10/14/2013 04:28 PM
Round Two of Talks: Grand Coalition Looks Increasingly Likely
Angela Merkel's conservatives are holding their second round of preliminary coalition talks with the Social Democrats Monday and there's speculation that the parties could reach a deal sooner than expected. A government could be formed by mid-November.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives are meeting the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) for a second round of preliminary talks on Monday afternoon and plan to decide by the end of the week whether to start formal coalition talks with them or the Greens.
A grand coalition between the conservatives and the SPD -- Merkel's preferred option because it would give her comfortable majorities in both houses of parliament -- is looking increasingly likely.
So far at least, progress has been easier than anticipated. The two parties are finding scope for compromises on a range of domestic policy issues including the introduction of a minimum wage, tax policy and the energy revolution.
The allocation of cabinet posts could, however, prove contentious. The SPD wants the post of finance minister, a key position in tackling the euro crisis which is currently occupied by veteran Wolfgang Schäuble of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), but Merkel doesn't want to hand it over.
Wrangling Over Cabinet Posts
The SPD also wants the labor portfolio, which would require Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen to find another post. Rumor has it that she would like to be foreign minister, but sources have told SPIEGEL that Merkel may offer her the Health Ministry instead, a less attractive position.
There is speculation that Schäuble could become Foreign Minister and that SPD member Jörg Asmussen, currently on the European Central Bank's executive board, could replace him as finance minister.
Another difficult issue is likely to be dual citizenship. Merkel's CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), oppose it and the current law requires people born in Germany to foreign parents to choose by the age of 23 whether they want to be German or foreign citizens. The SPD wants to amend the law and allow permanent dual citizenship.
Merkel said last week she wants to know which party she will be entering formal coalition talks with by Oct. 22, when the newly elected Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, assembles for its first session.
That doesn't mean a new government will be in place by that date, though. It means she wants to be sure who her likely coalition partner is going to be.
'New Government by Mid-November'
Schäuble told reporters that a new government could be formed quite quickly. "I think we'll have a new government by around the middle of November," he said Saturday on the sidelines of international financial talks in Washington.
Merkel, who led her conservatives to their best general election result since the heady days of reunification in 1990, is just five seats short of an absolute majority.
Some observers said in the immediate aftermath of the election that the coalition talks could drag on to the end of the year or even into January. Germany may have a government a lot sooner than that.
10/14/2013 06:42 PM
Asylum Crisis: How Many Refugees Can Germany Handle?
By Jürgen Dahlkamp and Maximilian Popp
As Germany faces the highest number of refugee claimants in decades, it's becoming increasingly clear that the European asylum system is broken. But fixing it will involve hard decisions.
Friedersdorf in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. It's hard to grasp why 27-year-old Sina Alinia ended up here, in a shelter for asylum seekers. He's a civil engineer, a highly respected profession in Germany, for which there is a great demand. There are 16,400 unfilled jobs for civil engineers in Germany. And yet here he is, in a shelter at the end of the street, at the end of all streets, separated from Bitterfeld by six kilometers and nothing but empty villages.
Alinia, an Iranian, has been waiting to find out about his asylum request for two and a half years. It's almost like he was placed on a shelf and forgotten. His initial request was rejected and now the appeals process is underway. He hopes someone will finally give him something to do, something involving work. But because the immigration office wants him to remain in Saxony-Anhalt, and the employment agency doesn't want him to compete with others for jobs here, nothing happens.
Meanwhile, on an August morning at the Munich airport, 14 Egyptians arrive on the daily Lufthansa flight from Tbilisi. There were nine on yesterday's flight. Egyptian asylum seekers always arrive on the plane from Tbilisi, Georgia, because Egyptians don't need a visa for Georgia. And if they're just changing planes here on their way back to Egypt, they don't need one for Germany. But then instead of changing planes, they disembark. The German Federal Police calls them "transit jumpers." There were close to 600 of them in Munich between May to August. It is the easiest way to enter the asylum system.
Europe's current asylum policy, and its shortcomings, has become a major talking point since the recent tragedy off the Italian island of Lampedusa -- where more than 300 refugees died on Oct. 3. Their boat sank as it was making its way, illegally, from Libya to Europe. Last Friday, dozens died when another ship, this time with more than 200 refugees on board, sank off the coast of Sicily.
It's clear that this cannot continue, and yet it does. Although European Union interior ministers met in Luxembourg last Tuesday to discuss the problem, the EU's Dublin Regulation -- which stipulates that the country in which a refugee first enters the EU is where he or she must apply for asylum and stay -- is likely to remain unchanged. So what solution, if any, is there for Europe's growing refugee crisis? And how much asylum can Germany afford? How much does it want to?
Germany Confronts Its Conscience
For Germans, the issue is fraught with contradictions. There is the contradiction between the admirable concept of asylum, which emerged from the experiences of the Nazi era, and its everyday bureaucracy. Then there is the contradiction between the provisions of asylum laws, some of them tough, and how these laws are in fact applied, because they are not designed to accommodate the new realities. And there is also the contradiction between Germany's new, welcoming culture -- in which it insists that it does want more immigrants -- and its unchanged policy of deterrence -- which it employs to keep out those who would burden its social welfare system.
But the biggest contradiction of all is between their sense of decency and desire for prosperity. The Germans want to the save the world, partly because of their bad conscience, but they also want to protect their own wealth.
For years, these contradictions weren't problematic, because there were so few asylum seekers. But now the numbers have risen again, to more than 100,000 a year, the highest figure since 1997. For Dieter Wiefelspütz -- a departing representative of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), who spent 26 years working on immigration policy -- 100,000 is "the magic number." "When it goes above 100,000," he says, Bild, the conservative German tabloid, gets involved, and the discourse becomes more heated.
The debate around asylum policy is not unlike the Cold War. There's good and there's bad, and anything that doesn't fit into either of those two categories is dismissed. On the one side are the supportive groups, so to speak, like Pro Asyl, the churches, the Left Party, the Green Party and half the SPD. For them, no person is illegal, every claim of persecution can be substantiated, and deportation is always tantamount to aiding and abetting torture and murder.
On the other side, there are the enforcement agencies -- the immigration office and the federal police -- the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the other half of the SPD. For them, a law is a law, and deportation is merely the logical conclusion of a final court decision.
Both sides use asylum statistics to argue for their cause. This year, German authorities received 74,194 asylum applications by the end of September. (The number of applications normally increases at the end of the year, hence the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees' prognosis of over 100,000 asylum seekers for 2013.) But is that a lot or a little?
If you look at it one way, Germany will see 55 percent more applications in 2013 than 2012, and five times as many as in 2007. In 2012, Germany overtook France as the country with the largest number of asylum applications in Europe, by a substantial margin. Some 23 percent of all EU asylum seekers came to Germany in 2012. By comparison, Germans make up only 16 percent of the EU population.
On the other hand, 100,000 refugees is a relatively small number when you consider Germany's population of 81 million. Lebanon and Turkey, in contrast, have accepted more than a million refugees fleeing the war in Syria. And given that about a million foreigners immigrated to Germany in 2012 -- to work, study or join their families -- it seems like Germany should be able to handle 100,000 asylum seekers.
Pro Asyl uses the number of refugees per 1,000 inhabitants as its benchmark, in which case Germany is no longer in first place among countries accepting asylum seekers, but 10th, behind Malta, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland and other countries with small populations. "It's a disgrace for a country as rich as Germany," says Frankfurt lawyer Reinhard Marx, one of the country's top asylum law attorneys.
A Sharp Shift
If the CDU and the SPD can agree on anything when it comes to immigration policy -- and asylum policy, especially -- it is that the less the subject is discussed in public, the better. "I'm really not upset that immigration and asylum policy hasn't been the subject of such divisive debate in recent years than it was in the past," says CDU domestic policy expert Wolfgang Bosbach. The SPD also values the lack of popular and political outrage. "Immigration policy had lost some of its importance, which is why we were able to make adjustments here and there every few years," says Wiefelspütz.
It was a completely different story in the early 1990s, when the civil war in Yugoslavia drove up application numbers and prompted loud and intense disputes. The result was a misguided asylum compromise -- a compromise in name only -- that stipulated that any refugee who had arrived in Germany from a safe third country had no right to asylum. Because all of Germany's neighbors were "safe" countries, asylum as it was described in the German constitution became unattainable for most refugees.
In 2005, a battle over legislation ended with a curbing of immigration, despite economic experts' claims that the country needs about 500,000 highly qualified workers a year. The law, with its excessive requirements, became a deterrent.
Since then, immigration policy has quietly undergone one of the sharpest policy shifts in recent German history, as immigration and asylum policies have become friendlier and more liberal, even among conservatives.
Take, for example, the right of residence. The Central Aliens Registry classifies about 90,000 people as being "tolerated," meaning they are asylum seekers whose applications were rejected but cannot be deported. This could be for humanitarian reasons, because their native countries are refusing to allow them to return, because it is unclear what their native country is, or because they claim no longer to have papers (as is the case with 80 percent of asylum seekers).
Many of these "tolerated" aliens were able to gain a foothold in Germany over the years. They learned to speak German, had children and played football in their local clubs. But their long-term prospects were always tentative -- their so-called toleration, or suspension of deportation, had to be renewed every six months.
In 2007, the Grand Coalition of the CDU and the SPD in Berlin agreed to grant the right of residence to tolerated individuals who had already been in Germany for at least six years, had a job and were able to support themselves. This rewarded those who had made a concerted effort to become integrated, as well as those who had, for whatever reason, successfully managed to fight off deportation. Pushed by the CDU, the federal government later introduced a right of residence for well-integrated young people who had attended a German school for at least six years.
'A Paradigm Shift'
"The right of residence was a paradigm shift," says Minister of State in the Federal Chancellery Maria Böhmer. Böhmer, the government's commissioner for integration, is among the innovators within the CDU. So is Christine Haderthauer, a member of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and Bavaria's minister for social affairs. Haderthauer was once considered a hardliner. The idea of helping refugees who were supposed to be deported become more integrated would have been inconceivable in Bavaria years ago. Now she speaks proudly about a pilot project providing German language instruction to asylum seekers and tolerated individuals in 40 communities. The Haderthauer model is all the rage in the CDU/CSU, and it has piqued the interest of state interior ministers nationwide.
The same trend towards a more welcoming policy has continued in recent years. Today, for instance, asylum seekers only have to wait nine months instead of a year before being allowed to work (unless the employment agency refuses to issue a work permit on the grounds that it would be detrimental to the local employment market, as in the case of Iranian engineer Sina Alinia). And now Bavaria and Saxony are the only states that still require asylum seekers to remain within an administrative region, the so-called residency requirement. Some states are now allowing asylum seekers to travel to neighboring states, that is, from Lower Saxony to Bremen, or from Brandenburg to Berlin.
The fact that even the CDU/CSU has softened on immigration issues is partly attributable to demographic changes. Germany, as one of the world's top exporting nations, cannot dispense with refugees if it doesn't know where it will get its future trainees and skilled workers.
And interior ministers, especially those with the CDU, have learned that being tough on asylum seekers is often politically more costly than advantageous. In many cases, deportations have caused resentment among the party's traditional voters: church congregations, local dignitaries and middle-class citizens who don't understand why, after so many years, their party suddenly wants to see a nice immigrant family deported. Even in the election campaign, when Interior Minister Friedrich was recently expected to launch into a heated debate over immigration policy with Green Party Chairman Cem Özdemir and SPD parliamentary group secretary Thomas Oppermann, it turned out their respective positions weren't that different.
How Do We Regulate EU Borders?
This sense of consensus is a good thing. After all, a modern, cosmopolitan country should be more welcoming and warm-hearted, and offer asylum to more people. But the conflicts that were the subject of such bitter disputes in the past haven't gone away; they have merely been concealed. And the more asylum seekers there are, the more these conflicts come back to the fore.
The rising numbers of refugees, for instance, make it impossible to sustain the practice of housing asylum seekers in apartments in regular neighborhoods. Instead, municipalities are once again renting remote, empty buildings in the countryside, where asylum seekers already feel like they've been deported. Some refugees are also being housed in containers, which many don't want to see in their neighborhoods.
Sometimes residents start consulting zoning maps and calling their attorneys the moment they hear of a plan to house asylum-seekers in their neighborhood. This was recently the case in Hamburg's Lokstedt neighborhood, where plans to build an emergency shelter in an industrial zone failed.
The rising numbers are once again drawing attention to the old core issues: How many refugees should Germany accept? How many are too many? How many are truly entitled to asylum, and how many are abusing the right?
The Federal Police has been concerned about the numbers for months. Its mission, together with immigration authorities, is to prevent illegal entry and to deport foreigners who are not allowed to be in Germany. But this is increasingly a losing battle, because several countries are no longer complying with the Dublin Regulation.
'The System Is Breaking Down'
The system is breaking down. In 2011, German border agents noted 21,156 illegal entries. Last year the number increased to 25,670, and this year there had already been 23,000 illegal entries by the end of September. "We now have uncontrolled immigration," says a German Federal Police officer. Laws and agreements are being ignored in places like Italy, Poland and Greece.
On Aug. 23, the Italian police detained 27 Syrians and one Afghan on board the Eurocity train from Verona to Munich. By law, they should all have been entered into the Eurodac fingerprint database for asylum seekers, since they had filed asylum applications in Italy. Oddly enough, however, not one of them appeared in Eurodac. "The Italians are no longer fingerprinting many of their asylum seekers," says a frustrated German Federal Police officer.
This is to prevent other EU countries from immediately sending them back to Italy, as provided under the Dublin Regulation. Italy also sometimes gives refugees €500 and provides them with a tourist visa, or "titolo di viaggio." About 300 of these phony tourists are now living on the street in Hamburg, dependent on the charity of churches and other aid organizations.
Different Paths to Germany
Every day, several hundred refugees from the Russian Federation, mostly Chechens, try to enter Poland. By the end of September 2013, 13,492 had ended up in Germany, an increase of 754 percent over the first nine months of 2012. Because Poland can't handle that many Chechens, the authorities allow the refugees to continue on to Germany -- even if it's a violation of the Dublin Regulation.
In Chechnya traffickers spread the rumor that Germany is greeting Chechen refugees with open arms and paying them a €4,000 welcome bonus. They guarantee refugee status on websites like transfer.vov.ru, and when asked if refugees who are not being politically persecuted will run into any problems, they say: "Absolutely not. All you have to do is prepare a decent story. And our immigration lawyers take care of that." The traffickers charge a fee of €8,000 for the service, which suggests that those coming to the EU aren't exactly the weakest and poorest.
German authorities have been barred from sending asylum seekers back to Greece since early 2011, even when it is clear that they entered the EU through Greece. That's because the conditions are too poor in Greece and the treatment of refugees too inhumane. German courts have also blocked returns to Italy in more than 200 cases. According to the Frankfurt Administrative Court, refugees are likely to face "inhumane and humiliating treatment" there. Some refugees are also claiming ignorance about how they entered Germany, so that authorities have no way of knowing which country to return them to.
The Roma Problem
In a report, Markus Ulbig (CDU), the state interior minister in Saxony, suggests there are serious abuses of the asylum by Roma entering the EU from the Balkans. Last year, Serbia was the top country of origin among asylum seekers in Germany, with Macedonia in fifth and Kosovo in 10th place. Close to 15,000 people came from those three countries, and many were members of the Roma ethnic group.
In the Macedonian capital Skopje, the interior minister went on record as saying that the reason for the rise in Roma emigration to Germany was a July 2012 ruling by the German Constitutional Court that asylum seekers must be given more money so that they can live in decent conditions. The director of Catholic Charities Roma project in Skopje is also critical of the money Germany had temporarily been paying Roma if they agreed to return home voluntarily, arguing that it provided an additional incentive to those seeking asylum in Germany.
Of course, there are many cases in which Roma have been denied rights and treated with hostility, which makes verification all the more difficult. The fact that most Roma immigrate before the winter may suggest that they travel north primarily for reasons of sustenance, not persecution. This leads to complaints among Germans, including Interior Minister Friedrich, about "poverty refugees" who are merely out to take advantage of the German social welfare system.
Friedrich may be technically right in many cases, but it also suggests that, while it is noble to flee from war and persecution, it is reprehensible to do so for reasons of poverty, hunger, disease and despair. This forces everyone through the same bottleneck of having to argue they are being politically persecuted. It leads to made-up stories, "toleration" and refugees being placed into holding patterns. This is one of the reasons the current system isn't working.
A Man with a Plan
When it comes to German asylum cases, all roads lead to the BAMF office in Nuremberg. The agency has 1.9 million asylum files, and a 442-gigabyte asylum database called "Maris." BAMF head Manfred Schmidt knows there are no streamlined, quick solutions to asylum problems. But he doesn't hide behind the lawmakers' rules. In fact, he has a proposal.
The BAMF president wants to administer an entry examination to asylum-seekers before they can apply for asylum. It would be a preliminary step, so that not every refugee is driven into an often hopeless asylum application process simply because it's the only way to remain in Germany.
"We have to reject 70 percent of the applications," says Schmidt. "They're mostly people who have left their countries because of economic hardship, and then they encounter our asylum process, in which economic reasons to flee their countries are not considered valid." As a result, he says, they tell stories that are not credible and are rejected. Or they tell the truth, which is that they have come to Germany looking for work because there is no work at home -- and are rejected.
"These include students and highly qualified skilled workers, but because their trafficker has told them they should request 'asylum' and throw away their papers, they become trapped within the system." In his opinion, this is "schizophrenic," because Germany is in urgent need of skilled workers.
A Different Road to Residency
This is why he recommends a preliminary examination focused on the question: Is this foreigner a skilled worker, or could he or she easily become one? If so, could he or she be given a residence permit as a labor immigrant?
Minister of State Böhmer is also receptive to the concept. "I don't want qualified workers to feel that applying for asylum is their only option," says Böhmer. "Part of the welcoming culture is not to allow them to head in the wrong direction."
Saxony Interior Minister Ulbig agrees. "The whole country is clamoring for skilled workers, but highly qualified asylum seekers are wasting away in the shelters." Ulbig envisions a deviation from current asylum cases, a "qualification relay" into the labor market.
This benefits only a portion of asylum seekers. A BAMF analysis for 2010 to 2012 concludes that more than a quarter of asylum seekers have attended high school and 10 percent have had at least some higher education. On the other hand, more than 40 percent are illiterate or have only an elementary school education. Still, the Schmidt proposal would be a start, and because it would primarily attract refugees with sufficient qualifications, it wouldn't exert an unwanted magnet effect.
This goes hand in hand with a demand being made by refugee associations: the abolition of the priority review, with which asylum seekers and tolerated individuals must contend during their first four years. During this time, they can only qualify for jobs for which the local employment agency is unable to find applicants from the EU. This creates enormous costs and leads to stories like that of Iranian engineer Alinia. It is also difficult to justify in a country with less than 200,000 asylum seekers and tolerated individuals.
There are plenty of small adjustments that can be made -- but each has its own complex moral arithmetic. Take the right of residence for young people, for example. By attempting to clear up their status, they could compromise their parents' made-up stories. Should the children be punished for protecting their parents, or should the parents be spared, even though they deceived and lied to the authorities for years? And then there are the "transit jumpers" at the Munich airport. If Germany introduces a transit visa for Egyptians, their numbers will decline. But this would also be a political insult to Egypt.
Reform Needed for the Dublin Regulation
One area urgently in need of reform is the Dublin Regulation, which forces countries on Europe's periphery into a defensive position. Because of their long EU external borders, they should in fact be required to accept most refugees. But because these countries -- Italy, Poland and especially Greece -- are utterly overwhelmed as a result, they undermine the regulation.
In theory, the Greeks receive assistance from Germany in return for this imbalance. In reality, this September, the German Federal Police only sent seven of its 30,000 officers to Greece to serve with Frontex, the EU agency charged with securing the external borders.
And what about financial assistance to care for refugees? "The Federal Ministry of the Interior has not issued any direct payments yet to support the Greek asylum system," says a spokesman in Berlin. The European Union paid about €34 million ($46 million) from 2008 to 2012, or less than €7 million a year. "The poorest ones on the edge of Europe are supposed to do the work for us, the rich ones, in the middle. But we couldn't care less about how they're supposed to do that," says an officer with the German Federal Police.
Greece responds by making life there intolerable for refugees. "What the Greeks are doing is a disgrace for Europe, but we're also leaving them alone with the problem," says SPD domestic policy expert Wiefelspütz, noting that the situation cannot be allowed to continue. Not in Hungary, where pregnant female refugees remain locked up in detention centers until their delivery dates. Not in Italy, where many asylum seekers are recognized but are then sent into the streets. And not in Poland, where several refugee dormitories have already been set on fire.
Europe as a 'Shunting Yard'
The Dublin Regulation has transformed Europe into a "shunting yard," says Frankfurt asylum law attorney Dominik Bender. Countries in the north, including Germany, are sending refugees back to the south, where they often have no livelihood. "The promise of protection is broken a thousand times over. The Dublin system has failed," says Bender, arriving at the same conclusion as many a Federal Police officer, albeit for other reasons. At the Federal Police, they believe that "Dublin" has failed because the refugees are not being shunted off on time, and because Germany is already accepting more refugees today than Italy, Greece and Poland combined.
Nevertheless, the German government is clinging to the Dublin Regulation. The German government would rather trust a disintegrating system because it benefits Germany, than to take the risk of it being replaced with something else. When Pope Francis declared the day after the boat accident off the coast of Lampedusa to be a "day of weeping" and European Parliament President Martin Schulz called it "a disgrace" that the "EU left Italy alone for so long," German Interior Minister Friedrich insisted the Dublin Regulation would "of course remain unchanged."
Friedrich also said the situation needs to be improved in the countries where refugees come from -- a hope so pious only God could fulfill it. Even politicians in the CDU/CSU now question whether this is the way to defend the Dublin Regulation, amid the growing pressure from EU countries in the south. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso plans to place the subject of asylum at the top of the agenda during the upcoming EU summit at the end of the month.
Refugee organizations like Pro Asyl want the EU to implement what it calls a "free shop principle," under which each refugee could apply for asylum in only one country, but in the country of his or her choosing. As humane as this sounds, it could have an undesired effect: a competition among EU countries over which country is most effective at deterring refugees.
A contingent solution, similar to the way refugees are distributed among the states in Germany, would be more effective: the more productive the country, the more refugees it accepts. This would avert a run on two or three especially popular countries in the north.
Experts, however, fear a bureaucratic monster. Perhaps it would be better if EU countries were to allocate money to each other, with financial compensation being paid to offset asylum costs. "It's all incredibly complicated, but we have to address the problem," says an SPD politician in Berlin. The asylum system cannot be allowed to continue in its current form. Not in Germany, not in Europe, not for the authorities and, most of all, not for the refugees. This, at least, is something on which almost everyone agrees.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
Germany blocks EU car emissions law
Lobbying from Germany carmakers leads EU ministers to reopen deal to limit average new car emissions to 95g CO2 per km
theguardian.com, Tuesday 15 October 2013 09.10 BST
Higher average car emissions by German manufacturers including BMW and Daimler have led to lobbying to undo an EU deal capping new car emissions Higher average car emissions by German manufacturers including BMW and Daimler have led to lobbying to undo an EU deal capping new car emissions Photograph: Matthias Schrader/AP
European Union environment ministers agreed on Monday to German demands to scrap an agreement to cap EU car emissions that Berlin argued would cost jobs and damage its premium car makers.
After months of forceful lobbying from Germany, the ministers from the 28 EU member states agreed to reopen a deal sealed in June, but said they would work to secure it in weeks, not months.
German carmakers Daimler and BMW produce heavier and less fuel-efficient vehicles than those from firms such as Italy's Fiat, meaning they would find it challenging to meet a proposed EU cap on carbon emissions of 95 grams per kilometre for all new cars from 2020, analysts say.
"It's not a fight over principles but how we bind the necessary clarity in climate protection with the required flexibility and competitiveness to protect the car industry in Europe," Germany's environment minister Peter Altmaier said.
"I am convinced we can find such a solution. We can find it in the next weeks," he said.
EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard told reporters she was disappointed that agreement on implementing a target first laid out five years ago had been blocked.
"It is not a terrific thing that we could not conclude on cars," she said.
She also said flexibility was limited and a German proposal to delay full implementation of the 95g CO2 target for four years to 2024 was not acceptable.
Environment campaigners say Germany is abusing the EU's democratic process, throwing away the chance to make European cars more energy efficient and to reduce the bloc's dependency on oil imports.
British-based consultancy Cambridge Econometrics researched how much Europe would save on oil imports if the 95 g/km target was implemented across the EU fleet. It found the EU as a whole would save around 70 billion euros ($94.94 billion) per year, while Germany would save 9 billion euros in fuel bills.
"It's an unacceptable price, which will be paid by every European driver in higher fuel bills, by the planet that will warm quicker and potentially by Europe's auto sector that will be less competitive," said Greg Archer, a programme manager at campaign group Transport & Environment.
"The deal struck in June was a reasonable political compromise. Now we go back to the drawing board."
Although Germany managed to get the support of other EU ministers on Monday, many member states have voiced unease at the manner in which Berlin blocked the deal.
Sweden's environment minister Lena Ek said the risk was that further delays could hold back adoption of the rules until 2015 because of impending European Parliament elections next year and the appointment of new commissioners.
Germany would bear "a very heavy responsibility", she told reporters.
As well as seeking to protect its carmakers, Germany also wants to avoid the car emissions law complicating its decision on forming a new governing coalition.
The German Greens are strongly in favour of cutting CO2 to 95 grams per kilometre, but chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservatives support the German carmakers.
10/11/2013 05:36 PM
New German Biography: Hitler's Underestimated Charisma
Interview conducted by Jan Fleischhauer
There's no disputing Adolf Hitler was responsible for some of the most monstrous acts ever committed. In an interview about his new biography, however, historian Volker Ullrich discusses a dictator who was an anti-Semite but also a man of considerable charm.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Ullrich, how normal was Adolf Hitler?
Ullrich: He was not as crazy as some scholars of psychohistory would have us believe, at least, with their far too simplistic lines of argumentation. He may even have been more normal than we might wish.
SPIEGEL: Most people consider Hitler a psychopath. Many historians, too, believe that someone capable of committing such crimes cannot have been normal.
Ullrich: Hitler was without a doubt exceptional in his criminal deeds. Yet in many respects, he was not at all out of the ordinary. We will never be able to understand the terrible things that happened between 1933 and 1945 if we deny from the outset that Hitler also had human characteristics, and if we fail to take into account not only his criminal energies, but also the appealing qualities he had. So long as we view him only as a horrifying monster, the allure he undoubtedly exerted will remain a riddle.
SPIEGEL: Joachim Fest published a comprehensive biography of Hitler in 1973 and Ian Kershaw another one, in two volumes, beginning in 1998. What was your motivation for producing a third major biography?
Ullrich: Fest approached Hitler from a position of abhorrence and aversion. One central chapter of his book is titled "View of an Unperson." Kershaw was primarily interested in the societal structures that made Hitler possible, while the person himself remains somewhat pallid in his treatment. I bring the man back to the forefront. This creates not a completely new picture of Hitler, but still a more complex and contradictory one than we're familiar with.
SPIEGEL: "Hitler the Person" is the name of a chapter that you yourself describe as the key chapter in your book, which will be published this week. What was Hitler like as a person?
Ullrich: The remarkable thing about Hitler was his talent for dissimulation. His formidable abilities as an actor are often overlooked. There are only very rarely situations where we can say he was being genuine. This is what makes it so difficult to answer the question of what he was like as a person. He could be very pleasant, even to people he detested. Yet he was also incredibly cold even to people very close to him.
SPIEGEL: At one point in the book, you write of a "captivating charm." Charm is a quality not usually associated with this criminal of the century.
Ullrich: A good example of his ability to ingratiate himself is his relationship to German President Paul von Hindenburg, who initially had considerable reservations about the "Bohemian corporal," as he called Hitler. Yet within a few weeks of being appointed chancellor, Hitler managed to get Hindenburg so completely wrapped around his finger than he would sign off on whatever Hitler demanded of him. Joseph Goebbels noted frequently in his diaries that the dictator not only could chat very pleasantly among his close acquaintances, but absolutely knew how to listen as well.
SPIEGEL: On the other hand, there would sometimes be these switches into uncontrolled behavior. The seemingly smallest incident could trigger a fit of rage.
Ullrich: My impression is that most of his rages were staged. He did this deliberately, to intimidate people, when just talking with his political opponents didn't achieve what he wanted. Within minutes, he could be once again behaving with complete control over himself and playing the attentive host.
SPIEGEL: There was little in Hitler's background initially that would seem to suggest a career as a mass murderer. Instead of fulfilling his father's wish that he become an upstanding bureaucrat, Hitler withdrew to draw and read. "Books were his world," one childhood friend said.
Ullrich: Hitler was an avid reader, a passion that stayed with him through all the phases of his career. The Federal Archives in Berlin has receipts, showing titles and prices, from the Munich bookstore where Hitler purchased his books. These show what an immense quantity of books he ordered, especially on architecture, although biographies and philosophical works interested him as well. Hitler consumed books incredibly quickly, but also very selectively. He only read works that fit his worldview and that would be of use in his political career.
SPIEGEL: Would you go so far as to call him an artistically minded person?
Ullrich: His interest in art was certainly exceptional. On home leave in September 1918, he spent his time not in brothels, as his comrades did, but at Berlin's Museum Island.
SPIEGEL: In other words, perhaps we could say: Beware of artists in politics.
Ullrich: That's a good bon mot. But Hitler was never more than average as an artist. His great talent was for the games of politics. It's easy to underestimate the exceptional qualities and abilities he brought to bear in order to succeed in this field. In the space of just three years, he rose from an unknown veteran to the king of Munich, filling the city's largest halls week after week.
SPIEGEL: Hitler was a lone wolf. He didn't smoke, didn't drink, and eventually became a vegetarian. How does such an eccentric become a magnet for the masses?
Ullrich: Munich around 1920 was an ideal environment for a right-wing agitator, especially one who could give speeches as fiery as Hitler's. But he was also a skilled tactician, outmaneuvering his competition step by step. He surrounded himself with followers who looked up to him devoutly. And he secured the support of influential patrons, especially the Bruckmanns, a well-respected couple in the publishing world; the Bechstein family, who made pianos; and of course the Wagners in Bayreuth, who soon came to treat him like one of the family.
SPIEGEL: Even the earliest reports of Hitler as a speaker note the exchange of energy between him and his listeners. "I had a peculiar sensation," one eyewitness wrote in June 1919, "as if their excitement was his doing and at the same time also gave him voice in return."
Ullrich: To understand Hitler's power as a speaker, we must consider that he was not just the bellowing tavern demagogue we always picture, but in fact constructed his speeches very deliberately. He began very calmly, tentatively, almost as if he were feeling his way forward and trying to sense to what degree he had a hold of the audience so far. Not until he was certain of their approval did he escalate his word choice and gestures, becoming more aggressive. He continued this for two or three hours until he reached the climax, an intoxicating peak that left many listeners with tears running down their faces. When we watch clips of his speeches now, we're generally seeing only the conclusion.
SPIEGEL: The writer Klaus Mann, who observed Hitler devouring a strawberry tart at Munich's Carlton Tea Room in 1932, afterward wrote, "You want to be dictator, with that nose? Don't make me laugh." Did it require a certain sort of disposition to be fascinated by Hitler?
Ullrich: Klaus Mann had an instinctive, aesthetically motivated repulsion from the outset. But there are also reports of people who held a very negative view of Hitler at first, yet still got swept up and carried away when they experienced him. Among the effects of Rudolf Hess, who served as Hitler's private secretary starting in 1925, I found letters in which he described to his fiancée their agitation tours around Germany. In one letter, he describes a gathering of business leaders in the city of Essen in April 1927. When Hitler entered the room, he was met with frosty silence, complete rejection. After two hours, it was thunderous applause. "An atmosphere such as at (Munich's) Circus Krone," Hess wrote.
SPIEGEL: The slavering fervor of Hitler's party convention speeches sounds in our ears to this day. How did his voice in private differ from the one he used in public?
Ullrich: Very few recordings exist in which Hitler can be heard speaking normally. But in those that do exist, it's evident he possessed quite a warm, calm voice. It's a completely different tone from what he used in his public appearances.
Was Hitler Truly an Anti-Semite?
SPIEGEL: Fest was once asked in an interview, "Was Hitler an anti-Semite?" Meaning, in other words, whether his hatred of Jews stemmed from a conviction he truly held, or was primarily a means toward stirring up the masses. Was Hitler an anti-Semite?
Ullrich: Without a doubt. Anti-Semitism -- at its most radical, in fact -- was the core of his personality. It is impossible to understand Hitler without it. Saul Friedländer described it as "redemptive anti-Semitism," which fits very well. Hitler saw Jews as the embodiment of all that was bad, the root of all evil in the world.
SPIEGEL: But that wasn't the case from the start.
Ullrich: In his manifesto "Mein Kampf," Hitler made it sound as if he had become a fanatical anti-Semite while still in Vienna. But there is no evidence that he made any derogatory comments about Jews before moving to Munich. On the contrary, in the men's dormitory where he lived for three years in Vienna, he maintained decidedly friendly contact with Jews. The dealers who bought his paintings at a decent price were also Jews.
SPIEGEL: Did he experience something like a conversion experience to anti-Semitism?
Ullrich: We know that Hitler became a radical anti-Semite during the revolution in Munich in 1918-19, which he experienced firsthand and which first swung very far to the left, then swung back very far to the right. The Munich Soviet Republic that briefly came into existence included several Jews in leading positions -- Ernst Toller, Eugen Leviné and Erich Mühsam. This led to anti-Semitism that spread through the city like a fever.
SPIEGEL: You refer to a previously unknown letter from August 1920, in which a Munich law student recorded Hitler's views after an encounter with him. When it came to Jews, Hitler said, he believed the virus must be eradicated, and that the existence of the German people was at stake. How seriously did Hitler mean such statements at that point?
Ullrich: The political project that arose from his worldview did not yet consist of mass murder. Despite all the rhetoric of annihilation, "getting rid of the Jews" at that point meant expelling them from Germany. The so-called "Final Solution," meaning the systematic murder of Europe's Jews, did not enter into the plan until the beginning of World War II.
SPIEGEL: By the time of the Kristallnacht pogroms on Nov. 9, 1938, at the latest, it was clear that all those the regime considered its enemies were now without rights or protection. You write, rightly, that Germany took its leave of civilized nations at that point. But even this failed to detract from Hitler's popularity.
Ullrich: It's not easy to say what the general population's view of those pogroms was. Based on sources such as Gestapo reports on the general atmosphere in the country, I tend toward the view that the majority of people did not approve of this violence. Interestingly, "Kristallnacht" was not associated with Hitler. He managed to remain behind the scenes, even though he was the one pulling the strings, with other Nazi leaders being held responsible. This exoneration, along the lines of people saying, "If the Führer had known about it…" comes up again and again.
SPIEGEL: That Hitler gave considerable thought to his image can also be seen in the way he approached the issue of money. While he presented himself outwardly as a humble leader, in secret he exempted himself from taxes, as you write in your book.
Ullrich: A diligent official at the Munich East tax office noticed in October 1934 that Hitler owed 405,000 reichsmarks in taxes. Any obligation to pay these back taxes was immediately waived, declaring Hitler henceforth exempt from taxes, and the official who had noticed the problem was given a serious reprimand.
SPIEGEL: Starting in 1937, there were even stamps bearing his image, from which Hitler received a percentage of the revenue.
Ullrich: Hitler always appreciated luxury. It's no coincidence that even in the early years he drove the latest and most expense Mercedes models. Nor does his nine-room apartment on Munich's Prinzregentenstrasse exactly fit with the image of a simple man of the people, working himself to the bone for Germany's sake. I also found bills from hotels where Hitler stayed with his entourage before 1933. They spent 800 reichsmarks for four days at the Kaiserhof, in Berlin, for example. That's equivalent to around €3,500 ($4,700).
SPIEGEL: You also devote an entire chapter to Hitler's relationships with women. You don't see that as too trivial, asking questions about the dictator's private life?
Ullrich: I believe this is an aspect that should not be omitted from a biography. In Hitler's case, there's also the fact that he didn't maintain a strict division between his private and public spheres, but rather mixed these areas in a strange way. This was especially evident at the Berghof, where private spaces and working spaces were mingled.
SPIEGEL: What do you think of the theory that Hitler was sexually drawn to men?
Ullrich: He was also supposedly missing one testicle, which made him reluctant to undress in front of women. But you can forget all that. Here, too, Hitler hid a great deal, and there is little we know exactly. But I am convinced he had a much closer relationship with his last lover, Munich photographer's assistant Eva Braun, than we previously thought.
SPIEGEL: Kershaw expresses the theory that Hitler found his satisfaction in the ecstasy of the masses.
Ullrich: I don't believe that. Hitler always styled himself as a man who renounced all personal happiness in the service of his people. There is no conclusive evidence of this, but I believe that behind the smokescreen of discretion, Hitler had a very normal love life with Eva Braun.
SPIEGEL: Without Hitler there would have been no National Socialism, but without the energies that propelled him upward there would have been no Hitler. Where would these destructive forces have discharged if this pivotal figure had not existed?
Ullrich: They would have found a different outlet. One possibility would have been an authoritarian government largely directed by the military. People such as Chancellors Schleicher and Papen had shown what they were capable of following the 1932 coup in Prussia, dismissing republic-minded civil servants and purging the government. Anti-Jewish laws presumably would have been implemented without Hitler as well. But the Holocaust -- this last, radical extreme of the political utopian vision of a racially homogeneous society -- never would have happened. It is unimaginable without Hitler. There were very many Germans who supported that extreme, but Hitler was the one directing it.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Ullrich, thank you for this interview.
Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein