BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - The first telephone call between the German chancellor and the US president was flanked by appeals for the EU to close ranks. Following Saturday's call, both parties declared that they would "deepen" their bilateral relations. However, Berlin is preparing to assert its own interests offensively vis-à-vis Russia - also with the EU's help. This is why the EU must finally "close ranks," as German politicians are demanding. On Saturday, on his first foreign visit as German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel met his Parisian counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault. His vigorous insistence "that Germany and France demonstrate they have common positions on nearly all issues" was also aimed at closing the EU's ranks. While Gabriel was visiting France, the seven southern European countries' heads of states and governments - including the French president - were meeting in Lisbon to determine their own positions, also regarding their economic policy. In view of British Prime Minster Theresa May's recent visit to the USA, observers note that the Brexit is creating "a second geopolitical pole in Europe," and "for Germany, which has become accustomed to speak in the name of Europe, [...] this is not a favorable development." more…

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - Leading German media are demanding that the German government transform the EU into "an effective counterforce to Trump" and, thus become "the savior of the free world." Berlin must assume "a leading function" in the EU and assure that the rest of the member states "follow." Germany must take the "responsibility for leadership." It is "Europe's last powerhouse," one journal writes, in a snub to France, which, over the past few years, was unable to contend with Germany in the power struggle, and has lost much of its influence. Non-German observers doubt that Berlin will be able to sustain its claim to leadership within the EU. In Germany's capital, an abundance of "triumphalism and sense of mission" is felt, reported an experienced foreign policy expert. There is a widespread conviction that "Germany has a mission in Europe, to lead the others down the right path." Berlin refers particularly to France "with contempt." "The French have no idea and must be disciplined." The expert sees the possibility of coalitions in opposition to Germany being formed among EU countries. The German government is launching a new appeal for a common military policy and for "sticking together against Russia and the new US administration." more…

BERLIN/ATHENS | | griechenland

BERLIN/ATHENS (Own report) - The German Fraport Company is preparing, under very strong protests from Greek trade unionists, to take over the operation and management of 14 of Greece's airports. The concessions, which Fraport was awarded back in late 2015, will entrust the German company with the operational and management functioning of Greece's most profitable regional airports - for a duration of 40 years. Annual profits are estimated to begin at 90 million Euros. The Greek state with retain 23 regional airports, including several that are in acute deficit, but must still be expensively maintained, as links between remote islands and the Greek mainland. One of the most powerful Greek oligarchs has a share not only in Fraport's profits from the current takeover, but has for years been involved in operating the Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg. Fraport is one of the few German companies still investing in Greece. Many others are withdrawing from the country. The country's crisis had led to a massive reduction in consumption, which does not permit attractive profits. The most important exception to this rule is the tourism sector, from which the Fraport airports can make profits in processing vacation flights. more…

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - Germany's top politicians are calling on the EU to close ranks behind Europe's "central power," Germany, following President-Elect Donald Trump's recent declarations in an interview. Trump suggested the possibility of "deals" with Russia, predicted the further disintegration of the EU and pointed to Germany's dominant role within the EU. A new Russian-American world order is looming, according to Elmar Brok (CDU), Chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, it is therefore imperative that the EU "close ranks." Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed a similar opinion. Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, called for Russian and US disarmament and for enhancing the EU's militarization. He recommended that "German nuclear armament" not be discussed - at least "at the moment." more…

BERLIN/TRIPOLI | | libyen

BERLIN/TRIPOLI (Own report) - Berlin's efforts to influence developments in Libya are on the brink of failure. The "Government of National Accord," installed in Tripoli on behalf of the United Nations by the German diplomat Martin Kobler, is on the verge of disintegration. Following an Islamist militia coup attempt in October, its "Prime Minster" Fayez al-Sarraj, the West's main partner, was barely able to retain his position against insurgents within his ranks, earlier this year. Last fall, his strongest opponent, General Khalifa Haftar, who is cooperating with the elected Libyan parliament, has conquered Libya's most important oil shipment port and seems to be able to extend his power base. In case al-Sarraj and the "Government of National Accord" cannot hold their ground, Berlin and the EU would not only loose their main Libyan partner for warding off refugees. They would also loose ground in Libya to Russia's advantage, which had recently begun to cooperate with Haftar. As in Syria, this cooperation is based on a common struggle against Islamist militias. more…

STUTTGART |

STUTTGART (Own report) - The Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa, the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations), founded 100 years ago, had been a leading institution for the Nazi's "Germanization" policy in Eastern Europe, as historians have exposed in their research. The institute, which celebrated the anniversary of its January 10, 1917 founding yesterday - with the German foreign minister attending - is also active today in cultural exchange activities. For more than four decades, it has been coordinating Germany's contribution to the Biennale in Venice on behalf of the German foreign ministry. In the 1930s and early 1940s, the institute's staff had been engaged in using their contacts to members of German-speaking minorities abroad also for purposes of espionage. Following Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union, members of the institute's staff, such as Karl Stumpp, carried out ethnic surveys of settlements in today's Ukraine, thereby contributing to the annihilation of East European Jews. The institute, which had been disbanded by the Allies in 1945, was re-established in 1951 under the leadership of a former high-ranking cultural functionary of the Nazis. Still today, the institute is nurturing relations with German-speaking minorities abroad for use in the interests of German foreign policy. more…

BERLIN/WINDHOEK | | namibia

BERLIN/WINDHOEK (Own report) - Representatives of Namibia's Ovaherero and Nama peoples have filed a class action complaint, while Berlin is trying to get off cheap in the dispute over compensation for Germany's colonial crimes. The victims' descendants are demanding compensation for the seizure of their land and cattle and for the genocide perpetrated on their ancestors in South West Africa, a German colony at the time. The German government was poised to reach a negotiated settlement with the Namibian government in the compensation dispute. Windhoek was supposed to renounce all compensation claims and, in return, receive a "Future Foundation" to appease the Ovaherero and Nama peoples - who would otherwise be left empty handed - with memorial sites and other projects of cheap "commemorative culture." Berlin sees good chances to ward off compensation lawsuits. The relevant norms of international law, at the time, offer no basis for proceedings against the massacres in German South West Africa, according to an expertise of the Reference and Research Service of the German Bundestag. Genocide is a criminal offense only since 1948, and therefore cannot be retroactively prosecuted. The "Future Foundation" was scheduled to be soon inaugurated with an official apology by Germany's president. The class action complaint has now put this timetable on hold. more…