was hit by its trunk, local news agency Stimme reported.

PETA Germany was urging the authorities to remove the elephant from the circus, the agency reported.


The first victims’ remains of Germanwings plane crash have arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany, where they will be returned to families for burial about 11 weeks after the disaster that killed all 150 people onboard.

Lufthansa sent 44 coffins by cargo plane on Tuesday night from Marseille.

Elmar Giemulla, a lawyer for some of the families, said the arrival of the remains would give relatives “closure”.

Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz is believed to have intentionally flown the Airbus A320 into the French Alps in March, killing 150 people.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Sixteen of the victims were from the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium school in Haltern and were returning from an exchange trip in Barcelona when the plane crashed.

Families will be allowed to visit the coffins inside a hangar in Dusseldorf on Wednesday, June 10.

Elmar Giemulla told AFP: “The families are in denial. They cannot and do not want to realize that their children are dead.

“It will be brutal when they see the coffins tomorrow, but it is necessary, because they need closure.”

The remains of the rest of the victims will be sent back over the coming weeks. The passengers were from 18 countries, including Australia, Argentina and Japan, but most of those on board were either Spanish or German.

The repatriation of some of the bodies was delayed last week because of errors on the death certificates in France.

Germany was told of the risk of flying over eastern Ukraine shortly before Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down last July, but failed to pass on the alert, reports say.

According to diplomatic cables sent two days before the crash, the situation had become “very alarming”, German media say.

The cables cited the downing on July 14 of a Ukrainian air force plane at a height of about 20,000ft.

Flight MH17 was brought down three days later, with the loss of 298 lives.

The Malaysia Airlines plane had been flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and 196 of those on board were Dutch.

Photo PA

Photo PA

A Dutch-led international inquiry says one of the main scenarios for the disaster was that the plane was shot down by a Russian-made Buk missile launcher.

Investigators have appealed for witnesses to the launcher’s arrival in a rebel-controlled area shortly before the crash. Their final report is due to be published in October.

According to German public TV channels NDR and WDR and Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the foreign ministry cables had assessed the downing of the Antonov military plane on 14 July 2014 as a significant development because of its altitude at the time.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 had been flying at 33,000 ft when it was hit.

German intelligence had repeatedly warned of the risk to aviation security, the report adds.

A Lufthansa source tells German media that no communiqué was given to the airline of a change in the situation.

Three Lufthansa planes flew over the area on the day of the disaster – including one 20 minutes beforehand – and it was pure chance that none was hit, the report says. Other German airlines had been avoiding the region for some time.

According to German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble, Greece would struggle to find creditors outside the EU and IMF.

Wolfgang Schauble said Greece would be welcome to try to find investment from Beijing or Moscow, but may have difficulties.

His warning came after fears of a Greek debt default saw its borrowing costs jump 3.5 percentage points to 27%.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said his government refuses to consider leaving the EU: “Toying with Grexit… is profoundly anti-European.”

Yanis Varoufakis also promised to “compromise, compromise, compromise without being compromised” to satisfy current creditors.

Wolfgang Schauble and Yanis Varoufakis were speaking at talks in Washington.

On April 15, ratings agency S&P downgraded Greece’s credit rating.

Yields also rose on longer-term Greek borrowing, with the 10-year bond yield – the amount investors demand for lending – rising one percentage point to 13%.

Wolfgang Schauble said that the Greek government needs to find creditors.

“The Europeans have said, OK, we are ready to do it [lend money] until 2020… If you find someone else, whether it’s in Beijing, in Moscow, in Washington DC, or in New York who will lend you money, ok, fine, we would be happy. But it’s difficult to find someone who is lending you in this situation amounts [of] €200 billion.”

He added that Greece must focus on increasing its competitiveness and primary surplus.Germany and Greece finance ministers

Wolfgang Schaeuble was speaking after the Greek government’s borrowing costs surged on April 16.

According to the Financial Times, Greece had made an “informal approach” to the International Monetary Fund to have its bailout repayments delayed, but had been rebuffed.

However, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said at the World Bank spring meeting in Washington: “We have never had an advanced economy asking for payment delays.

“Payment delays are analysed as additional financing granted to that country. Additional financing means additional contribution by the international community – some of which are in much direr situations than the country eventually seeking those delays.

“Payment delays had not been granted by the board of the IMF in the last 30 years and it was eventually granted to a couple of developing countries and that delay was not followed by very productive results.

“It’s clearly not a course of action that would actually fit or be recommendable in the current situation.”

Greece owes the IMF some €1 billion ($1.06 billin) in repayments next month.

Many in the markets think the Greek government will struggle to make those payments if it does not agree an economic reform package with European creditors soon.

Failure to agree a plan with creditors will mean that the country will default, a development that could force the government to put limits on money transfers and even lead Greece to leave the euro.

EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said on April 16 that the EU was “not satisfied with the level of progress made so far” in debt negotiations.

Wolfgang Schauble had warned that he did not expect an agreement between Athens and its creditors in the next week.

However, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras on April 16 said he was “firmly optimistic” the Greek government could reach a deal with its creditors.

“Despite the cacophony and erratic leaks and statements in recent days from the other side, I remain firmly optimistic that there will be an agreement by the end of the month,” Alexis Tsipras said.

According to Alexis Tsipras, several points of agreement had been found since talks first started, including on areas such as tax collection, corruption and initiatives to distribute the tax burden on those who have the ability to pay.

HEe said the two sides still disagreed on four areas: labor issues, pension reform, an increase in value-added taxes and privatizations, which he referred to as “development of state property”.

In a later tweet, Alexis Tsipras said he was “certain that Europe will choose the path to democracy”.

Germany owes Greece nearly €279 billion ($303 billion) in war reparations for the Nazi occupation during World War Two, the Greek government says.

It is the first time Greece has officially calculated what Germany allegedly owes it for Nazi atrocities and looting during the 1940s.

However, the German government says the issue was resolved legally years ago.

Greece’s radical left Syriza government is making the claim while struggling to meet massive debt repayment deadlines.

PM Alexis Tsipras raised the reparations issue when he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin last month.

Photo Wikipedia

Photo Wikipedia

The new figure given by Greek Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas includes €10.3 billion for an occupation loan that the Nazis forced the Bank of Greece to pay.

“According to our calculations, the debt linked to German reparations is 278.7 billion euros,” Dimitris Mardas told a parliamentary committee investigating responsibility for Greece’s debt crisis.

Dimitris Mardas said the reparations calculation had been made by Greece’s state general accounting office.

Berlin paid 115 million Deutschmarks to Athens in 1960 in compensation – a fraction of the Greek demand. Greece says it did not cover payments for damaged infrastructure, war crimes and the return of the forced loan.

Germany insists the reparations issue was settled in 1990 legally and politically before Germany reunified.

Syriza politicians have frequently blamed Germany for the hardship suffered by Greeks under the tough bailout conditions imposed by international lenders.

PM Alexis Tsipras is trying to renegotiate the €240 billion EU-IMF bailout that saved Greece from bankruptcy. Greece has not received bailout funds since August last year, as the lenders are dissatisfied with the pace of Greek reforms.

A Greek repayment of €448 million to the International Monetary Fund is due on April 9.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said that Greece “intends to meet all obligations to all its creditors, ad infinitum”.

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Nine people are reported dead after a strong storm hit Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the UK.

Seven people were killed in Germany, including two men whose car was hit by a tree.

German media reports that there have been dozens of injuries from flying branches.

In Austria, a man fell from a ladder and suffered fatal head injuries while securing an awning over his patio.Storm Niklas Europe 2015

Forecasters said that on Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, winds of more than 118 mph were recorded.

Rail services were disrupted and the main station in Munich had to be evacuated due to concerns that parts of the roof might collapse.

A man in the UK was seriously injured when his car was crushed by a falling tree.

The biggest winds in the Netherlands were put at 75mph by weather site Weeronline. Toppled trucks were left scattered across Dutch roads.

As the storm, dubbed Niklas, swept from the west across Germany, regional rail services came to a halt in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, while many Germans were trying to get away ahead of the Easter holiday period.

A man was killed when a concrete wall fell on top of him in the eastern town of Gross Santersleben, police said.

Flights were disrupted at airports in Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich.

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Greece has threatened to seize German property as compensation for a Nazi atrocity in World War II.

Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos said he was ready to approve a Supreme Court ruling from 2000 backing payment to relatives of the 218 victims.

The debt-ridden government is already calling for Germany to pay billions of euros in wartime reparations.

Germany insists the issue of compensation was settled in 1990, before the country was reunified.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said on March 11 it was Germany’s firm belief that the question had been resolved legally and politically.

“We should concentrate on current issues and, hopefully what will be a good future,” he said, referring to Greece’s financial crisis and the Athens government’s proposals for a renegotiation of its bailout package from the EU and IMF.Greece threatens Germany over Nazi occupation debt

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras told parliament late on March 10 that he had a duty to pursue reparations dating back to the Nazi occupation of 1940-1944, arguing that Germany had adopted “silence, legal tricks and delays” since reunification in 1990.

However, the justice minister went further, saying he was prepared to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2000 relating to the massacre of 218 civilians in the central Greek village of Distomo on June 10, 1944.

The court ruled that Germany should pay €28 million to the relatives of those killed, although the decision was not enforced, and the dispute effectively reached stalemate in international courts in the following years.

The ruling allowed for German-owned property to be seized as compensation but it was never acted on by then-Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos.

Among possible assets are property belonging to Germany’s archaeological school and the Goethe Institute, a cultural association.

Greek relations with Germany have deteriorated in recent years because of the financial crisis, with Germany one of the big contributors to the eurozone bailout that began in 2010.

German ministers have been among the most vocal advocates for budget and income cuts in Greece, which has led to growing resentment among Greeks.

The new leftist government in Athens argues that austerity measures be relaxed, a demand opposed by Germany and other eurozone creditor nations.

Germany did pay compensation of 115 million Deutsche marks in 1960, as part of an agreement with several European countries for the Nazi occupation.

Greece says the 1960 deal did not cover key demands, including payments for damaged infrastructure, war crimes and the return of a forced loan exacted from occupied Greece.

PM Alexis Tsipras said Greece would honor its bailout creditors, but that he would not “abandon its irrevocable demands'” for World War II reparations.

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German lawmakers have voted to extend Greece bailout by another four months.

The bailout extension – approved by international creditors last week in exchange for a series of Greek government reforms – needs to be ratified by eurozone members.

Some German lawmakers had expressed doubts about the deal and there is substantial public skepticism but the vote passed easily.

It comes after police and protesters clashed during anti-government demonstrations in Athens on February 26.

They were the first such disturbances since Greece’s leftist Syriza was sworn in as the main government party exactly a month ago, promising to renegotiate the country’s debt and end austerity.

Dozens of activists hurled petrol bombs and stones at police and set cars alight after a march involving hundreds of protesters. Some carried banners calling for Greece to leave the EU and for its debt to be cancelled.

Eurozone finance ministers on February 24 approved a set of reform proposals submitted by Greece.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

As the dominant economic power in the EU, Germany’s approval was regarded as crucial – and on February 27 the overwhelming majority of lawmakers granted it. A total of 542 voted for the proposals, with 32 voting against and 13 abstentions.

The vote was preceded by a ferocious debate, with catcalling and jeering.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble spoke in favor of the deal, telling parliament: “We Germans should do everything possible to keep Europe together as much as we can.

“We’re not talking about new billions for Greece… rather it’s about providing or granting extra time to successfully end this program.”

There has been a chorus of skepticism about the deal inside Germany – with Thursday’s edition of the largest tabloid, Bild, emblazoned with the word “No!”, adding “No more billions for the greedy Greeks!”

Hawkish elements within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU (Christian Democratic Union) and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU (Christian Social Union), have portrayed the extension deal as leniency for Greece.

Wolfgang Schaeuble himself has expressed doubt about the Greek government’s commitment to reform.

However, German legislators felt they had no choice but to pass the vote, as a eurozone breakup could prove even more expensive than the bailouts and potentially undermine the credibility of the euro.

In Greece, the proposed bailout extension has also triggered dissent within the governing party.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras has defended it, but some on the hard left have accused Syriza of going back on pre-election pledges.

Even if the bailout extension goes through Greece still faces the formidable task of trying to service its debt obligations.

Greece will need to flesh out its reform program in detail by April and prove that reforms are bedding in before receiving a final disbursement of 7.2 billion euros.

In the meantime Greece has to repay several billion euros in maturing debts, including about 2 billion euros to the IMF in March, and 6.7 bilion in European Central Bank bonds maturing in July and August.

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Germany has rejected Greece’s request for a six-month loan extension to eurozone.

The rejection came despite the European Commission calling the Greek request “positive” only minutes earlier.

Greece had sought a new six-month assistance package, rather than a renewal of the existing deal that comes with tough austerity conditions.

However, a German finance ministry spokesman said the new plea was “not a substantial proposal for a solution”.

The Greek request letter includes a pledge to maintain “fiscal balance” for a six-month period, while it negotiates with eurozone partners over long-term growth and debt reduction.

The Greek government was also reported as saying that its extension proposal was in order to give Athens enough time, without the threat of “blackmail and time deficits”, to draw up a new agreement with Europe for growth over the next four years.Greece bailout Alexis Tsipras

The German finance ministry spokesman said the Greek request was an attempt at “bridge financing, without meeting the requirements of the program. The letter does not meet the criteria agreed upon in the Eurogroup on Monday.”

Shortly before the German rejection of the proposal, a European Commission spokesman said that Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker regarded the letter as a “positive sign, which, in his assessment, could pave the way for a reasonable compromise in the interest of the financial stability in the euro area as a whole”.

“The detailed assessment of the [Greek loan] letter and the response is now up to the Eurogroup,” the spokesman added, referring to the discussions due to take place on February 20 when European finance ministers meet in Brussels.

In comments aimed at Germany, a Greek government source said the Eurogroup had “just two choices: to accept or reject the Greek request. We will now discover who wants to find a solution, and who does not”.

Tomorrow’s vote on the Greek proposals must be unanimous. If no agreement appears likely before the ministers gather, the meeting could be postponed.

The uncertainty was reflected on stock markets, with the FTSE 100 and Frankfurt’s DAX index both losing early gains after Germany’s rejection.

Greece could run out of money by the end of February without a deal and deposits continue to flow out of its banks.

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A car park surveillance video shows a man striking Tugce Albayrak, who died after trying to stop the harassment of two girls.

Tugce Albayrak’s death on November 28 left Germany in shock. There were candle-lit vigils in Berlin and other cities.

The girls whom Tugce Albayrak defended have not yet given statements to police.

Bild newspaper published the video of the November 15 attack, outside a fast-food restaurant in the town of Offenbach, near Frankfurt.

Another man is seen trying to restrain the suspect, named only as Senal M, before he throws the fatal punch which leaves Tugce Albayrak lying flat on the ground, motionless among a group of people.

The student teacher was in a coma for two weeks before her life support was switched off on November 28, her 23rd birthday.Tugce Albayrak attack

Tugce Albayrak had intervened when she heard cries for help from the toilet of a fast food restaurant, German media report.

A post mortem examination was expected to be carried out on December 1, to determine whether it was the punch that killed her or the impact to her head when she hit the ground.

Thousands of Germans paid tribute to Tugce Albayrak at the weekend.

Germany’s President Joachim Gauck said she had shown “exemplary courage and moral fortitude”.

Police in Offenbach were hopeful that the release of the video would stir further witnesses to come forward.

The suspect, 18, is in custody. He is from the Sandzak region of Serbia and has confessed to striking Tugce Albayrak, German public radio station Deutsche Welle reports.

A petition calling for Tugce Albayrak, an ethnic Turk, to be awarded the national order for merit posthumously has gathered more than 100,000 signatures.

Confirming he would consider the award, President Joachim Gauck wrote to her family to say: “Like countless citizens, I am shocked and appalled by this terrible act. Tugce has earned gratitude and respect from us all.

“She will always remain a role model to us, our entire country mourns with you.”

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Germany is paying tribute to student Tugce Albayrak who was killed after defending two teenage girls reportedly being harassed by a group of men.

Around 150 people attended a vigil in Berlin in Tugce Albayrak’s memory on November 30.

President Joachim Gauck has described the student as a “role model”.

A18-year-old man is in custody over the November 15 attack, which left Tugce Albayrak in a coma. Her life support was switched off on Friday.

Tugce Albayrak had intervened when she heard cries for help from the toilet of a fast food restaurant in the town of Offenbach, near Frankfurt, where the two girls were being harassed, German media report.

Later, one of the men returned and attacked her in the car park, striking her head with a stone or a bat.Tugce Albayrak killed in Germany

Tugce Albayrak’s parents made the decision to turn off life support on her 23rd birthday when doctors told them she would never regain consciousness and was brain-dead.

A petition calling for Tugce Albayrak to be awarded the national order for merit posthumously has gathered over 100,000 signatures.

Confirming he would consider the award, President Joachim Gauck wrote to her family to say: “Like countless citizens, I am shocked and appalled by this terrible act. Tugce has earned gratitude and respect from us all.

“She will always remain a role model to us, our entire country mourns with you.

“Where other people looked the other way, Tugce showed exemplary courage and moral fortitude.”

Before today’s “civil courage” vigil on Oranienplatz in Berlin, tributes were paid in Offenbach, with people holding signs which read “Thank you, Tugce”.

Oranienplatz is in the heart of Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, which has a large Turkish community.

Tugce Albayrak, who was from the town of Gelnhausen, also near Frankfurt, was Turkish by origin.

Her attacker, named only as Senal M from the Sandzak region of Serbia, has confessed to striking Tugce Albayrak, German public radio station Deutsche Welle reports.