BERLIN/VILNIUS/RUKLA | | litauen

BERLIN/VILNIUS/RUKLA (Own report) - One year after the first deployment of German troops in Lithuania, the Bundeswehr has begun its third troop rotation. Within the framework of NATO's anti-Russia troop concentration in the Baltic region and Poland, the 292nd light infantry battalion from the town of Donaueschingen will take command of the multinational battle group in Rukla. The Bundeswehr is simultaneously enhancing its bilateral cooperation with Lithuania's armed forces, which are increasingly replacing old US-produced weaponry with German arms. They are buying the German Fuchs armored transport vehicles, worth 385 million euros - the country's most expensive procurement so far. This is one of the reasons why the Lithuanian military budget has skyrocketed 2.5 times its 2014 volume. The cooperation with Germany has been supplemented by the creation of a paramilitary force, being instructed by the Lithuanian army in Afghan insurgent combat techniques. more…

BERLIN/WINDHOEK | | namibia

BERLIN/WINDHOEK (Own report) - Berlin is forced to change its strategy in its efforts to ward off reparations demands for the genocide Germany carried out on the Ovaherero and Nama. Until now, the German government has simply refused to appear in court in New York for the class action lawsuit that had been opened in January 2017 and has refused to receive the court documents, in the hopes of causing a mistrial. It has finally decided to send a representative to the court hearings, not because of the massive protest by the victims' heirs, but because of a political intervention by the US embassy in Berlin, which no longer wanted to tolerate this brazen contempt of a US court. The German government however insists that it does not recognize the legitimacy of the New York court case - because of its claim of an alleged "state immunity." The victims' heirs have been considering occupation of the land that had once been robbed from the Ovaherero and Nama and is still owned by the heirs of German colonialists. more…

BERLIN/ERBIL/AL AZRAQ | | irak

BERLIN/ERBIL/AL AZRAQ (Own report) - The German Bundeswehr is about to reorient its presence in the Middle East. At their exploratory talks to form a coalition government, the CDU-CSU/SPD decided to phase out the mandate to train Iraq's Kurdish Peshmerga in Erbil - already at the end of April, according to recent information. At the same time, the German Armed Forces is preparing for a possible long-term deployment at the al-Azraq Air Base in Jordan. In addition to flying reconnaissance missions from this base, "other assignments" are in discussion, for example the training of Iraqi soldiers or dispatching "advisors" to various countries in the region. For many years, Berlin has been focused on obtaining political, economic and military influence in the Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region. However, the September 25, 2017 referendum on secession has considerably weakened the region, exposing it to growing Iranian influence. For the time being, it can hardly be considered a vehicle serving to implement German interests. more…

BERLIN/PARIS | | frankreich

BERLIN/PARIS (Own report) - Berlin and Paris are seeking a "new Élysée Treaty." On the 55th anniversary of the original 1963 Élysée Treaty, in which the Federal Republic of Germany and France committed themselves to hold "consultations" on major political issues, Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron announced the drafting of a new treaty aimed at "deepening" cooperation between the two countries and "strengthening" the EU. In a declaration, the parliaments of both countries called, for harmonizing almost the "complete range of policy issues." This would amount to massively enhancing the "German-French axis" and would impede the formation of significant intra-European alliances directed against it. At the same time, discussions on marginal intra-European financial transfers continue, which could offset the consequences - at least to a certain extent - of Germany's export surplus. Without these transfers, the economically divided euro zone threatens to disintegrate further. more…

WINDHOEK/BERLIN | | namibia

WINDHOEK/BERLIN (Own report) - Next week's (January 25) scheduled New York trial date in the reparations class action lawsuit for the German genocide carried out on the Ovaherero and the Nama, threatens again to be aborted. The Berlin Senate's Department of Justice continues to refuse receipt of the trial documents, being transferred to the German government, in accordance with international agreements. As confirmed by an internal memorandum, the Department of Justice is only obligated to forward documents concerning civil and commercial conflicts, not indictments concerning genocide, and the German government considers the Ovaherero - Nama lawsuit in violation of its "state immunity." Berlin is also invoking this "state immunity" argument against lawsuits brought by the decedents of victims of massacres committed by the Nazi SS and Wehrmacht in Greece and Italy. This argument has been raised to the level of a universal instrument to ward off prosecution for horrendous war crimes, and is applied even for crimes that were recently committed. more…

TUNIS/BERLIN | | tunesien

TUNIS/BERLIN (Own report) - Protests continue against the new Finance Act, which is leading to drastic price hikes in Tunisia, a site of German low wage production. The IMF had imposed the Act on the country to combat the consequences of the structural crisis, in which Germany had played a role in creating. German enterprises and the German government have contributed to Tunisia’s focusing its production on but a few export sectors - particularly the textile and cable production - which cannot offer any real possibilities for the country's development. Because of its heavy dependence on foreign enterprises, Tunis was forced to grant investors tax benefits, which helped drive that country into a dept trap. Last year, Tunisia had to pay nearly a fifth of its budget to foreign creditors, according to a study by the German Left Party-affiliated Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Within the framework of the G20-"Compact with Africa," Berlin is shaping Tunisia to fit the interests of German investors. more…

CAIRO/BERLIN | | aegypten

CAIRO/BERLIN (Own report) - Last year, the German government authorized a record number of arms exports to Egypt. As the government confirmed, permits, valued at around €428 million, were issued in 2017. Among the goods Cairo received are TyssenKrupp Marine Systems' submarines. The deliveries are being carried out in spite of serious accusations of grave human rights violations raised against the Egyptian military government. The case of an Italian post-grad student, who was possibly murdered in early 2016 by Egyptian police or secret service agents, has yet to be solved. In addition the Saudi-led coalition's war on Yemen is supported by the Egyptian navy. Germany is also providing arms to the coalition. According to reports, arms deliveries have recently been expanded to the United Arab Emirates. At the same time, even NATO countries are beginning to suspend their deliveries to the coalition, because of the humanitarian catastrophe caused in Yemen. more…

BERLIN/WASHINGTON | | usa

BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel is urging that PR measures be increased, to prepare the population for a more aggressive German global policy. The foreign ministry has already dispatched members of its staff "to schools and universities" to "explain" Berlin's foreign policy, Gabriel recently declared in a speech to foreign policy experts. The foreign ministry will also "increase its social media channels" and he called on entrepreneurs and shop stewards to explain the importance of foreign policy issues to employees. These measures must be seen in the context of Germany's ambition to assume an independent policy in global affairs and become more competitive to the USA. Berlin sees the Trump administration's course, which, at times, has sharply collided with German interests, as a lasting policy shift. Washington increasingly views the EU "as a competitor and sometimes even as an opponent," Foreign Minister Gabriel affirms; In the future Europe must rely more on strength than on "values." more…

SOFIA/BRUSSELS/BERLIN | | bulgarien

SOFIA/BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Own report) - Bulgaria exercises its EU Council presidency - which began January 1 - with Berlin's direct "counseling" and "assistance," according to reports of the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The foundation has been engaged in activities in Sofia along these lines, and has delegated its former Chairman and ex-European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering to serve as consultant in the Bulgarian capital. Since Bulgaria joined the EU on January 1, 2007, oligarchs have become the country's crucial power factor, controlling its fate, according to observers. Berlin easily tolerates this, because Prime Minister Boyko Borissov readily yields to German leadership, a former Bulgarian justice minister explained. The country, with its unrivalled starvation wages, serves as a production site for German businesses and as a reservoir to recruit skilled workers for Germany. more…