Impeachment Proceedings Against Trump: Political Trial

Trump is running for impeachment with second-rate defense lawyers. In a normal procedure he would have lost.

The impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump in Washington have begun Foto: Erin Scott/reuters

If the impeachment case against Donald Trump were a normal legal process, one would have to worry about the defendant. The US prisons are full of inmates who are mostly held for incompetent defense lawyers.

If the legally, rhetorically and emotionally perfect pleadings of the democratic prosecutors and the stuttering, incoherent replies of Trump’s defense lawyers had come before a normal, impartial jury on Tuesday – the jury would probably have voted unanimously. But 44 out of 100 voted differently, the jury is the Senate.

While they have all sworn an oath to impartially assess the evidence and arguments presented, they are strikingly open to admitting that they will not do so. Incidentally, this applies to both sides. It should be absolutely undisputed that the mob that stormed the Capitol in Washington on January 6th felt encouraged and empowered by Trump to do so.

However, that Trump actually did this in a criminal way would be difficult to prove in an ordinary legal process. And that’s a good thing, by the way – because it could have serious consequences if those calling for “combative” demonstrations could in future be held directly responsible for possible riots by the demo participants.

It would be discussed in a normal process and the legal arguments on all sides would mean something. But the impeachment process is political. In this respect, it is also about political responsibility, not necessarily about criminal law.

But that is the next dead end, because almost half of the jury is actually in the dock: namely all those who repeated Trump’s great lie about electoral fraud so long and furiously that a mob felt justified against this “crime” To use force. You will not judge yourself.

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Investigation report on the attack in Vienna: Nehammer under pressure

According to new findings, Austria’s Interior Minister Karl Nehammer must have known of the perpetrator’s intentions. The ministry denies that.

Should have known: Austria’s Interior Minister Karl Nehammer Photo: Tobias Steinmauerer / imago

WIEN taz | The report of a commission of inquiry to clarify possible breakdowns in the run-up to the terrorist attack in Vienna puts Austria’s Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) under pressure. The chairwoman Ingeborg Zerbes said on Tuesday that the “smoking gun” was not found. But the knowledge gained is “blatant enough”.

Zerbes didn’t say it that way, but Nehammer must have been informed about the jihadist activities of the later assassin Kujtim F. The attack could have been prevented.

On November 2, an assassin killed four people and injured another two dozen in downtown Vienna before he was shot himself by the police. The perpetrator was quickly identified, he had long been on the screen of the intelligence service.

However, and this is where the Commission’s criticism begins, the authorities have failed to pass on information. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism (BVT) did not inform the competent state office that the suspect wanted to buy ammunition for a Kalashnikov assault rifle in Bratislava in the summer.

Ignored by the Home Office?

The entire report is still being examined by the ministries before it is published. Censorship is to be expected because an interim report presented in December has been blacked out by the Ministry of the Interior in central offices. The unveiling medium founded by ex-MP Peter Pilz ZackZack.at there is an uncensored version, some of which has now been put online.

Every year the BVT produced reports on the jihadist scene, i.e. the bomber’s environment. According to ZackZack Such a report was also sent to the Interior Minister in 2020, although the ministry denies its existence.

The BVT had also observed a meeting of the later attacker with IS fighters from Germany and Switzerland on July 17, 2020. Less than a week later, it reported the result. Kujtim F. is described as a member of the “local Islamist / extremist spectrum around the cities of St. Pölten and Vienna”, the investigative commission sums up.

The following passage of their interim report was then blacked out: “In view of its ‘multilateral nature’, the BVT will place the entire meeting in the context of an ‘international (sic!) Network of Islamists consolidating in Vienna’ and with an ‘IS terrorist cell in Kosovo’, to which the planning of attacks (also) in Europe is attributed. “

A potential assassin cannot be identified more clearly.

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Federal cabinet adopts pesticide rules: a bit of insect protection

The coalition wants to limit the use of pesticides in some fields. But there are many exceptions. Parliament could water down the decision.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, the amount and diversity of insects has declined sharply Photo: Maria Sibylle Merian / Artokoloro / imago

BERLIN taz | After a long struggle, the federal government has agreed on steps to combat the death of insects. The cabinet passed an ordinance on Wednesday banning pesticides in whole or in part on a small part of the farmland. The controversial weed killer glyphosate should be banned in Germany from 2024 – if then, as many expect, the EU approval of the active ingredient expires. The ministers also passed a law that should also limit light pollution that is harmful to insects.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, both the number and diversity of insects have declined sharply. The main causes were that species are losing their habitats, agriculture is becoming less diverse, and pesticides are destroying animals or their food sources. In addition, insects would die because they were attracted by artificial light sources. “Man cannot live without insects. Humanity would have to spend huge sums of money just for the pollination of fruit if there were no insects, ”said Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD). The animals also have important functions in the ecosystem, for example as prey for birds.

That is why the government wants to ban weed killers and pollinator insecticides in certain nature reserves. Bird sanctuaries are not affected by this – nor are “special crops” such as fruit, vegetables, hops and wine or seed production. The local authorities may allow exceptions for all crops. According to the Ministry of the Environment, the ban affects 4.9 percent of the agricultural area. A large part of these are meadows and pastures where pesticides are only used to a limited extent. All pesticides should be prohibited in 5 to 10 meter wide strips of certain bodies of water. However, the federal states may deviate from this if they have their own regulations.

In the future, species-rich grassland, orchards, stone bars and dry stone walls are to be protected by law. The draft law also provides for a general ban in nature reserves and national parks from setting up new lighting that attracts insects. Furthermore, a basis is created for severely restricting the operation of sky radiators.

Vehement peasant protests

Thousands of farmers had demonstrated against the insect protection program, and there were also protests with tractors in many places on Wednesday. That is why Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) blocked a cabinet decision for a long time.

Because of the planned rules, food would be lost at least 8 percent of the agricultural area, according to the peasant protest movement “Land creates connection Germany”. The working group for rural agriculture criticized that the farmers did not receive any financial compensation and that the insect protection package only affected a small part of the area. The Naturschutzbund welcomed the decision merely as a “first step in the right direction”.

The Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft was calm. “Organic farmers can carry on as before in arable farming when the regulations on insect protection come into force as planned by the federal government. In the case of special crops, there can be an impact in exceptional cases, ”said managing director Peter Röhrig of the taz.

Bundestag and Bundesrat still have to approve. Agriculture-related MPs of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group have already announced the need for changes.

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Lawsuit against Spahn’s health portal: The sore throat cartel

After a lawsuit from Burda Verlag, Google is no longer allowed to preferentially display content from the Ministry of Health. A win for press freedom?

Quickly newsylist “sore throat”: until recently, Spahn’s health portal came first Photo: Ute Grabowsky / imago

Imagine feeling a scratchy throat. Is that corona or just a cold? You probably don’t sit down in the crowded waiting room right away, but newsylist it first. But which link do you click?

Until recently, anyone searching for “sore throat” on Google would be the first to see an info box from the Ministry of Health. Google and the ministry have been cooperating since November, with Google playing the state portal /gesund.bund.de/ at the top of its search results. The aim of the cooperation: reliable information in the pandemic.

That is now over, the Munich Regional Court has banned the cooperation. /Gesund.Bund/ may continue to exist, but is no longer prominently displayed on Google. Burda-Verlag, which operates the website netdoktor.de, which also provides information about diseases, had sued. Burda argues that netdoktor.de has been visited less often since Google placed the state health portal prominently. This meant that Burda had lost advertising revenue.

The court was persuaded and assessed the cooperation between Google and the ministry as an antitrust violation. The question of whether medical information from the state is more reliable than that from private providers did not matter.

Burda-Verlag is now celebrating as a fighter for freedom of the press. But that’s not entirely true. The publisher does not run its offer out of pure philanthropy, but to sell advertisements. And the problem goes deeper: the decision of the court – to stay in the picture – only combats the symptom. The order in which Google displays search results is determined by Google alone, based on an algorithm that cannot be seen through from the outside. If you search for “sore throat” on Google, you will quickly end up on the pages of pharmaceutical companies that want to sell their drugs. So there is no transparent information here either – it is Google’s trade secret.

The verdict shows: if you want to know whether you are sick, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

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The term “race” in the Basic Law must be removed: Prohibit racism, but how?

The wrong term “race” should disappear from the Basic Law. However, the search for a sensible alternative continues.

She should find the right words: Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht Photo: Kay Nietfeld / dpa

FREIBURG taz | Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) wants to ban discrimination “on racist grounds” in the Basic Law. At the same time, the disreputable term “race” is to be deleted from Article 3. However, critics fear that the planned change could lower the level of protection.

Currently, Article 3, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law states: “Nobody may be disadvantaged or preferred because of their sex, their origin, their race, their language, their homeland and origin, their beliefs, their religious or political views. Nobody may be disadvantaged because of his disability.”

But for over ten years there has been a discussion in Germany about deleting the term “race” here. After all, from a scientific point of view, there are no human “races”. However, the discussion only gained a certain dynamic from February 2020 after the racist murders in Hanau.

There are now bills from the Greens and the Left. In Article 3 you want to speak of “racist” discrimination instead of “race”. The same is proposed by a joint Federal Council draft from Hamburg and Thuringia. In the federal government, Justice Minister Lambrecht and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) agreed in October that the term should be replaced in the Basic Law. It remained open which new formulation the Federal Government would propose.

Central Council of Jews warns of deterioration through a new formulation

Last week Lambrecht submitted a “draft discussion” to delete the term from Article 3. This makes it clear that no even indirect confirmation of a concept of human “races” can be inferred from the Basic Law. Instead, discrimination “for racist reasons” is to be banned in future, according to the ministry, as already formulated in the state constitutions of Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt.

Lambrecht gave numerous associations and institutions the opportunity to comment – and set a deadline of just three days. A sample by the taz of important actors showed that at least the Central Council of Muslims and the Federal Immigration and Integration Council (BZI) support the minister’s proposal.

Others fear, however, that Lambrecht’s proposal will even lower the level of protection, according to the Central Council of Sinti and Roma, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency and the German Institute for Human Rights. Lambrecht’s formulation “for racist reasons” sounds as if a racist intention is necessary. Unconscious disadvantages are then – unlike before – perhaps no longer recorded.

Indirect discrimination based on seemingly neutral requirements (such as the mother tongue) might no longer be prohibited. The Justice Ministry rejects the criticism. It is about racist “reasons”, not about racist “motives”.

Nevertheless, the German Institute for Human Rights and the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma advocate a different formulation. They prefer to speak of “racist” discrimination, as the Greens and the left also suggest. The anti-discrimination agency also wants to consider the wording “racist attribution”.

A step in the wrong direction?

For the Central Council of Jews, its President Josef Schuster welcomed the phrase “for racist reasons” last June. But then the warning from Stephan Harbarth, the President of the Federal Constitutional Court, gave him pause for thought, according to which an amendment to the Basic Law could “definitely turn the legal situation for the worse”.

That is why the Central Council of Jews is now primarily pleading for caution and against hasty decisions. According to the Central Council’s opinion, “further well-founded legal reports” are required in order to be able to assess the consequences of a change.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) was also annoyed last week about Lambrecht’s advance. The BMI was not aware of the proposal. The talks within the federal government were still ongoing.

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Despite the ongoing war in Afghanistan: Another deportation to Kabul

Deadly terrorist attacks occurred on Wednesday in the civil war country Afghanistan. A deportation flight from Germany landed almost at the same time.

Terrorist attack in Kabul on Wednesday – at the same time, 26 men were deported from Munich Foto: Rahmat Gul / ap

BERLIN dpa / ap | A flight from Munich with 26 deported men arrived in Afghanistan on Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of the Interior said on request that 23 of the Afghan citizens had been convicted in Germany. According to the information they came from eleven federal states: Brandenburg, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Schleswig-Holstein, Saarland and Saxony.

The plane landed in the capital Kabul at around 6:35 a.m. local time, Afghan officials at the airport announced. It was the 36th collective deportation since the first such flight in December 2016. This means that the federal and state governments have deported 989 men so far.

The Afghan authorities said they refused to accept a man on Wednesday. A spokesman for the Afghan refugee ministry said the man was being temporarily taken to an inn in Kabul. Further details were not known at first.

Sajed Nur (24) from Parwan Province said after landing: “I was supposed to be deported on the last flight, but my lawyer saved me”. Only, according to his own statements, had been in Germany since 2015, had a job, but was arrested.

Police chief killed in Kabul

Only Ali Schah (23) from the eastern province of Nangarhar was, according to his stories, in Germany since 2015. “I studied there. I’ve been turned away three times. I don’t know why they are deporting us, ”said the young man. “The security situation is very bad. I have no plans at the moment. “

Deportations to the crisis country are controversial. Before the flight, 96 organizations and initiatives had criticized the practice in a joint statement and called for the deportations to be stopped.

Despite the start of peace talks, the civil war with the militant Islamist Taliban continues. The police chief of a district and his bodyguard were killed in a series of bomb explosions in Kabul on Wednesday. Five other people were injured, according to official information. The target of the attacks were police forces in the Afghan capital. All explosives were attached to vehicles and could be detonated remotely or by a timer. Initially, nobody confessed to the attacks.

In the most momentous attack in the series, a police car was knocked over by the force of the detonation in western Kabul. The police chief of District 5 and his bodyguard were killed, the driver was injured, according to official sources. An hour earlier, two more explosions had occurred, said police spokesman Ferdaus Faramars. Four civilians were killed in one of them and no casualties were made in the other.

Bomb attacks, targeted killings and skirmishes have recently increased again in Afghanistan. Peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Qatar have been stalling for a long time.

The local branch of the terrorist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, while the government blames the Taliban for others. These have denied the authorship for most of the attacks.

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Expert on the homeless and the cold: “It’s a bad situation”

Monika Kelting helps homeless people in Hamburg. She explains how Corona is making people’s situation worse and why classic emergency shelters are often avoided.

For the homeless, wetness and cold wind are particularly dangerous in winter Photo: Florian Gaertner / imago

taz: Ms. Kelting, you organize the so-called cold bus in Hamburg, which volunteers use to help the homeless in Hamburg in winter. What do the current temperatures mean for people on the street?

Monika Kelting: It is acutely life-threatening for the homeless when it gets so cold. Dry and cold can be endured, but wetness and cold wind are bad. Those we meet on the street are frozen stiff, can no longer move their hands or can no longer walk, simply because it is so cold. Once your socks get wet … It’s a bad situation.

What role does the corona crisis play?

In addition to the cold, hunger and thirst are also a big problem right now. The columns of water that homeless people in Hamburg could otherwise drink from have been switched off due to the corona crisis. And the gastronomy is also closed. Before the pandemic, people could warm up briefly in a McDonald’s or ask for a glass of water. Most of them knew someone somewhere who would give them something to eat now and then.

Begging and bottle collecting has also become very difficult. Before the crisis, the homeless could easily sell their street newspapers or ask for a donation when people gathered in front of cinemas or theaters. This is no longer possible.

How do you help?

We are currently driving 40 to 50 liters of hot soup through the city on the cold bus. We are often asked about sweets such as chocolate. One underestimates how much energy it costs to live outside at these temperatures. We also distribute sleeping bags, blankets and sleeping mats.

You are not the only one who helps organized …

There are many contact points in Hamburg. But they are also limited by the corona crisis. Soup kitchens sometimes have large rooms, but to contain the pandemic, only a few homeless are allowed to come. Where previously 400 meals could be distributed, now only 200 are possible.

Can’t the homeless go to shelters to eat, sleep and warm up?

In Hamburg there are around 1,000 beds through the so-called winter emergency program. Many homeless people are very reluctant to go to such accommodations, the shared rooms offer little privacy, and it is often dirty there and arguments quickly arise. Nevertheless: At these temperatures it is better than on the road. But not all homeless see it that way.

Are the homeless afraid of a corona infection?

I don’t think so, most of them avoided the emergency shelters even before the pandemic.

Left and CDU are calling for the homeless to be accommodated in the vacant hotels and youth hostels in Hamburg. Would that help?

74, organizes the cold bus in Hamburg with which the Red Cross DRK helps the homeless in the city.

Single rooms would change a lot, such an offer would be accepted immediately. A small number of homeless people are already being accommodated in hotels. And those who stay there are thrilled. The hotels are also usually happy to take in the homeless; after all, the city pays. You could also open the container accommodation where refugees used to live and many of which are currently empty. That would help, but is probably not wanted politically.

What do you mean?

The city fears that even more homeless people will come if those who are already here are doing too well.

Is there any way to help as a private person?

We already see an incredible number of people walking through the streets with thermos flasks and distributing hot drinks. People are already doing a lot to help. The more private individuals help, the less the city helps. But there are just things that only the city can organize.

What could the city do to help in the long term?

Above all, I would like to find accommodation for those who live on the street and are seriously or terminally ill. You hardly ever see these people during the day, but they do exist. The hospitals quickly put them back on the streets after operations because many do not have health insurance.

We also have too few social workers. Sometimes they actually manage to get the homeless back into an apartment.

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Study on Long Covid: Corona sequelae also in children

Even children can suffer from symptoms months after an infection, a study shows. The results should be viewed with caution.

Fatigue, headaches, breathing problems: long-term consequences are also possible in children Photo: dpa

BERLIN taz | Many adults who have survived a corona infection continue to suffer from long-term effects for months, studies show. However, little research has been done to date on how children feel after illness. According to the authors, a study from Italy has now shown for the first time that long-covid symptoms can also occur in children.

The researchers examined the health of 129 children between the ages of five and 18 who were already suffering from Covid-19: 96 of them showed symptoms during the infection, 33 were symptom-free.

More than half of the study participants reported persistent symptoms even 120 days after the diagnosis, 42 percent of them felt that they were limited by the long-term effects in everyday life (MedRxiv: Buonsenso et al., 2021). Most often the children complained of insomnia, difficulty breathing, muscle or joint pain, exhaustion, headache and difficulty concentrating.

The researchers questioned the children an average of 162 days after their corona diagnosis. At this point in time, almost 42 percent had completely recovered, 36 percent had one or two persistent symptoms, and 22 percent at least three.

Two children fell ill with myocarditis after the corona infection, three children with the so-called pediatric multisystemic inflammatory syndrome, which can lead to severe damage to the heart muscle and to widening of the coronary vessels.

Although the long-term effects were more common in children with a more severe course of infection, those children also reported symptoms that once had mild or no symptoms. “But parents shouldn’t worry,” says study author Danilo Buonsenso of the taz. It is not yet possible to make a valid statement about how a Covid 19 infection will affect the health of children in the long term. Research on long-term effects in children is still in its infancy, and so far too little data is available.

The number of studies is quite small

Reinhard Berner, director of the University Children’s Clinic in Dresden, says: “Long Covid in children is a very important topic, but unfortunately there is still too little evidence.” The study from Italy is an important step because it draws attention to the problem make. However, the results still have to be viewed with caution.

“Firstly, only 129 children in total were examined for long-term effects, this number is quite small. And secondly, there was no control group for comparison in the study, ”says Berner. In other words, the researchers only looked at children with Covid 19 disease, but none with other infections. “If you really wanted to confirm the hypothesis, you would also have to test children for long-term effects that have survived the flu, for example,” says Berner. Persistent symptoms after a viral infection are not uncommon in children. After adenovirus or Epstein-Barr virus infections, for example, many children still felt weak weeks later.

It is also possible that the long-term effects mentioned in the study, such as headaches, fatigue or sleep problems, are due to the school closings or other lockdown measures and are not at all related to an infection. “But I am also sure that there are long Covid symptoms in children,” says Berner, who is planning a nationwide study on long-term effects in children.

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Coronavirus in China: No reunion in the year of the ox

Many Chinese will have to forego their family visits on this New Year celebration. This is particularly bitter for migrant workers.

New Year’s decorations in Beijing: Travel restrictions and quarantine requirements determine the festival Photo: Thomas Peter / Reuters

PEKING taz | When Ms. Huang talks about this year’s New Year celebrations, she can hardly hide her pent-up emotions behind the light blue face mask. The 50-year-old has set up a market stall in the Picun workers’ settlement on the outskirts of Beijing, where she sells sunflower seeds, dried fruits and apples by the roadside in the freezing cold.

“I usually work until just before the New Year celebrations, because then people go shopping again,” she says. After that, she always visits her son, who grows up with his grandmother 700 kilometers south in Shandong Province. In the year of the ox, which is about to begin, the family association has to fail – the travel restrictions and quarantine requirements are too strict.

Millions of Chinese will not be able to see their relatives again at the most important festival of the year. The New Year celebrated on February 12 according to the lunar calendar is described by many media as the “greatest migration in the world”, after all, almost half of the 1.4 billion inhabitants are usually on the move. Last year, the New Year’s days ensured that the coronavirus was spread from Wuhan to all provinces – a scenario that must be prevented at all costs in 2021.

There is no official travel ban, but there are a number of obstacles. Since individual strands of infection have been spreading again in China after months without infections, according to the national health commission, every Chinese who drives in rural areas not only has to show a current Covid test, but also has to complete a 14-day “health observation” during which their own body temperature is given several times a day. Some villages have also closed their borders completely out of fear of imported virus cases.

Migrant workers in a parallel society

These measures, as many users on social media have criticized, affect less China’s urban elites, but above all the 300 million migrant workers who have moved from the underdeveloped hinterland regions to earn money in the coastal metropolises. For many of them, a fancy New Year’s celebration is a personal tragedy. After all, they can often only see their abandoned children and parents once a year.

Tens of thousands of migrant workers live in the Picun settlement on the eastern periphery of Beijing. Far behind the fifth ring of the city, past thermal power stations and high-voltage pylons, lies the walled residential area, at the entrance of which black-uniformed men with Russian fur hats make sure that every visitor shows a “green health code” on their smartphone in the Corona app.

In the narrow alleys, a city within the city finally reveals itself: barbershops and cell phone shops, small corner bars and vegetable markets are lined up in a confined space.

A short garbage collector with a hunched back shuffles through Marktstrasse with a gray sack in tow. She moved to Beijing from the mountainous Sichuan province, she says. She lives here with her son, but her three grandchildren still live in their distant homeland. “We can’t see her this year,” says the 70-year-old: “My son has a full-time job. He cannot afford to have to be in quarantine for 14 days upon return. “

But in addition to the punitive measures, Beijing’s government officials have also set a number of positive incentives to motivate the population to have a “peaceful and healthy” New Year celebration. Companies were asked to guarantee the migrant workers who stayed at home opportunities to earn income. Streaming services offer free films, tourist attractions discounts and the major telecommunications providers offer 20 gigabytes of free data.

More security guards than travelers

On this sunny February morning, there is a yawning emptiness on the forecourt of the Beijing Central Railway Station, where thousands of migrant workers are usually waiting for their trains with their belongings at this time of year: only a few dozen Chinese are resting on their suitcases in the winter sun, keeping up with the times Watching cell phone videos and smoking dead.

In front of the splendid socialist building, the numbers of passengers are clearly inferior to the security forces: a young company of recruits in olive-green winter coats patrols the railed-off station square, countless police officers warm up in parked coaches.

Many Chinese will be happy when February 12th, the year of the rat – inevitably linked to the corona outbreak since 2020 – will finally be over. Taxi driver Li Kai is not at all worried that the year of the ox will be a good one.

He comes from a satellite city in Beijing, where his wife and four children still live. The virus has long since ceased to be an issue in Li’s life, and there is not much time to ponder in his everyday life. “I work hard to support my family,” says the man in his mid-forties with the short hairstyle. His shift starts at six, and he doesn’t finish work until eleven in the evening. Anyone who gets into their white taxi has to wear a mask and register with their smartphone using a QR code.

He plans to visit his family despite the travel restrictions. “Although I officially have to do a 14-day self-isolation in my hometown, no one strictly checks it,” says Li Kai. And he has already been vaccinated anyway, he says. The second dose will follow in February.

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EU Corona development fund decided: Billions against the crisis

Half a year ago the EU countries agreed on a program to counter the recession. Now the development fund is as good as ready to go.

Billions against the crisis: EU boss von der Leyen launches corona development fund Photo: AP

BRUSSELS taz | The European Parliament has cleared the way for a climate-friendly and digital restart of the economy in the corona crisis. The EU parliamentarians voted with an overwhelming majority of 582 to 40 votes in favor of the € 672.5 billion construction fund. The vote is considered historic, as the EU is breaking new ground and throwing old fiscal dogmas overboard.

In the face of tight budgets, Brussels wants to run into large debts for the first time. This also makes the EU an important player in the financial market; the first bonds met with great demand. What is also new is that a large part of the financial aid is distributed as grants and not as loans. Ailing countries like Italy do not have to pay back the money.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke of an “important step” in overcoming the crisis. The so-called “Recovery and Resilience Facility” will make Europe “greener, more digital and more resilient”. At least 37 percent of the expenditure per country should go into climate protection, one fifth into digitization.

Initially, however, the program primarily helps the EU Commission. She not only gets more money, but also more power. Because the distribution of the financial aid is monitored by Brussels. The 27 EU countries have to present reform plans in order to benefit from the subsidies. In doing so, they should not only orientate themselves towards climate goals, but also meet neoliberal reform requirements from the “European Semester”.

Many MPs are frustrated

Chancellor Angela Merkel had insisted on this before she gave the green light. Merkel also pushed through that the program is limited in time and the debts are paid back. In addition, the EU is to receive new “own resources” – taxes and duties. The details will not be determined until later. The states have the last word; the European Parliament only plays a minor role.

This leads to frustration for many MPs. “A stronger role for parliament would have been an important counterbalance here,” criticizes CSU MEP Markus Ferber. “Right from the start, the member states wanted an account from which they could withdraw money undisturbed, without having to comply with the annoying requirements of Brussels.”

Criticism from the Greens

This also applies to Germany, where 23 billion euros are to flow, says the green budget expert Rasmus Andresen. “Instead of investing in reforms and innovation, the money should be put into projects that were already planned”, criticizes Andresen. “Municipalities that could drive real innovation are left out.” Berlin does not use the development fund for a green restart.

But there is another problem: The new EU aid should only flow in the summer – and therefore too late to fight the current severe recession. In addition, the new European development program is relatively meager if you compare it with the USA. The new US President Joe Biden has announced a massive increase. However, the EU does not want to follow suit.

At the EU summit in July 2020, at which the construction fund was decided, there was almost a break between Germany and France on the one hand and the Netherlands, Austria and other “thrifty” countries. Many EU politicians still remember the days of turmoil with horror. This barrel will not be opened again, it is now said in Brussels.

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