Hubertus Heil on the home office debate: “A very clear message”

Hubertus Heil

The Federal Minister of Labor says: “I am serious about proposals.”

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has urgently appealed to employers to allow home offices wherever possible. “This is not just any appeal, but a very clear message from the federal and state governments to the economy,” said the SPD politician in an interview with the Handelsblatt.

Many companies acted responsibly. But there are also those who arbitrarily refused to work on the move. “That is irresponsible,” said Heil.

The request to work from home if possible is also directed at the employees – even if he understands that many would like to see their colleagues again. But it is a question of responsibility, and the employees are also deceived.

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Protestant theologians for assisted suicide

Gerd Winner, NO, 1983, mixed media on canvas
Image: Gerd Winner

Church facilities should guarantee the best possible palliative care, but not refuse to commit suicide. They should offer advice, support and accompaniment to a person who is willing to die while respecting self-determination. A guest post.

IIn its ruling on Section 217 of the Criminal Code (StGB), the Federal Constitutional Court in February of last year focused on the individual’s right to self-determination, especially with regard to their own dying and death. The judges declare the prohibition of commercial assisted suicide, which was the subject of Section 217 of the Criminal Code, passed in 2015, as null and void, since, in the view of the court, given the lack of alternatives, such commercial assisted suicide is in fact the only way through which professional help from third parties is through the willing for a suicide claim.

The court has by no means obliged the legislature to ensure that everyone who wants to commit suicide actually receives the appropriate help. There is still no right to claim assisted suicide. Even after this judgment, assistance in suicide is not a state obligation. Neither the state nor individual doctors can be forced to assist suicide. However, the verdict did state that the state should not make it impossible for the individual to seek help with suicide. The legal system must, as far as the self-determination of the individual goes, leave the way open to fall back on voluntary supporters for one’s own suicide. This requires respect for those affected when they have decided to commit suicide in a self-determined manner, without external coercion and well-considered.


The fatal consequences of the rent cap

Inner courtyard in Berlin-Mitte

Many Berlin landlords have to lower their rents first.

(Foto: picture alliance / imageBROKER)

Berlin, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf Mail from the landlord usually causes frustration in German households. This is not the case with the K. family from Berlin: The owner of their four-room apartment in the center of the capital announced in November that he was lowering the net rent – by at least 230 euros a month.

The K. family is only one of an estimated 340,000 tenant households in Berlin that have received similar letters. The Dax group Deutsche Wohnen sent 30,000 letters with rent cuts alone. Most of the time it was about double-digit euro amounts, said a company spokeswoman.

Vonovia from Bochum, number one among German apartment rental companies and also a member of the leading German share index, has lowered the rent for around a third of its 42,430 apartments in the Berlin region. Per square meter, the range of cuts varies between a few cents and several euros per month, it said.

The reason for the unexpected post: The red-red-green state government had decided that owners of apartments that were built before 2014 must lower their rents if they are more than 20 percent above the upper limits set by the Senate. Every Berliner can easily check for himself whether this is the case: a specially developed “rent cap calculator” on the Internet that is aggressively promoted by the Senate makes it possible.

The obligation to reduce rents, which has been in force since November 23, is the second strike in the “Law on Rent Limitation in Housing in Berlin”, which is limited to five years. The first stage came into force in February: rents for around one and a half million Berlin apartments have since been frozen at the June 2019 level.

Several lawsuits at the Federal Constitutional Court

The law is a novelty in German tenancy law – and highly controversial. The opponents see it as the temporary climax of an increasing Berlin regulatory mania. Not only investors and lobbyists criticize the new rules.

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How Poland’s new women want to modernize the country

“I think, I feel, I decide!” In many cities in Poland, demonstrators carry this slogan through the streets. Never since 1989 have Polish women made such a vocal voice as they are now. At the end of October, the Constitutional Court, now mostly occupied by judges close to the government, overturned the “abortion compromise”: While abortion had been permissible since 1993 in the case of severe deformities of the embryo, among other things, this option is now to be canceled and abortion is thus almost completely prohibited. Many conflicts then broke out again. The new protest movement, in which mainly young people participate, is directed against the ruling national-conservative PiS and the arrogance of power, against the Catholic Church and “clericalism”, against certain traditions and against (supposed) deficits in the democratic system.

Gerhard Gnauck

Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

The “fight against patriarchy” plays no role in the protest, at best for radical feminists. This is not surprising: “Children, kitchen, church”, this formula entered the treasure trove of idioms in Poland decades ago; but they are mainly used to make fun of the German neighbor. In the III. Republic, which was founded with the fall of the Wall, women have held all offices in the state – with the exception of the presidency. Ironically, it was during the PiS period that women first reached the highest ranks in the police and border guards; Now, of all times, the politically taciturn First Lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, says the army is ripe for a general.


Broadcasters fail in urgent proceedings before the BVerfG

DThe Federal Constitutional Court has rejected an urgent application by the public broadcasters against the failure to increase the broadcasting fee. The judges have expressly left the question open as to whether the broadcasting fee will possibly be increased later and whether the broadcasters will have to be compensated for lost income. However, the broadcasters have not shown that an increase would be so urgent that the Federal Constitutional Court would have to intervene in the urgent procedure.

Such urgency could in principle exist if the broadcasters would otherwise lack the necessary money in the near future to adequately fulfill their program mandate. However, the broadcasters have not shown that such a breakdown in the program is to be expected immediately, provided that the broadcast fee does not increase immediately from the current EUR 17.50 to EUR 18.36 on January 1, 2021. In this respect, it can be assumed that the broadcasters will be able to cover the shortfall from their own resources at least until a final decision by the Federal Constitutional Court and maintain their programs.

Haseloff agreed

The dispute over the premium increase was preceded by a lengthy and detailed determination procedure. First of all, the broadcasters report their financial requirements on the basis of the program mandate formulated by politicians. The commission to determine the financial requirements (KEF) then meets, subjects the information provided by the broadcasters to a critical review and then makes its own recommendation – in this case, to increase the contribution by 86 cents.

In a next step, the Prime Ministers of the federal states are negotiating a reform of the State Broadcasting Treaty including an adjustment of the contribution amount. The Saxon-Anhalt Prime Minister Rainer Haseloff (CDU) had agreed to a contribution increase of 86 cents in this group months ago, but pointed out at the time that he could not guarantee that the CDU parliamentary group in the state parliament would also give its place to the regulation would.

CDU in Saxony-Anhalt withstood the pressure

It was up to them, because in order to become effective, the interstate broadcasting agreement including the premium increase must be accepted by all 16 state parliaments in a final step. It didn’t look like that in Saxony-Anhalt for a long time, because the government made up of the SPD, CDU and the Greens had agreed in the coalition agreement on the goal of “stable contributions”, and the opposition from the Left Party and AfD also rejected an increase in contributions.

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The Left Party, however, deviated from its position during the hot phase of the political debate and thus drove a wedge between the governing parties, as the Greens and the SPD also agreed to the increase and the “contribution stability” agreed in 2016 in the sense of inflation-adjusted stability since the last contribution increase in the year 2009 wanted to (re) interpret. As a result, the CDU members found themselves exposed to the charge of entering into a “pact” with the AfD if they did not agree to the contribution increase.

When it became clear that the majority of the CDU MPs would stick to their negative stance despite this political pressure, Prime Minister Haseloff removed the vote on the State Treaty from the plenary agenda in order to prevent a joint majority between CDU and AfD MPs. The result was, of course, the same: Since the state parliament had not even voted, the approval of a federal state was missing.

The sunset clause remains

From the point of view of the broadcasters, this was also problematic because it was agreed in the interstate broadcasting agreement that the entire agreement would no longer apply unless all 16 federal states agree by the end of the year. A second application before the Federal Constitutional Court was therefore aimed at at least suspending this clause of the contract. But the constitutional judges see no reason for this either: the states’ concerns are unfounded, because if they win in the main proceedings next year, an increase in contributions could be achieved despite this clause.

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In the main proceedings, it will then depend on whether Saxony-Anhalt had a valid reason for not complying with the KEF recommendation depicted in the interstate broadcasting agreement. In principle, the prime ministers (and state parliaments) must follow this recommendation. In exceptional cases, however, they can fall below these limits if the “appropriateness of the financial burden on the fee payers … and thus also the acceptance of the fee decision by those concerned” is to be ensured. The legislature should also take into account the “general economic situation and the resulting financial restrictions for the population”, according to the Federal Constitutional Court in a landmark ruling from 2007.

So there is much to suggest that the constitutional judges could recognize a valid reason in the corona-related economic crisis to forego the premium increase. In contrast, the general dissatisfaction of the Saxony-Anhalt (CDU) MPs with the work of the broadcasters is not a permissible reason. Unraveling this bundle of motives and evaluating them legally is likely to be a challenge for the constitutional judges, as there are numerous public statements, but no formal reasons for the law and not even a state parliament vote that they could use for orientation.


Despite the ban on demonstrations, “lateral thinkers” on Frankfurt’s Römerberg

KLess than three hours before the rallies in Frankfurt were due to begin, the Hessian Administrative Court confirmed the ban on “lateral thinkers” demonstrations on Saturday morning. The initiatives announced that they wanted to lodge a constitutional complaint. The Federal Constitutional Court rejected the corresponding urgent application on Saturday. This was announced by a spokesman for the court in Karlsruhe.

Helmut Schwan

Helmut Schwan

Head of the regional section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

During the course of Friday, the critics of the corona policy had registered further meetings with the Frankfurt public order office. Via social networks, they called on their followers to come to Frankfurt for “walks” despite the ban.

Protesters and counter-demonstrators in the city center

The police, prepared with many forces, reckoned with several hundred to several thousand. With a large contingent, the police took up position in the city center on Saturday, on the Zeil, at the Hauptwache and Konstabler Wache, on Paulsplatz and the Römer. Water cannons are parked and a so-called barricade clearer is also available.

In the meantime, a vigil of counter-demonstrators has formed at the Paulskirche, red flags are flying, a woman carries a poster with the inscription: “Ten grams of fabric won’t take your freedom.”

The first so-called lateral thinkers gathered at around half past twelve on the Römerberg. They brought teapots and megaphones. While the opponents of the Corona measures are chanting “peace, joy, sovereignty”, the counter-demonstrators shout “There is no right to Nazi propaganda” and “Skin off, get away”.

There was noisy discussion between the supporters of the conflicting groups, and there were arguments. Turgut Yüksel, member of the state parliament of the SPD, mingled with the crowd and argued with “lateral thinkers”. “Thousands are in the hospitals, thousands have already died and they still pretend we are in no danger,” he accused one of the demonstrators.

Later, around 1.30 p.m., supporters of the Antifa, dressed in black, equipped with banners and umbrellas, blocked Schweizer Platz, to which small groups of “lateral thinkers” actually wanted to move. The police were there with many emergency services on site. A water cannon brought up briefly, but then moved away again. Gradually the people left the intersection. There was no direct confrontation between lateral thinkers and left-wing counter-demonstrators.

In other places in the city, such as on Friedberger Platz or Merianplatz, meetings were classified as substitute events and accordingly dissolved, as the police announced via Twitter.


The ECB increases its bond purchases by 500 billion euros

It also announced that the net purchases should run until March 2022, previously in mid-2021 as the provisional end. At the same time, the ECB extended the period in which the program is to maintain a stable volume through replacement purchases by one year at least until the end of 2023.

Lagarde also emphasized on Thursday: “We are ready to adjust all of our instruments again and again.” According to her presentation, it can therefore happen that PEPP is not used to the full or even further increased as required. With a view to economic development, she stated: “The industry is recovering, but the service sector is still under pressure from the pandemic and the measures that follow.”

At the same time, the central bank has extended its longer-term loans to banks without changing the interest rates. Lagarde emphasized that the favorable interest rate of minus one percent presupposes that the banks provide at least as much credit as before to the real economy.

ECB President Christine Lagarde said after Thursday’s monetary policy meeting: “Inflation is disappointingly low.” She blamed the “weak demand, low wages and exchange rate” as well as the temporary VAT cut in Germany and the fall in energy prices.

At the same time, she expressed the hope that some of these factors will be more favorable in the coming year, so that, together with the base effect from the low previous year’s values, a significantly higher price increase is possible again. The ECB is officially aiming for a rate of two percent, this year it is close to zero.

ECB headquarters in Frankfurt

The exchange rate has been a hotly debated topic in the past few weeks. Some experts, such as Robin Brooks, the chief economist of the major bank organization IIF in Washington, were of the opinion that the US Federal Reserve (Fed) with its loose monetary policy was ensuring a low dollar rate and thus forced the ECB to follow suit.

In fact, the euro has appreciated noticeably against the dollar. Measured against this, Lagarde addressed the subject very briefly: You watch the rate very closely because it affects prices via import prices, but it is not a target for monetary policy.

For the timing of monetary policy measures, the forecasts of the medical experts are decisive, explained the ECB President. According to this, sufficient immunity in the population against the coronavirus can only be expected in around a year – and therefore not until 2022 with a thoroughgoing normalization of public life.

Support for banks

In addition to increasing the emergency program PEPP to 1.85 trillion euros and extending it until the end of March 2022, the ECB has also extended the loans to banks known as TLTRO. The previous conditions, which in the best case mean an interest rate of minus 1.0 percent, are now valid for twelve months longer until mid-2022. There will be three additional tranches in the second half of next year to the previously announced.

Under this TLTRO III, a key figure is also increased slightly, according to which the maximum drawdown per bank is measured: In future it will be 55 percent instead of the previous 50 percent of the volume of eligible loans. The ECB is also extending the deadline by which it will slightly lower its collateral requirements to mid-2022.

There will also be four more refinancing measures in the coming year as part of a program known as PELTRO. All in all, banks are provided with a lot of money by the ECB. Lagarde emphasized several times that the ECB wanted to ensure “advantageous financing conditions” for the entire economy in the euro area.


The monthly bond purchases with a volume of 20 billion euros continue, and the short-term interest rates remain unchanged. This means that the official key rate remains at zero percent and the de facto decisive rate for deposits by commercial banks with the ECB is minus half a percent. For savers, this means that there is no hope of higher interest rates – which, however, was not expected by experts either.

Gilles Moec, chief economist of the Axa Group, tweeted the first reaction to the decisions: “That seems to be a compromise with a tendency towards the pigeons.”

The representatives of a soft monetary policy are considered pigeons. Frankfurt finance professor Jan Krahnen commented: “The ECB is taking precautionary measures and remains flexible.”

Doubts about the effect

In view of inflation expectations, Frederik Ducrozet of the Swiss bank Pictet is of the opinion that the package from the central bank is not strong enough. The well-known US economist Mohamed El-Erian, who also acts as Allianz’s chief advisor, finds the resolutions both understandable and surprising: “Understandable because of the economic slump and surprising because they won’t have much effect.” Marc Chandler from the US bank BBH tweeted: “Of course the euro is going up.”

Interest rate strategist Christoph Kutt from DZ Bank is of the opinion: “With the broad adjustment, the ECB is buying time and signaling long-term security and stable financing conditions. Interest rates and returns remain low. Exactly what the heavily indebted countries in southern Europe need. ”

Jörg Krämer, chief economist at Commerzbank, becomes even clearer. He sees a “blank check for the finance ministers” and adds: “With its bond purchase program, which has been increased by 500 billion euros today, the ECB should in fact finance the entire budget deficits of the euro countries in the coming year. The financial markets remain sedated, especially since the ECB is likely to ease its monetary policy again in mid-2022. ”


Ducrozet also sees the PEPP emergency program as a “hidden instrument to keep the risk premiums on government bonds of highly indebted countries within limits”. He believes a further increase in the coming year is possible, but thinks it would be better to increase the regular purchases as part of the APP program, which is set up less as an emergency aid and more as a regular monetary policy instrument.

Economists expect the economy to shrink

The economists of the ECB expect the economy in the euro area to contract by 7.3 percent for the current year. In 2021 there should be a growth of 3.9 percent, 2022 4.2 percent and then 2.1 percent in 2023. “

As Lagarde explained, the forecasts are slightly lower in the short term than in September, but have not changed much in the medium term. Lagarde said: “We all expected a second wave, but not to this extent.” She also stressed that there are still clear risks to economic development.

The experts have lowered their expectations for inflation. They assume 0.2 percent for the current year, 1.0 percent for the coming year, 1.1 percent for 2022 and 1.4 percent for 2023. Robin Brooks from the IIF points out that economists have even raised their forecast for so-called core inflation, which excludes the more fluctuating prices for energy and food, for the year 2023: from 0.9 percent in the June forecast to over 1 .1 percent in September to 1.2 percent now in December.


Because this core inflation has recently fallen to 0.2 percent, he sees with a clearly critical undertone a “growing decoupling” between the current figures and the forecasts of the central bankers.

Criticism from two sides

If you summarize the initial reactions of the experts and the markets, two fronts emerge. On the one hand, there is skepticism that the central bank is fighting the crisis resolutely and, above all, that it will actually manage to raise inflation close to its target of two percent. Ducrozet sees an “unconvincing delivery”. On the other hand, the criticism mainly concerns the fact that the central bank continues to generously support governments.

On Thursday, Lagarde also justified the flexible bond purchases, which ultimately enable a targeted dampening of government bond yields, with the fact that the central bank must ensure that its monetary policy has an even effect in this way. The argument is often that it is important to prevent the “fragmentation” of the euro zone.

Critics of this monetary policy see it as a hidden state financing that is prohibited under the European treaties. In this context, it was of little help that Italian government circles recently suggested that the ECB could simply cancel national debts it had bought up later. Italian politicians have now clearly distanced themselves from this. Lagarde himself had previously pointed out that this was not legally possible.

On the other hand, it has been shown that since the great financial crisis a good ten years ago the US Federal Reserve alone has tried to sell government bonds that it has bought for at least a short transition period. Otherwise, the central banks always kept these papers. Because their earnings, insofar as they still generate positive returns at all, flow to the governments via the central bank profits, this state of payment cannot be distinguished from a cancellation of debt.

Dispute over public financing

The covert public financing in Germany has met with particular criticism. The European Court of Justice has dismissed claims on the merits. The Federal Constitutional Court dealt with the issue in a sensational judgment in the spring and also clearly criticized the European court. After the dispute had reached some political explosiveness for a few weeks because the German judges threatened to stop the Bundesbank’s participation in ECB purchases, a diplomatic campaign succeeded in defusing the issue. But the criticism is likely to flare up again and again.

More: Read here how the markets are reacting to the ECB’s decision.


ZDF director: “Society decides how big the public service system is”

media ZDF director Bellut

“Society decides how big the public law system is”

| Reading time: 4 minutes

ZDF director Bellut

Thomas Bellut, director of the Second German Television

Source: dpa / Andreas Arnold

After the blockade by Saxony-Anhalt, the debate about increasing the radio license fee continues to pick up speed. ZDF director Bellut now wants to clarify what “the country” expects from public broadcasting.

WITHDF director Tomas Bellut is in favor of a social debate about the mandate of the public broadcasters in Germany. “In the end, society decides how strong and how big the public service system is,” Bellut told WirtschaftsWoche. There is no getting around the debate. It must be “clarified what the country expects from us”.

After Saxony-Anhalt blocked a higher broadcasting fee in Germany, the public broadcasters also see possible consequences in their houses. ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio also want to go to the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe to fight for the adjustment from 17.50 euros per month to 18.36 euros.

Gradually it becomes clear what it would mean if the plus of 86 cents calculated by an independent commission does not come. The Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) would be missing an additional 35 million euros per year. This was announced by director Joachim Knuth of the German press agency. “In addition to the 300 million euros that we already have in the coming four years of cuts and cuts in front of us.” In May it became known that the public broadcaster will tighten its austerity measures in the next few years. The NDR is one of the big houses among the ARD broadcasters.

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Other stations have also given numbers. A selection: ZDF would be missing around 150 million euros annually from January. Broadcasting Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) would generate a deficit of 60 million euros over the next four years. The smallest ARD broadcaster Radio Bremen would lose around 800,000 euros a month. At Südwestrundfunk (SWR) it will probably be 39 million euros a year – so the deficit would be as high as at NDR. And at Hessischer Rundfunk (HR) it would be around 15.6 million euros a year.

NDR director Knuth emphasized with a view to the legal action in Karlsruhe: “I evaluate what happened in Saxony-Anhalt as a calculated violation of the freedom of broadcasting, against free reporting. Because a perceived dissatisfaction with our information, our content has been mixed with our funding. In my opinion that is not possible. “

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Ulf Poschardt (r.) Thinks that Reiner Haseloff not only cleared away his inner-party critics - he was also able to capture his left coalition partners

The ARD broadcasters want to file the lawsuit with the Federal Constitutional Court this year. The ARD chairman Tom Buhrow announced on Wednesday in an interview with the dpa.

The ARD also assumes that cuts in the program will be necessary if the contribution increase does not materialize. “One thing is clear: We have by and large exhausted what can be done behind the scenes with many reforms, cuts and austerity measures,” said Buhrow, referring to the austerity efforts of the past few years in the ARD houses. “We are now at a point: If the premium adjustment calculated by the responsible KEF commission does not come, you will see and hear it clearly in the program.”

Bremen supports the lawsuit

The Saarland and Bremen want to bring their own opinion on the media amendment to the Federal Constitutional Court. Among other things, it should deal with the special financial situation of Radio Bremen (RB) and Saarländischer Rundfunk (SR), as the federal states announced on Thursday.

According to the information, Saarland and Bremen also want to point out that breaking off the ratification procedure in this case is contrary to the principle of pro-federal behavior. “If a country wants to deviate from the KEF vote, it has to present viable reasons in accordance with the State Broadcasting Agreement and discuss these with the other countries with the KEF”, declared the Saarland State Chancellery and the Bremen Senate Chancellery. “None of that happened.”

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He regrets the failure of the state treaty to amend the media, said Saarland Prime Minister Tobias Hans (CDU). “With this process, the Rubicon has been crossed in federal media policy in Germany.” The public broadcasting service has once again demonstrated its importance for democracy, especially during the Corona crisis. Independent, trustworthy and comprehensive journalism has never been more important. “That is why the financing of public service broadcasting must not become a party-political bone of contention,” he said.

Bremen’s Mayor Andreas Bovenschulte (SPD) called it right that the broadcasters wanted to take legal action. Your elementary constitutionally protected interests are affected. “If the institutions can no longer guarantee that they are financed in accordance with the statutory mandate, the sponsoring countries run the risk of being held liable,” he added. This applies particularly to the small institutions SR and RB. “For this reason, Bremen has decided to support the action of the institutions in the urgent procedure with its own legal representative,” he explained.

Saxony-Anhalt blocked the planned increase

On Tuesday, the black-red-green ruled Saxony-Anhalt blocked the planned increase in the radio license for all of Germany. The CDU had vehemently opposed an increase and theoretically could have formed a majority in the state parliament with the AfD as the largest opposition party with many seats.

Saxony-Anhalt blocks increase in the broadcasting fee

The state parliament in Magdeburg will not deal with the disputed state treaty in the black-red-green coalition until the end of the year. The planned increase in the license fee by 86 cents has therefore been overturned.

Source: WELT / Dirk Schommertz

Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff (CDU) withdrew the bill days before the vote. Because all federal states, without exception, have to agree to the corresponding state treaty, the adjustment cannot come from the blockade on January 1, 2021. Saxony-Anhalt was the only wobbly candidate among the federal states. The license fee is the main source of income for the public broadcasters. It would have been the first increase since 2009.