Corona Germany: SPD Prime Ministers are calling for a Corona solos

Berlin The rising costs of the corona crisis have sparked a debate about possible tax increases. The minister-presidents of the SPD-governed states brought a “solidarity surcharge” into play in their draft resolution for the Bund-Länder round on Wednesday. The federal government should examine “a tax-financed stabilization of the contributions to the statutory health insurance” so that the additional costs in the health care system do not have to be borne unilaterally by the contributors.

There is contradiction from the Union. “We clearly reject the proposal for a Corona Solis,” said CSU General Secretary Markus Blume to the Handelsblatt. There will be no tax increases with the Union. “We would rather have to lower taxes to stimulate the economy.”

Economists see it similarly. “I would be very cautious with additional taxes and duties: It would damage the economy if the state started to save after the crisis now,” said Lars Feld, head of economic activity, the Handelsblatt. A tax hike in the middle of the crisis was “the greatest nonsense,” said Michael Hüther from the Institute of German Economy.

Even if the SPD countries are rejecting the Corona solos for the time being, the initiative brings one question to the agenda: Who should pay the Corona bill? Because it is getting longer. The federal states are calling for further aid to the economy if the federal and state governments extend the partial lockdown on Wednesday.

The solidarity surcharge is to be abolished for the vast majority of taxpayers in early 2021. The fact that the SPD minister-presidents are now bringing a revival into play before the actual solos have ended makes it clear how tense the budget situation is due to the corona crisis.

160 billion euros in debt in the coming year

Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) is planning significantly more debt for the coming year: instead of 96 billion euros, it should be around 160 billion euros. Because the pandemic will burden the federal budget longer than originally hoped.

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These measures are planned for December

Berlin In view of the unchanged high number of infections, the federal states apparently see no way to weaken the current restrictions. The existing partial lockdown is to be extended until December 20th. This emerges from a draft resolution of the State of Berlin for the Minister Presidents’ Conference (MPK), which is available to the Handelsblatt. The points of the paper are to be discussed this Monday in a general column of the Prime Ministers.

According to the paper, the corona measures did have an impact, but the “hoped-for turnaround” has not yet been achieved – just a “sideways trend”. As a stipulation for the extension of the measures, it is stated that an incidence value of 50 per 100,000 inhabitants has not yet been reached.

Before the draft resolution became known, there were already increasing voices calling for an extension of the measures. Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD) told Handelsblatt: “As things stand, it cannot be assumed that the measures adopted to contain the pandemic can currently be relaxed.” Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller (SPD), currently chairman of the Prime Minister’s Conference responsible for the organization of a country line, said: “We agree that a lot has already been achieved, but not enough.”

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) and CSU leader Markus Söder also spoke out in favor of extending the contact restrictions until shortly before Christmas – in order to be able to relax them before the holidays. The heads of government of Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein argued similarly.

“The fact is that we are not yet as far as we would like to have come through the contact restrictions,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday evening. And Scholz added: “That’s why everyone suspects that there must be an extension.” The North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) had even called for a tightening: families should only be allowed to meet with two other people from another household.

These are the most important points of the draft resolution:

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The federal government wants to help countries with airport rescue

Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport (BER)

The aviation industry is severely restricted by the corona pandemic.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin The federal government wants to support the federal states in saving their airports with half a billion euros. Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) and Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) have agreed on this. The finance minister’s prerequisite is that the federal states participate in the same amount and also make a binding commitment.

“This clarifies the question of whether”, it was said from the negotiating circles of the federal and state governments. In addition, there should be help for German air traffic control and another loan for the capital’s airport. All in all, according to information from the Handelsblatt, around one billion euros are under discussion.

At the beginning of the month, Transport Minister Scheuer invited the aviation industry and representatives of the federal states to a summit and promised help. An agreement was not reached because of fundamental concerns of the Ministry of Finance.

The states are originally responsible for air traffic. “We support the customers of the airports, that is Lufthansa and Condor”, it was said to clarify. “In addition, we are responsible for the German air traffic control and the three airports in which we are involved.” Nevertheless, the federal government is ready to “provide one-off help to ensure that infrastructures are not destroyed due to the pandemic”.

The countries reacted mostly in the affirmative, as it was said. However, they are calling for aid that has already been announced to be included. The state of Bremen, for example, helped out its airport with a loan of over 28 million euros. North Rhine-Westphalia supports Düsseldorf Airport with around 250 million euros. In addition, there are shareholder loans of 100 million euros.

Thus, the 500 million euros of the federal government could be used up quickly. The federal and state governments are currently negotiating possible solutions in detail. On Friday there was a meeting between Federal Minister Scheuer and his country colleagues.

The federal government will definitely support the Berlin-Brandenburg, Cologne / Bonn and Munich airports because it is involved in them. However, the rule also applies here that every cent has to be borne proportionally by the other shareholders. “It stays that way,” it said.

BER needs 171.6 million from the federal government

The involvement in the capital city BER will be particularly expensive. According to information from the Handelsblatt, the federal government will have to give the Berlin-Brandenburg airport company another loan in the coming year: After 300 million euros this year, the airport says it needs another 660 million euros.

The federal government has to transfer its share of 26 percent, i.e. 171.6 million euros. A “conversion of the loan into equity capital is intended in order to further stabilize the company’s financial situation,” explained Finance State Secretary Bettina Hagedorn (SPD) in a letter to the budget committee that was available to the Handelsblatt.

For Cologne / Bonn Airport, in which the federal government has a stake of almost 31 percent, the budget proposal includes 23 million euros as a capital injection. The federal government has reserved 65 million euros in the budget for Munich Airport. The sum is released if the other shareholders participate within the scope of their shares. An airport spokesman explained whether and how the airport could avail itself of assistance, “has not yet been determined”.

graphic

At all other airports, states, municipalities and companies or chambers are usually involved. Accordingly, the countries should decide which airports to support or whether to discontinue flight operations at locations that were already in economic difficulties before the corona crisis.

According to the European requirements, the state is only allowed to compensate for the corona-related failures of the airports through grants. The airports themselves are obliged to take all possible measures to keep the damage as low as possible. That is why a number of airports have launched extensive restructuring programs. Liquidity assistance may at best be granted in the form of a loan, guarantee or tax rebate.

Accordingly, the federal and state governments are still discussing how. While the airports are demanding non-repayable subsidies, the federal government is relying on loans or convertible bonds analogous to the government’s economic and stability fund, which was used to rescue Lufthansa. In the case of airports in which private investors are involved, however, this would dilute their shares. Other airports, such as Stuttgart, are currently financed by their own admission on the capital market. “Our current loan line is also sufficient for the coming year,” it said there.

Air traffic control receives three-digit million amount

The federally owned German Air Traffic Control System (DFS) is to receive a grant of 300 million euros, as can be seen from the federal government’s adjustment bill for the federal budget. The budget will be finally discussed in the Bundestag next week. “The federal government stands by its commitment to the DFS,” it said in government circles. The federal government also wants to relieve smaller airports of direct payments to air traffic control, which amounts to an average of one to two million euros. For this purpose, 20 million euros should initially be made available in the coming budget.

The smaller airports welcome one-time assistance and permanently lower air traffic control fees. “If these measures are implemented, we will not need any financial support to finance airport operations in the foreseeable future,” said Manfred Jung, Managing Director of Karlsruhe / Baden-Baden Airport.

New strategy should ensure Easter business

In addition to the aid, the federal government wants to work with the federal states and the aviation associations to develop a strategy with which air traffic can recover. The aim is to define so-called “safe corridors” with other countries to enable long-haul flights again and to lift entry restrictions.

The quarantine rules are also to be replaced in favor of test concepts. A first meeting should take place in early December. The aim is for the industry to earn money again with the Easter business. Before that, a revival of air traffic is not expected.

The FDP parliamentary group introduced similar demands in the Bundestag on Friday. One motion said, among other things, that the government should reduce travel restrictions in order to encourage the collapsed passenger traffic.

Risk areas abroad should be defined in more detail, “comparable to the level of the rural districts in Germany”. Blanket quarantine rules should not apply when traveling with special precautionary measures, for example for business or package travelers. The government should also work to ensure that important partner countries simplify entry for business travelers, for example.

More: Airport Taxpayers Money: Appropriate or Overdrawn?

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Greens find compromise in the climate dispute

Federal party conference of the Greens

The co-federal chairwoman warns against shaking the Paris Treaty.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin In the negotiations on the new basic program, the Greens’ top has avoided a particularly delicate cliff. Party leader Annalena Baerbock negotiated a compromise on Saturday with critics from the party base, who had called for an even more ambitious commitment to climate protection. The party leadership was just able to avoid controversy on the open stage and the risk of losing the vote.

Party leader Robert Habeck underlined his party’s claim to power – a word that is not too popular with the Greens, Habeck even spoke of a “yuck term”.

“We are working optimistically on solutions. And we fight for power for these solutions, ”he said. For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic a third party is seriously fighting for the leadership of this country.

After the kick-off on Friday, the Greens went deep into the substantive debate on Saturday – it started with their core topic of environmental and climate protection. In the run-up, members of the climate movement Fridays for Future had criticized the draft of the federal board for the new basic program as not being too ambitious.

One motion that was supposed to be voted on called for the so-called 1.5-degree target to be made the “standard” of green policy, that is, the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees compared to the pre-industrial era.

But that is “practically impossible to achieve without social and economic upheavals,” said Anders Levermann from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research to the delegates. The compromise now states that it is “necessary to get onto the 1.5 degree path”.

The leading Fridays for Future activist Luisa Neubauer, herself a member of the Greens, was satisfied: “The Greens have taken an important step today under pressure from broad social alliances,” she wrote on Twitter.

Independently of this, the activist Leonie Bremer took the party in her speech in prayer: “You profile yourself most about climate protection, so you have to prove that you can base politics and compromises on the 1.5 degree target – and that you can above all also want. “

Take everyone with you when you change

Like the day before, Habeck warned Baerbock that everyone would have to be taken along with the change. Many people no longer find their way around accelerated reality, he said.

“And the more fragile life, the more injured and vulnerable it is, the more changes are perceived as a threat. Change also means “loss or the fear of loss” – specifically, he named, for example, “the car maker who fears she will be on the street in a few years” and the “coal worker whose opencast mine is closing”.

The Greens have set themselves the declared goal of replacing the Union as the leading force. In surveys, they are currently at around 18 to 20 percent, well behind the CDU and CSU, which together come to 35 to 37 percent.

The digital federal party congress is neither about the question of the candidacy for chancellor nor the election program, but about the fourth basic program of the Greens in their 40-year party history.

The party congress was actually supposed to take place in Karlsruhe, where the Greens were founded in 1980. Because of the corona pandemic, almost everything was moved online. In the Berlin broadcasting center, Habeck and Baerbock read their speeches from the teleprompter into the camera – the typical party conference mood did not arise.

Greens soften strict rejection of new genetic engineering a little

On Saturday evening, the digital federal party conference also approved a passage for the new basic program, which emphasizes that “freedom of research must be guaranteed” in this area too. “The focus is not on the technology, but on its opportunities, risks and consequences.” When using it, dangers must be excluded, it also states that strict approval procedures, the precautionary principle, risk assessments and regulation are necessary. The basic program is to be finally adopted on Sunday.

This differs rhetorically from previous programs – before the 2017 federal election it was said, for example: “We have good food without poison and genetic engineering” or “We will pass a genetic engineering law that will keep our fields and our plates free from genetic engineering, even if they are disguises itself as “new”. ”This refers to the so-called Crispr / Cas gene scissors.

The topic was controversial before the party congress. In the original proposal of the federal executive committee it was said: “Research on new genetic engineering should be strengthened as well as alternative approaches that rely on traditional breeding methods.” That went too far for genetic engineering critics in the party.

Before the party congress, the executive committee changed its proposal to the version that was then accepted. This only calls for the strengthening of risk and evidence research as well as research on traditional and ecological breeding methods. Party leader Robert Habeck himself campaigned among the delegates for the compromise.

At the party congress there were still two motions to vote, one of which emphasized the “historic opportunity” of new genetic engineering methods and one of which excluded the funding of research into new genetic engineering methods and emphasized that “no genetic engineering should be allowed in the fields or in food ” give.

Free daycare centers and schools

The Greens want to support free daycare centers and schools in the future. A corresponding proposal by the Green Youth received a majority among the delegates on Saturday evening during the digital federal party congress and is therefore part of the new basic program that the party congress wanted to resolve, which will last until Sunday.

In addition, learning materials are to be made free of charge for learners and teachers, “including digital devices, required software and internet access”. End devices can be tablets or laptops, for example. This was also suggested by the federal executive board – but not generally free access to schools and daycare centers.

Education is to be promoted in the future with a grant that is independent of parents, age and performance. The recipients should not have to repay the support, as the digital Green Party Congress decided on Saturday evening. The grant should also be granted regardless of the educational period.

The demand is now part of the new basic program that the Greens wanted to adopt at their party congress. “No one should be denied the opportunity to obtain essential qualifications due to precarious employment,” it continues.

More: The Greens still have to work on these problems before the election

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Augustus Intelligence burned millions of euros from investors

San Francisco, Düsseldorf Prince Stefan von und zu Liechtenstein reports bad news to investors on October 9, 2020. Augustus Intelligence had to “significantly reduce its workforce and refocus”, writes the chairman of the advisory board of the German-American start-up.

A “pandemic of the century” has “thrown the world markets and many national economies into the unknown,” explains the nobleman from the principality, who is his main job ambassador to the Vatican. According to Handelsblatt information, the company has laid off 29 employees, almost half of the remaining workforce.

But that has only to do with the pandemic to a limited extent. The company, founded in 2018 by the medical graduate Wolfgang Haupt, has become as famous as it is notorious in the Amthor affair. Whenever Haupt had to explain his business model, he boasted of artificial intelligence, voice and face recognition. A German Palantir seemed to emerge or even a Google.

With such promises, the company has raised $ 34.5 million – including from unsuspecting investors. This is shown by documents that are available to the Handelsblatt and discussions with numerous ex-employees and investors.

Much of the money now seems to be wasted due to a lack of strategy and a presentable product. After four boss changes, a takeover that caused many problems, and the loss of numerous employees and powerful friends, the company is looking for money again.

Where to take and not to steal? On the list of 40 investors, dated June 8th, there are no venture capital funds and virtually no AI expertise. As a rule, start-ups want to have as few co-decision-makers as possible, but those who know their way around. Augustus’ list makes it appear that Haupt and his influential friends have phoned their Rolodexes.

The private bank heir and AfD donor August François von Finck put 11.4 million US dollars in Augustus, Stefan von und zu Liechtenstein around five and Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU), once Federal Minister of Economics and Defense, 1.7 million dollars .

Two siblings from the Swarovski clan were there with amounts in the millions, ex-Bild editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann with a little over $ 100,000. A German professor and ex-government official put almost half a million dollars in Augustus; he knows Haupt privately.

For some it was play money, for some it was a lot of money. The investors were apparently promised “Something with AI”: One talks about data centers, another about autonomous cars. It should also have been about an “app store for AI applications”.

One possible reason for the operational problems: Despite a completely unclear business model, the founders gathered numerous German political and economic giants around them – some with a dubious reputation and without experience of running a start-up.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

The former Federal Minister of Defense was temporarily “Chairman for General Affairs” of Augustus Intelligence.

(Photo: dpa)

Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg was temporarily “Chairman for General Affairs” of Augustus Intelligence. Ex-Roland Berger boss Charles-Édouard Bouée called himself “Chairman of Business Affairs”. Ex-BND boss August Hanning and ex-constitution protection chief Hans-Georg Maaßen also belonged to the circle around founder Wolfgang Haupt.

Philipp Amthor, a CDU member of the Bundestag, was even an active politician who was the company’s director – rewarded with the option to purchase Augustus shares, which were worth $ 250,000 at the time of issue and which should increase in value.

Amthor used Bundestag letterhead to ensure that Haupt and co-founder Pascal Weinberger received appointments at the Ministry of Economic Affairs. In a WhatsApp group, they exchanged private messages with Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU).

Supporters are now turning away: Guttenberg, Bouée and Amthor left the company in the summer. After the “Spiegel” questioned Amthor’s role, the 28-year-old called the engagement a “mistake” and gave the options back.

Founders with no apparent AI experience

However, many questions remain open to this day – such as how the unknown US start-up gets millions from Amthor’s constituency. The KRC Beteiligungen, behind which the entrepreneur Klaus Keunecke from Strasburg in the Uckermark stands, has invested almost 1.7 million dollars in Augustus.

Did the member of the Bundestag attract a major investor to the Augustus founders? Liechtenstein told the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” that he was very involved, even when it was “about discussions with investors”.

And the relationship can be traced: In December 2019, the member of the Bundestag spoke about rent policy at a reception given by Keunecke’s real estate appraisal office in Berlin. In the 2017 federal election campaign, the CDU young star visited the Keunecke Gutsverwaltung in Strasburg. Those affected did not respond to questions.

Prince Stefan of Liechtenstein was convinced by Haupt himself. Through his family’s Valnon Holding, he invested two million dollars, personally with 100,000 dollars. In May 2020, the holding is said to have injected another three million dollars. The nobleman does not want to say anything about the investments.

Philipp Amthor

The CDU MP has campaigned for the start-up Augustus Intelligence.

(Photo: Philipp Spalek / laif)

Liechtenstein got to know Haupt when the student invited the then ambassador of the Principality to Berlin to give a lecture at his university. They kept in touch. Later, the young entrepreneur Haupt sold a mobile fitness device with the company Active Cross, which was supposed to simulate skiing. Liechtenstein still has two of them today. The company went bankrupt in 2016 after major US commercialization plans failed.

Haupt had no experience with AI start-ups, nor did he have a discernible strategy for it. Even so, his company received nearly $ 35 million at a valuation of over $ 250 million. For comparison: Facebook received $ 12.7 million in the first round of funding with a valuation of just under $ 100 million.

Liechtenstein regards the unclear goals as uncritical. “Trends in the field of artificial intelligence develop faster than handbags go out of fashion,” he says. If you make business plans in this area, you have to be very quick. “It’s like driving in fog: you suddenly see opportunities – and bang – the competition has already implemented them.”

Prince Stefan from and to Liechtenstein

“Trends in the field of artificial intelligence develop faster than handbags go out of fashion”

(Foto: picture alliance / obs)

Might be. But instead of working on opportunities, Augustus polished the facade. Other start-ups start in the garage, Augustus moved into the One World Trade Center in New York. The lease should run for more than four years.

Business plans apparently changed depending on the weather: Liechtenstein told the “NZZ” in August that it was considering building a data center in Amthor’s home town of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Because Augustus still had no products, customers or sales in mid-2019, the start-up bought two companies: XBrain, which develops chatbot software for customer service, and Moblty.

“I don’t even know who cheated on whom more”

The company sold smart screens for retail branches, and its well-known customer was the US pharmacy chain CVS. “The ‘make or buy’ principle applies to technology companies,” explains Liechtenstein about the takeovers. “With the companies we have brought highly talented technicians into the company.”

And a lot of problems: “I don’t even know who cheated on whom more,” says a former Moblty executive. The start-up had consumed around 30 million dollars from investors since it was founded in 2012, and according to employees, the company fell behind with the payment of salaries in 2019.

Augustus only paid Moblty’s investors out with shares in a sub-holding that Augustus controls. However, a contract shows that the new owner had to put $ 2.5 million into the holding at the beginning because the business burns money so quickly.

Augustus did not answer questions about this. Acquisition and installation of the displays equipped with cameras cost more than the start-up earned. “The Augustus management would have found out with a minimum of due diligence,” says the ex-Moblty employee.

To date, however, almost every dollar of August sales comes from the unprofitable operation of the screens, Moblty’s former investors complain in a letter.

Charles-Édouard Buoy

The well-networked top consultant was temporarily at the helm of Augustus.

(Photo: Thomas Dashuber for Handelsblatt)

At the request of the Handelsblatt, the company cannot present new customers, although the well-networked top consultant Bouée and his ex-Roland Berger colleague Anne Bioulac were at the top for a time. After all, when Augustus pitched his chatbot software to a CVS subsidiary, Google and IBM made it to the last round, the company explains.

This Wednesday, the fifth CEO started in less than six months, New York investor Arya Bolurfrushan. Ten of the eleven-strong management team in a company presentation from September 2019 were fired or left. Two of them are suing the company for making false promises – an arbitration process is ongoing.

The remaining founder Wolfgang Haupt has stepped aside as boss. As the majority owner, he still has great power with Augustus. “In my opinion, you shouldn’t separate a founder from his start-up without good reason,” says Liechtenstein.

But the 34-year-old has brought the start-up closer to the secret services through his contacts with Maaßen and Hanning. This doesn’t make it easier to market the cameras to retailers. Such quarrels plunged Augustus into a deep crisis: while the start-up had 94 employees in the spring, there are now only 34.

In September, those who remained were said to have learned in an all-hands meeting that Augustus was looking for investors again to improve the financial situation. “AI has solid financing and is well positioned after the restructuring,” the company comments on its financial situation. “This made the runway longer.”

Prince Stefan von und zu Liechtenstein is optimistic about finding investors in the foreseeable future – when calm returns.

More: Amthor’s stock options would have been worth up to $ 250,000.

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A new study measures the risk of infection

IAt the beginning of the week, Chancellor Angela Merkel sent another warning message afterwards: In order not to encourage the spread of the coronavirus, people should avoid bus and train journeys. A short time later, a circular from the Federal Ministry of the Interior became known which allowed federal employees to book a second empty seat on official train journeys, “in order to have a greater distance from fellow travelers in the interests of infection protection”. The excitement is great, after all, the announcements contradict the assurances of the transport companies that buses and trains are not corona hotspots. Many passengers do not quite trust these assurances – and no longer board.

In order to clarify the risk of infection in public transport, Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) is now having the matter scientifically investigated. His Parliamentary State Secretary Enak Ferlemann (CDU) says: “We want passengers and staff to be safe. Many studies from home and abroad have already dealt with the topic. It is now our goal to break down this multitude of findings into individual modes of transport. With the measurements, we have won a research group led by the Fraunhofer Society. We will of course communicate the results publicly. “

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AfD under pressure after disturbances in the Bundestag in the current hour

Current hour of the Bundestag

The CDU MP Michael Grosse-Brömer spoke of an attack on parliamentary democracy.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin After the harassment of politicians in the Bundestag by visitors, the other parliamentary groups opposed the AfD, which invited these troublemakers.

CDU / CSU, SPD, FDP, Greens and Left branded the right-wing populists in a current hour on Friday as “enemies of democracy”. AfD parliamentary group leader Alexander Gauland called the behavior of the visitors “uncivilized” and apologized for it. The other groups in the heated debate rated this as pure “hypocrisy”.

“What we had to experience on Wednesday is nothing less than an attack on the free mandate and an attack on parliamentary democracy,” said the First Parliamentary Executive Director of the Union, Michael Grosse-Brömer (CDU).

His CSU colleague Stefan Müller concluded: “The enemies of democracy don’t just come from outside. The enemies of democracy are also sitting here on the right in this plenary chamber. ”Grosse-Brömer emphasized that the incidents did not happen suddenly, but“ the low point of a lasting strategy by the AfD ”.

This was described by the First Parliamentary Managing Director of the Greens, Britta Haßelmann, as follows: “Insincere and hypocritical regrets here, because you can tell it is getting tricky.” “That is the strategy – and we have to expose it.”

AfD politicians should apologize to Schäuble

On Wednesday, on the sidelines of the debate on the new Infection Protection Act, MPs were harassed, filmed and insulted by several visitors in the hallways of the Bundestag building. This happened, among others, Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier (CDU) and the FDP domestic politician Konstantin Kuhle. Visitors also broke into the offices of representatives. Thousands of people demonstrated against the law around the government district.

AfD parliamentary group leader Gauland admitted on Friday that the behavior of the guests was “uncivilized” and did not belong. “Something has gotten out of hand here,” he said. “As group leader, I apologize for that.”

However, the visitors would have gone through the security checks. “We couldn’t expect something like this to happen.” The AfD parliamentary group had previously decided that their MPs Petr Bystron and Udo Hemmelgarn should apologize in writing to Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) because of the invitation to the guests. There was no public apology in plenary.

Schäuble had previously written to all MPs that he had asked the administration “to examine all legal options to take action against the perpetrators and those who gave them access to the Bundestag property”.

The first parliamentary manager of the FDP parliamentary group, Marco Buschmann, accused the AfD of wanting to bring “a climate of threat” into the Bundestag. “You want to drag the institutions in the dirt because you hate them. But be sure of one thing: our democracy is stronger than your hatred. ”

Left draw comparison to NSDAP

For the SPD, the MP Susann Rüthrich recalled Gauland’s sentence “We will hunt them” from the evening of the 2017 federal election, coined on the new federal government. “This meant all of us, freely elected members and our employees.”

Bundestag Vice President Petra Pau (left) made a direct line to the National Socialists. She quoted the later Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, who had said about the goals of the NSDAP in the Reichstag: “We do not come as friends, not even as neutrals. We come as enemies. As the wolf breaks into the flock of sheep, that’s how we come. ”Some AfD politicians such as the Thuringian state chief Björn Höcke had taken up this threat for themselves -“ in the wording and in action, ”said Pau.

As if he wanted to keep the level of indignation high in the plenary hall, the AfD MP Karsten Hilse finally brought out the term “Enabling Act”, which had already been sharply criticized in the days before, for the infection protection law passed on Wednesday.

AfD politician with a holey mask

Until the Enabling Act of the Nazis of 1933, this was “a common term”. “And if authorization is mentioned several times in a law, then you can rightly call it that without this negative connotation (secondary meaning).”

The heckling from the other groups showed that this was seen as another provocation in a parliamentary week that was not poor in provocations.

But it wasn’t the end of it. It was set by the AfD MP Thomas Seitz, who came to the lectern in the afternoon with an apparently perforated mask. Vice President Claudia Roth forbade him to go back to his seat with it.

She handed him a fresh FFP2 mask. When Seitz complained about the “muzzle”, Roth threatened him with a fine.

More: “What was that?” – Altmaier reacts to a mob attack in the Bundestag

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Wirecard scandal: Ex-Wirecard boss before committee

Markus Braun

The main task of the committee of inquiry is to clarify the failures of state authorities such as the financial supervision and the federal government.

(Photo: AP)

Berlin Markus Braun comes through the back door. It takes three seconds, then the former Wirecard boss has scurried past the cameras into room 2,600 in the Paul-Löbe-Haus of the Bundestag. He is not handcuffed, but is accompanied by police officers.

“I currently live in the Augsburg correctional facility,” Braun introduces himself to the committee. After he has taken a seat in the middle of the room, he takes off his white mouth and nose mask. He has a plastic bottle with water, a ballpoint pen and an A4 sheet of paper.

Braun’s appearance in the investigative committee on Thursday afternoon is the first high point in the parliamentary processing of the multi-billion Wirecard scandal. The deputies had forced the questioning of Braun in the Bundestag.

A prison witness in a Bundestag investigative committee – that has probably never happened before. The expectations for this special performance were high, but it was already clear beforehand that they would have to be disappointed.

Braun first read out a brief statement. The former Wirecard boss referred to extensive proceedings by the Munich I public prosecutor’s office. He had confidence in the investigative authorities. You should now clarify comprehensively, especially with regard to the whereabouts of the embezzled company funds.

More: The Handelsblatt Crime podcast sheds light on the system behind the biggest economic scandal of the post-war period.

The payment service provider had to file for bankruptcy in June after admitting that group assets over 1.9 billion euros most likely did not exist. It is one of the largest cases of fraud in German economic history.

And from the point of view of the Member of the Investigative Committee, Braun plays a central role in clearing up the question of how things got this far. “Markus Braun was Wirecard,” said FDP finance politician Florian Toncar in advance.

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Key witness apologizes to shareholders

Committee of inquiry into the Wirecard scandal

Markus Braun (with his back to the camera) has not changed the behavior that he once displayed as Dax boss.

(Photo: AFP)

Berlin It is a quarter past eleven on Thursday evening, the committee of inquiry has been meeting for over 13 hours, when a surprise awaits the members of parliament in meeting room 2,600 of the Paul Löbe House of the German Bundestag.

Oliver Bellenhaus sits in front of the camera at the Stadelheim correctional facility. The key witness of the Munich public prosecutor’s office is connected via video conference. The former Dubai governor of the group, known for his weakness for fast cars and his apartment in the luxury skyscraper Burj Khalifa, seems touched.

As the only witness, he is not wearing a suit, but a black sweater. Bellenhaus – pale, thinning hair, significantly thinner than in previous photos – sits alone in the lemon-yellow painted dreariness of a small prison meeting room. At his side criminal defense lawyer Nicolas Frühsorger.

Bellenhaus begins with the usual self-introduction. Born on September 27, 1973 in the Franconian town of Hof an der Saale, “currently residing in the JVA Stadelheim in Munich,” he says. Meeting chairman Hans Michelbach (CSU) instructs him about the possibility of introductory words that Bellenhaus accepts.

“First of all, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my introductory statement and would like to take the opportunity to apologize to you as representatives of the public as well as to the injured party. The matter to be clarified here today is a huge disaster that cannot be glossed over by anything, ”Bellenhaus said.

Listen to the topic: The Handelsblatt Crime podcast sheds light on the system behind the biggest economic scandal of the post-war period.

A faint murmur goes through the conference room. “I will face my individual responsibility,” continues Bellenhaus, “but ask for your understanding that I cannot answer all of your questions today and that I have to make use of my right to refuse to be a witness.” The entire process must first be fully dealt with by the judiciary before he would comment on it. Together with the public prosecutor’s office, he is working “at full speed to clear up the individual complexes”.

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Confessed key witness

After Wirecard’s bankruptcy, Bellenhaus traveled from Dubai to Munich in early July and surrendered. In a comprehensive confession, he stated that he had falsified Wirecard’s balance sheets in collaboration with CEO Braun and the volatile Asia director Jan Marsalek. Braun firmly rejects this.

In the meeting room, parliamentarian Matthias Hauer (CDU) reacted with surprise to the public admission of guilt: “We have taken note of your statement and note that you have apologized to the injured party. That is more than we heard from elsewhere today. ”

Hauer warns that the responsibility that Bellenhaus wants to face also includes cooperation with the investigative committee. Due to the extent of the scandal, however, there is high time pressure here – a new hearing should therefore take place in January at the latest.

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Bellenhaus asks for an interruption and advice with his lawyer. Shortly afterwards, he agreed that he would be available in January. The session is closed.

“Mr. Bellenhaus was apparently the only one who understood what the public expected of him,” commented Fabio De Masi (Die Linke) afterwards. That guarantees him a second chance and is in contrast to the behavior of Markus Braun. The ex-CEO left almost all of the MPs’ questions unanswered at his hearing that afternoon. “Of course, Bellenhaus’ apology in no way undoes what happened. We expect a comprehensive statement from him in January, ”continued De Masi.

The fact is: In the Wirecard case, after all the biggest stock market bankruptcy of the post-war period, nobody apart from Bellenhaus has apologized – neither the president of the financial supervisory authority Bafin, nor the long-term auditor EY, and certainly not one of the group managers.

Danyal Bayaz of the Greens describes the apology as a positive sign: “As a key witness, Bellenhaus has already spoken to the public prosecutor about gang fraud at Wirecard. Unlike Markus Braun, he and Stephan van Erffa have made a binding announcement that they will testify to the committee at the beginning of 2021. “Both are important witnesses in the political and official clarification of the scandal.

Van Erffa, formerly chief accountant at Wirecard, had refused to testify as a further suspect witness in front of Bellenhaus, but had also announced that he would work with the investigative committee in the near future. Braun should also be summoned again. The parliamentarians are likely to have further night sessions ahead of them.

More: Ex-Wirecard boss Braun is silent – so he threatens a second, tougher round

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Police unionists and politicians for ban on firecrackers due to Corona

Wect of the coronavirus pandemic, domestic politicians and police trade unionists are calling for a firecracker ban on New Year’s Eve. The fireworks were quickly joined by alcohol, groups of people and a party mood – and that was not hip, said the chairman of the German police union, Rainer Wendt, of the “Bild” newspaper (Thursday). The CSU member of the Bundestag Michael Kuffer also pleaded with the “Bild” to ban gunfire and fireworks this year.

The North Rhine-Westphalian Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) also spoke out against firecrackers and missiles. “On Halloween weekend it was very quiet in our party strongholds,” said Reul of the “Bild” newspaper. “I hope that it will be the same on New Year’s Eve.” But the decision would have to be made by the municipalities.

In Berlin, with a view to the infection situation, the Greens had called for fireworks to be banned on New Year’s Eve in addition to large parties. Germany should follow the example of the Netherlands, it said. The Berlin administration must “with close control completely prevent the gunfire and New Year’s Eve fireworks in the inner city of Berlin,” added Berlin’s CDU parliamentary group leader Burkard Dregger.

“Fireworks must be possible on New Year’s Eve despite Corona”

Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU), on the other hand, does not believe in a ban. “Fireworks must be possible on New Year’s Eve despite Corona. But here, too, it is very clear: the hygiene rules with distance and mask must be observed. And there will also be controls, ”said the minister of“ Bild ”.

The German Association of Towns and Municipalities is also against a general ban on firecrackers and fireworks in the corona pandemic. “People have endless frustration. Everything is forbidden, you can not go anywhere, ”said managing director Gerd Landsberg on Thursday of the German press agency. “Of course there will be no New Year’s Eve with huge parties and huge fireworks.” For the individual households, however, he sees no reason for a large ban.

The classic, big fireworks with thousands of spectators will probably not take place if the current infection situation remains, Landsberg said. The necessary distance could not be maintained, even with masks it looked difficult.

For some years now, around the turn of the year, there has been a debate about whether private New Year’s Eve fireworks should be banned in Germany. Opponents cite above all environmental and animal welfare reasons, but also injuries caused by the careless use of the firecrackers. Proponents point to tradition and the existing legal requirements, which would already restrict sales sufficiently. In large German cities, firefighting zones are usually issued on New Year’s Eve in certain streets, for example near hospitals and zoos.

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