Weggelobt

“Praised off.”

After Austria’s cabinet passed a special law creating an unusual haircut for some of the enormous debt incurred by the bank Hypo Alpe Adria, Austria’s finance minister appeared on an evening talk show to discuss the decision. The show’s host, said the Frankfurter Rundschau, is “loved and feared for his critical questions and his tendency to bring things precisely to the point.” The finance minister was not pleased with the broadcast.

Then an Austrian tabloid Österreich, said to have good connections to the chancellor’s office, reported that voices in government were pushing for the moderator’s removal. “It was supposed to happen in a typically Austrian style: Apparently he was to be ‘praised away’ into the post of a senior commentator or television director.”

The finance minister’s party, Ö.V.P., said the rumor was untrue. The ORF moderator responded to the wave of solidarity flowing in his direction by tweeting a Mark Twain quote.

Later, in a newspaper interview, the moderator said his questions weren’t that tough. The finance minister just reacted “unusually emotionally” to a “necessary interruption.”

“And when a guest doesn’t answer my questions, or answers with false facts, I have to interrupt. I know that bothers some spectators. But if I didn’t care whether my question got answered, I wouldn’t have asked it.”

(VECK geh LOBED.)

Institut für Archäologische Prospektion und Virtuelle Archäologie

The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archeological Prospecting and Virtual Archeology, in Vienna. Their methodology page said they want to avoid “destruction by excavation.”

A National Geographic writer’s article in der Spiegel described how this Institute cooperated in a project to learn about, without fully uncovering, Bronze Age houses on the Greek island of Santorini that were buried by a massive eruption around 1600 B.C.E. The project partners laser-scanned the village from 850 positions. The University of Vienna did ground-penetrating radar measurements of unexcavated areas. A firm in Vienna helped process the data into artist’s renderings and presumably maps. German National Geographic called the renderings “photogrammetrically created 3D models.”

They found third floors.

(Inn stee TOOT   fir   aw chh ae oh LO! gisch ah   pro specked SEE OWN   oont   vee ah two ELLE ah   aw chh ae oh logue EE.)

Wichtige Informationen verschwiegen

Maintained silence about important information.

In the numerous court trials dealing with deeds done during the running of the Bavarian state bank BayernLB and during the running of the Carinthian state bank Hypo Alpe Adria, and deeds done during BayernLB’s purchase of Hypo Alpe Adria and the country of Austria’s subsequent buying it back for $1, there have been many accusations about improper sharing of important relevant information at key moments.

09 Apr 2014: Jail sentences will be appealed for Hypo Alpe Adria’s former manager Tilo Berlin (2 years), management board member Josef Kircher (3 years), bank head Wolfgang Kulterer (another year), and management board member Siegfried Grigg (3.5 years), for making improper secret side agreements with investors. The Hypo managers did not tell BayernLB that they’d tried to raise capital by selling preferred stock [Vorzugsaktien] with a put option guaranteeing the bank would buy back the stock at any time; i.i.u.c. Hypo’s balance sheet at the time BayernLB bought it described these shares as >100 million euros of Eigenkapital when they should have been classed as Fremdkapital, equity capital when they were in fact debt capital. BayernLB is saying this means the balance sheet and core capital data they were given before the 2007 sale weren’t accurate.

Now that several top managers have been found guilty of selling the bank with an inaccurate sales brochure, the Bavarian Landesbank is suing one of the smaller major shareholders in Hypo Alpe Adria at the time, a group of shareholding Hypo employees, for selling their stock to BayernLB while the brochure was wrong. If the Landesbank wins that lawsuit they can go on to sue the larger major shareholders who owned the bank then, such as the state of Carinthia.

07 May 2014: Former Hypo manager Tilo Berlin thinks BayernLB disguised their true intentions to him in 2008 and has filed charges against the BayernLB bankers and politicians who were running the Landesbank then; prosecutors in Carinthia and Bavaria are investigating his allegations of “serious fraud and suspected fraudulent acquisition of nonvoting share capital” [schweren Betrugs sowie des Verdachts des betrügerischen Erlangens von Partizipationskapital]. After buying Hypo Alpe Adria in 2007, the Austrians are saying, in 2008 the Bavarians tricked them into handing over 900 million euros in Austrian taxpayer-funded aid by pretending BayernLB would keep the troubled Hypo Alpe Adria when they were already planning to get rid of it. BayernLB bought Hypo Alpe Adria in 2007, knew already in 2008 that they’d made a big mistake, and got Austria to take it in 2009; in 2013 the long process for winding it down as a bad bank began.

07 May 2014: In addition to the above, concluded this Spiegel article, the game’s afoot with regard to Hypo Alpe Adria. But Spiegel provided no details.

“Furthermore, the bank was involved in criminal machinations, which Austrian investigators are processing in one of the biggest crime cases in the Alpine republic’s history.”

(VIH chh tigga   in foam ats YONE   fair SHVEEG en.)

Schweigegeld oder Schmiergeld?

“Silence money or shmear money”; blackmail or bribery?

How do you show that a quiet illicit payment was corruption and not extortion?

The Bavarian Landesbank BayernLB came into some unexpected Formula One stock (through a series of events after a Deutsche Bank manager said things in a television interview that led to the end of Leo Kirch’s ability to get more loans and the subsequent implosion of the Kirch media empire). One of BayernLB’s managers started asking questions, in Germany and England, to learn about how Formula One was run in order to learn how much his bank’s new stock was worth. He found the racing empire curiously opaque. He found Bernie Ecclestone had a strange veto right, and filed lawsuits to counter it. Then, say prosecutors, Bernie Ecclestone decided to “turn” the diligent bank manager. A 44-million-euro payment was made (disguised as consulting fees and transferred in several installments to accounts in Austria).

The bank manager testified it was a bribe was to obtain BayernLB’s support for the sale of Mr. Kirch’s Formula One shares to a buyer Bernie Ecclestone preferred.

At his trial in Munich, Bernie Ecclestone’s lawyers are saying it was a blackmail payment to buy the bank manager’s silence after he made threats.

(SHVY gah geld   ode ah   SHMEAR geld.)

„Es gibt ein paar tausend Banken in Europa, da kann man nicht alle kennen“

“There’s thousands of banks in Europe and you can’t know all of them”

is how BayernLB supervisory board member and former Bavarian state Economy Minister Erwin Huber (C.S.U.) supposedly explained in his April Fools Day testimony why he gave his approval to purchase the Hypo Alpe Adria yet knew nothing about the Carinthian bank. An S.P.D. politician responded, “Anyone who publicly documents their political inadequacy so authentically is, as the chair of the Economy Committee, a problem.” Mr. Huber has been chairing the Bavarian state parliament’s Economy Committee since October 2013.

Munich prosecutors had said they did not want to prosecute BayernLB’s supervisory board members for approving overpayment of >500 million euros in the purchase deal—plus some bribes that might be easier to prosecute, in separate trials—because the supervisory board was fooled by the dishonest representations of the bank’s management board, the defendants in the current trial. Three high-ranking C.S.U. politicians from the supervisory board have now testified at the management board’s criminal trial and stated that they were satisfied with the information presented to them by the management board in its argument for purchasing the HGAA.

Defendants in the trial of the BayernLB management board include Michael Kemmer, who moved on to become “managing director of the German Bankers’ Association” [Hauptgeschäftsführer des Bankenverbands], “an influential lobbyist.”

At the time BayernLB bought Hypo Alpe Adria, C.S.U. politicians on BayernLB’s supervisory board [Kontrollgremium] such as Bavarian finance minister Kurt Faltlhauser, interior minister Günther Beckstein and economics minister Erwin Huber wanted the Bavarian state bank to expand, into the Balkans. Bavaria’s then-governor Edmund Stoiber (C.S.U.) made a similar statement to journalists while on a visit to Croatia about then, ZDF heute journal reported.

Apparently BayernLB also bought a loss-plagued Hungarian bank that they want to sell.

(Ess   kipped   eye n   pah   t OW! zenned   BONK en   inn   oy ROPE ah,   dah   cannes   mon   nichh t   OLL ah   ken en.)

P.K.W.-Maut

Car toll.

The C.D.U.’s Bavarian state sister party made a strange campaign promise for the Sept. 2013 election that they would levy a toll on foreign drivers entering Bavaria. It seemed this would be illegal in the E.U., in addition to unethical. The C.S.U. said the country of Austria was doing it, so why couldn’t the state of Bavaria? During the sole televised debate between the two biggest parties’ candidates—in Germany’s deliberately foreshortened campaign, kept brief by electoral laws—Angela Merkel quietly said “no” to the foreigner toll. Horst Seehofer (C.S.U.) swore his party wouldn’t sign a new federal coalition agreement with the C.D.U. without it.

The C.S.U. was re-elected in Bavaria and might be able to rule alone there with no coalition partner (they’ve been in charge in Bavaria since 1946).

In a surprise move, after the German elections a decision was announced from the E.U. transport commissioner Siim Kallas (libertarianesque Estonian Reform Party) indicating Brussels might allow such a state tax on foreigners! In the E.U.! Though they backtracked afterward, it still appeared the P.K.W.-Maut might be allowable were Bavaria to make all drivers entering the state pay a toll and then selectively refund it via the annual tax paid by car owners. That method would miss refunds to numerous deserving Bavarians—electric cars and other environmentally friendly cars already get car tax refunds for example—and the C.S.U. was scratching their heads about how to announce that those car owners wouldn’t be taxed like a foreigner. German consumer protection advocates and apparently a study by the country’s equivalent of A.A.A. (A.D.A.C., the General German Automobilclub) said the proposed toll’s stated intended benefit for infrastructure construction was disingenuous because it would create more administration costs than revenue; if this is true it makes the toll appear more racist. The toll would also irritate non-Bavarian Germans, many of whom were already looking askance at the Bavarian conservative politicians’ attempt to stoke up Ausländerfeindlichkeit, hatred of foreigners, and surf it to power.

Thomas Oppermann (S.P.D.) pointed out that, in the grosse Koalition negotiations to form the new government, the C.D.U. had firmly refused the S.P.D.’s campaign promise to inflict new taxes on the rich yet it would allow this new tax on people who aren’t wealthy.

Investigating the issue in more detail, on 07 Nov 2013 ZDF heute journal interviewed a traffic-expert pundit professor who estimated Germany needed ~7 billion euros more per year to fix its road infrastructure, i.e. more than doubling their current expenditures. He particularly used the example of bridges.

Reporting on 07 Nov 2013 seemed to indicate the debate had expanded to include introducing car tolls on all German autobahns, perhaps merely responsible political debating about any potential reforms or perhaps what it might take to weasel in the Bavarian foreigner disincentive under current rules. The numbers are still unclear, with the C.S.U.-led federal transportation ministry estimating much higher revenues from new car tolls than others estimated. ZDF listed approximate annual numbers from countries who’ve already introduced an autobahn car toll:

Austria. Car toll: 390 million euros, truck toll: 1,100 million euros; 800 million euros spent on annual road construction and maintenance. About half the car toll revenues come from foreign drivers. The Austrian car toll is about 80 euros/year, for residents and foreigners alike.

Switzerland. Car toll: 300 million euros, truck toll: 1,250 million euros; 1,250 million euros spent on annual road construction and maintenance. About 1/3 of the car toll revenues come from foreign drivers. The Swiss car toll is about 33 euros/year for residents and foreigners alike.

Germany. Truck toll: 4,600 million euros; ~5,000 million euros spent on annual road construction and maintenance. Estimates for revenues from an autobahn car toll vary between 350 and 700 million annually (the low number is from the A.D.A.C. drivers’ association and the high number is from the C.S.U.-led transportation ministry).

Austria and Switzerland said they spent 7% to 12% of the autobahn car toll revenues on its administrative costs. In Germany administrative costs could be much higher because of the C.S.U.’s plan to return the money to Bavarian drivers by offsetting it from their car tax. The toll might thus merely bring a bad reputation, highly-public permission for anti-foreigner sentiment and at most a few hundred million euros to fix a budget gap of billions.

Update on 11 Nov 2013: The two parties agreed to temporarily stop discussing a new car toll in their grosse Koalition negotiations.

Update on 27 Nov 2013: Austria and Holland threatened to sue Germany before the European Court of Justice if Germany implements the C.S.U.’s car toll on foreign drivers. The negotiated grosse Koalition agreement presented on Wed. 27 Nov 2013 said yes to the toll if it violated no E.U. rules and negatively impacted no German drivers.

Update on 01 Dec 2013: Protesters walked carrying signs on the Bavarian and Austrian sides of the Inntal A12 autobahn, demonstrating against car tolls. Austria had announced it would create a new checkpoint there to verify that drivers had paid its car toll, probably in reaction to Bavarian politicians’ insistence on an anti-foreigner car toll. People living on both sides of the border fear cars will start filling up local roads trying to avoid the highway tolls. Strolling on the autobahn with friends and neighbors looked rather pleasant, and the Bavarian and Austrian mountains there are so beautiful.

(Pair ZOH! nen croft vog EN   m OW! t.)

“Reich der verdeckten Parteispenden”

“Empire of hidden donations to political parties.”

Austria continues to have fascinating scandals. This Süddeutsche.de article based on News.at reporting and dated a month before their recent parliamentary election describes some salacious-sounding goings-on. Investigations into corruption in “the” phone company Telekom Austria for “stock price manipulation, questionable Eastern European dealings and alleged law buying” has turfed up unreported donations to both the conservative party Ö.V.P. and the social democrats S.P.Ö. The Ö.V.P. and S.P.Ö. have been in a grosse Koalition for the past few national governments and are about to form a new grosse Koalition, though with the weakest results so far.

The unreported political donations came from: Telekom Austria, Österreichische Lotterien [“Austrian Lotteries”], Raiffeisen bank, the Austrian post office corporation [Österreichische Post AG], P.S.K. bank and the Industriellenvereinigung [“Federation of Austrian Industry,” abbr. IV; Wikipedia says this is the Austrian employers’ lobbying organization]. There appears to be a Jack Abramoff king-lobbyist character involved: Peter Hochegger, his company Valora AG, and an agency Mediaselect to which they transferred funds. Peter Hochegger has been under investigation for scandals from the time when the ex-Haider F.P.Ö. was in a ruling national coalition with the conservative Christian Ö.V.P.

In the 29 Sep 2013 Austrian parliamentary election, the two biggest parties barely got enough votes to form another grosse Koalition (the last one, journalists speculated). The racist ex-Haider F.P.Ö. came in third. Other small parties also did well, in an indication of voter frustration: Austrian Green party ~10%, the weird new party of a Canadian-Austrian billionaire ~5%, and the new party of “young neoliberals” ~5% (though if it’s like the German neoliberal party F.D.P. appears to be, this group will front with young politicians—rapid risers with amazing management skills!—while old men quietly run the show, selling a network disguised as a reservoir of superior business knowledge).

(R-r-rye chh   dare   fair DECK ten   pah TIE shpen den.)

“Liebe deinen Nächsten. Für mich sind das unsere Österreicher.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself. For me, that means our Austrians.” Campaign slogan of the racist populist ex-Jörg-Haider* F.P.Ö. party, which came in third in Austria’s 29 Sep 2013 parliamentary election. Quoting the Bible to encourage and give permission to hate foreigners, i.e. anyone who isn’t Austrian. F.P.Ö. politicians said the slogan was an attempt at a “positive” campaign, avoiding “negative” messaging, and that the other political parties were against Austria.

(Bah.)

* Jörg Haider’s old political party has gone through several name changes and reorganizations. Süddeutsche.de said there are now two viable political parties carrying on the horrible Haider’s legacy: F.P.Ö. & B.Z.Ö.

Abwicklung von Hypo Alpe Adria

Winding up, closing down, resolution, clearing, of Austrian bank Hypo Alpe Adria. The E.U. Commission appeared to give its permission to break up the struggling bank on 02 Sep 2013. The European competition authority still had to give its approval.

In 2009 the country of Austria took back HGAA from the BayernLB, Bavarian Landesbank, and nationalized it. Hypo continued losing money. By 2012 Austrian taxpayers had given the bank 3 billion euros bailout, but still it needed ~800 million euros in the first half of 2013 and a projected 700 million in the second half, with expectations of ~5 billion euros more required by 2017. The plan is now to sell the Austrian branch to a British investor in Q4 2013, close the Italian branch and sell off the other southern European banks (250 branch offices employing 4300 workers) by 2015.

The reporting repeating the numbers cited by the Austrian finance ministry varies, and it’s hard to match up the cited numbers with the years given. Austrian finance minister Maria Fekter (Ö.V.P.) said the numerical uncertainty is partially because they don’t know how much they’ll get in the sale of the southern European branches. They also want to move HGAA’s failed loans, worst paper and unsellable divisions “away” into a “separate Abwicklungseinheit,” a separate clearing unit, also called an “Abbaubank,” literally breakdown or decomposition bank but apparently called in English a “restructuring unit,” “separate from the core bank.” Without the Abbaubank device, Austrian taxpayers might be on the hook for 16 billion euros, another Austrian finance ministry number, to wind down the HGAA.

We know a bit about what happened under Carinthian and Bavarian management of HGAA. What happened in Italy?

Austria will be holding a parliamentary election on 29 Sep 2013.

Update on 14 Mar 2014: It’s been decided that the Hypo Alpe Adria group will be wound down as a “bad bank,” into a “deregulated, private-economy-organized company” said Austrian finance minister Michael Spindelegger. About 18 billion euros in bad paper will be moved into this vehicle. The decision will increase Austria’s national debt >5%, from ~75% to >80% of the country’s gross national product. HGAA’s subsidiary banks in Italy and the Balkans are to be sold as quickly as possible. It should take the bad bank about a decade to finish closing down the organization, only after which the true costs will be known, said a social minister who will no longer be social minister a decade from now.

Update on 17 Jun 2014: The Austrian state of Carinthia owes ~12 billion euros because of guarantees it made for Hypo Alpe Adria. Carinthia’s annual budget is apparently ~1 billion euros.

A week ago Austria’s cabinet passed a special law that said Carinthia will no longer be responsible for all the bank’s debt that it has guaranteed. This should save the state ~800 million euros while stirring up a lot of trouble for Austria.

Austria’s federal government is deliberately avoiding bankruptcy for the troubled bank because they fear it would pull the state of Carinthia into bankruptcy. The cabinet passed this “special law” haircutting non-first-tranche holders of HAA debt, whose riskier tranche under normal circumstances would only come into play after a bankruptcy. The Green party said they should just declare the bank bankrupt and work out fair haircuts for all. Carinthia’s most important services such as day care centers and hospitals are mandated by law, said the Greens, so the bank’s creditors wouldn’t be able to pull much money out of the state government. “These investors have not earned the protection of the taxpayers.”

(OB vick loong   fon    HIPPO   I’ll pay   ODD ree ah.)

Unionsrecht

“Union law” in Germany apparently means European Union law and not the rules of the conservative Christian Democratic union consisting of the national-level C.D.U. + the Bavarian state C.S.U. This distinction became clear during a television news discussion about the legality of C.S.U. head Horst Seehofer’s strange and very unsettling* campaign promise to create a toll for foreigners driving on Bavarian roads. Mr. Seehofer’s political party, which has ruled Bavaria since 1946, claimed they did a survey that found 88% of Bavarians disliked foreigners enough to support the C.S.U.’s proposed toll or “Ausländer-Maut.” C.S.U. proponents also said the country of Austria introduced a similar foreigners fee and why wasn’t that illegal but their state-level proposal is.

The Bavarian state election (for the Landestag, state parliament) was Sunday, 15 Sep 2013, one week before Germany’s Bundestag election.

During the campaign—mercifully short by U.S. standards—the C.S.U. party promised Bavarian voters it would refuse to join a German federal government coalition after the 22 Sep 2013 federal election if their federal partners said they couldn’t tax foreigners. But it’s hard to believe the C.S.U. could afford to exit that coalition. Bavaria is said to have the best schools in Germany, so it’s hard to believe Bavarian voters would believe the C.S.U. when they promised to exit that coalition, either. The threat didn’t work on Chancellor Merkel (C.D.U.), on the surface at least. During what was apparently the only formal evening debate between the two largest parties’ candidates, she said on national television that the C.S.U.’s proposed foreigner-specific state road toll was not going to happen.

But the whole point appears to have been to talk about taxing foreigners in Bavarian beer tents, because Horst Seehofer persisted in doing that even after Angela Merkel’s quiet and very public “no.” Mr. Seehofer’s challenger, Munich mayor Christian Ude (S.P.D.), called it “eine bewusste Irreführung der Bevölkerung,” a deliberate confusion or leading-into-crazy-country of the people.

* Not only do proposals like this sound like they could grow racism, but as we now know since the Snowden trove revelations there are several ways the new toll could be used to spy on foreigners.

(Oo n YO nz wrecked.)

Der grosse Knüppel

The big stick (actually, a Knüppel is a blackjack or sap). This week’s breathtaking breakthroughs in offshore accounting EU reform initiatives are said to have only been made possible by help from the USA, which used its very big stick of threatening to cut off uncooperative countries from the financial Mecca that is Wall Street.

Before the offshore data leak was published on 04 Apr 2013, it was Luxemburg and Austria versus 25 EU Member States regarding offshore anonymity, and now Austria is standing alone, which EU countries describe as being “isolated” and fear more than US Americans might expect.

(Dare   GROSS ah   c’nupp ell.)

Bankgeheimnis

“Banking secrecy.” Luxemburg announced on 07 Apr 2013 that they intend to relax their banking code of silence, “no longer strictly refusing” to automatically share information about international accounts with other countries’ tax authorities, starting in 2015. EU countries have also been in negotiations with Switzerland about similar issues for several years, though individually as separate countries and not with the full power of the EU.

Until now, foreigners banking in Luxemburg have paid an anonymous tax of 35% on interest earned there. This will be changed in Luxemburg e.g so that account holders’ names will be included in the information shared with German tax authorities.

German critics say this is insufficient because other Luxemburg income, such as company profits, remains untaxed for foreigners. Also, Luxemburg isn’t the only European tax oasis. Jürgen Trittin of the Green Party criticized Austria, for example, where names of foreign account holders earning interest in Austrian banks are only shared after initiation of criminal proceedings. Green Party finance guy Gerhard Schick wrote that the G20 summit in 2009 actually agreed to end Bankgeheimnis; certainly some reforms were enacted that year though movement has been slow since, until the recent data leak. The ZDF report concluded by saying that economists have warned that if only some tax oases reform their laws, the ones that don’t will profit from acquiring fleeing customers.

Update on 09 Apr 2013: “In principle, Liechtenstein has separated itself from its tax haven past.” Speaking of Liechtenstein, it looks like they had an interesting idea for a new field for financial services experts in former tax oases to move into: ratings agencies that are independent of the big three on Wall Street. The nonprofit Carlo Foundation (carlofoundation.org), said to be the world’s first independent fund rating agency, was founded in Liechtenstein in July 2012.

Update on 22 May 2013: At their summit in Brussels all 27 EU leaders confirmed in principle their finance ministers’ decision to eliminate Bankgeheimnis for “foreign”-held bank accounts, insurance policies and investments starting in 2015. The leaders of the two last holdouts, Luxemburg and Austria, said they too would agree to the automatic exchange of data after the EU as a whole negotiated banking agreements with relevant third-party countries such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein or Monaco. Luxemburg’s prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker said his country is particularly concerned that the same competition conditions apply in finance centers inside and outside the EU. Negotiations with Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra, Switzerland and San Marino about automatic exchange of banking data are underway and expected to be concluded quickly, in “two to three months.” If all goes according to schedule, EU leaders could completely eliminate Bankgeheimnis at their meeting in December 2013.

Update on 20 Mar 2014: The 28 E.U. heads of government agreed to end Bankgeheimnis in the European Union, with comprehensive exchanges of tax data. This will also end banking secrecy for foreigners, though that might mean only for foreigners from other E.U. member states. Five third-party countries, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco and Andorra, also agreed to exchange sufficient information to end banking secrecy de facto with regard to interest income, said Luxemburg’s prime minister, saying this fulfilled Luxemburg’s conditions for also agreeing to the new policy.

The O.E.C.D.’s standard for automatic data exchange will be the orientation point, and the E.U. hopes it will become the standard for tax information exchange regulations worldwide, said E.U. Council President Herman Van Rompuy. But today’s breakthrough E.U. policy agreement goes beyond the requirements of the O.E.C.D. standard:

“In future, the data exchange is supposed to apply not only to private persons but also to certain trusts and foundations. The guideline will also apply for stock profits and certain insurance profits, particularly from life insurance and investment funds. The banks are also to be obligated to collect more information in future about the actual economic owners of companies.”

(BONK geh HIGH mniss.)

Falschfahrer, Geisterfahrer

“Wrong drivers,” “ghost drivers.” Wrong-way drivers, people who enter the wrong side of the German autobahn, proceeding against traffic. I’ve never understood how they manage this, but you hear over and over on German radio traffic warnings about someone driving the wrong direction on this-or-that autobahn. After a recent accident, ADAC (German AAA) estimated there are about two wrong-way drivers per day in Germany. It sounds like autobahn entrances have the potential to be redesigned into somewhat safer sluices. Technical solutions are already being tested: Austria has installed tire barriers at its autobahn entrances that pop the tires of vehicles going the wrong direction, though this is said to hinder ambulances rushing to accident scenes. BMW is testing alarms.

Apparently there’s more “Bourne”-type driving the wrong way down one-way roads in Germany than I knew: this ZDF heute journal report from 22 Nov 2012 shows cars with diplomatic plates doing it pretty consistently in Berlin.

Update on 02 Jan 2013: Technical recommendations include better signage on autobahns and warnings in cars about dangerous driving ahead. ADAC recommends “dass Falschfahrermeldungen unbedingt in die Navigationssystem eingespeichert werden,” that wrong-way driving messages absolutely must be stored in the on-board navigation system. It’s unclear to me whether this means the navigation system should inform drivers or report them when they’re driving the wrong direction.

(FOLSH far err,   GUY ster far err.)

österreichischer Schmäh

The Austrian, um, schmäh. Dark, usually delivered with a smile. An oppositional attitude. Can be a bit misanthropic. May include surface-level humor and  life-affirming melancholy.

(UHST er rike ish er SHMAY.)

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