„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.)

Wer wirklich wissen wolle, welche Wagen am bestgewertet seien…

“Anyone who really wants to know what vehicles are the most highly rated ones…” should not consult Germany’s Munich-based A.D.A.C. automobile club’s car rankings, because “someone who has lied before, you don’t believe any more” as Spiegel.de put it.

A giant in German consumer protection has fallen. The Süddeutsche Zeitung saw documents indicating Germany’s equivalent of the A.A.A. car club had manipulated the numbers of readers’ votes received for its “Yellow Angel prize.” Auto industry pundits are now questioning all the group’s data: blue book car values, European tunnel safety evaluations, accident statistics. “If you want to know the most popular cars on German roads, we can only recommend now that you consult the government’s reliable statistics on new registrations,” Spiegel said a competitor car club, the Stuttgart-based Auto Club Europa (A.C.E.), announced in a written statement.

The hundred-year-old advocacy group, at ~19 million members one of Germany’s largest associations and Europe’s biggest car club, was a mixed-purpose, highly entrepreneurial group that did lobbying work, tested products and services, published a magazine and promoted its magazine, but also did business as an insurer, travel agent, car rental agency, long-distance bus company and of course provided much-appreciated roadside emergency aid to members with car trouble via a large fleet of highly recognizable yellow autos. They also own some small planes and 51 helicopters, apparently, supposedly for airlifting patients to hospitals but not always. Although it certainly has defended drivers well on some issues in its lobbying work, including supporting the environmentally-friendly side of some pollution questions, its interactions with Germany’s auto manufacturers have at times been problematically “symbiotic,” a Süddeutsche.de op-ed commented. The survey for which readers’ interest was faked was apparently part of the group’s self-promotion work: the A.D.A.C. awarded its “Yellow Angel” prize as usual in a lavish evening ceremony at a royal residence in Munich on Thursday, 16 Jan 2014, calling the Süddeutsche’s publication two days before about the possible manipulations “a scandal for journalism,” only to admit to the accusations two days afterward. The magazine’s editor fell on his sword.

The A.D.A.C. had recently disagreed with the statistics cited by Germany’s new transportation minister Alexander Dobrindt (C.S.U.) and his colleagues in support of the C.S.U.’s biggest goal from the recent election: to impose a car toll on non-German drivers entering Bavaria. Now the A.D.A.C.’s statistics are no longer considered reliable.

Update on 24 Jan 2014: Critics are calling for restructuring of the sprawling “anachronistic” A.D.A.C., saying a car club that takes in 2 billion euros annually can no longer be run like a pigeon fanciers’ association.

Update on 17 Feb 2014: Auditor Deloitte only had access to data going back to 2009, but there appeared to be some general trends in how A.D.A.C. manipulated the automobile brands that were made the official winners of the “readers’ choice” Yellow Angel award. No car manufacturer had two models among the top three winners, even though that did happen several times. Preference appears to have been given to new models. When they announced the auditor’s findings, both A.D.A.C. and Deloitte were still sticking with their theory that the results were manipulated by lone gunmen acting alone, said Süddeutsche.de.

Update on 25 Feb 2014: A.D.A.C.’s business manager has now resigned, after the club’s president resigned, after the communications director-and-magazine editor fell on his sword. >200,000 members have cancelled their memberships.

Update on 09 Mar 2014: Income tax is collected by the states in Germany so I presumed it was the Bavarian tax authority that examined the A.D.A.C.’s tax returns from 2007 to 2009 and decided the club owed 500 million euros in back taxes. The club did not pay an insurance tax even though it “provided grounds for an insurance relationship relevant to insurance tax law” [“ein versicherungssteuerrechtlich relevantes Versicherungsverhältnis begründet“]. But apparently this announcement was made by the federal finance ministry [Bundesfinanzministerium]. The ministry said there would be no criminal trial if the A.D.A.C. paid the half billion. The Registration Court at the Munich Local Court [Registergericht beim Amtsgericht München] is examining whether A.D.A.C. still fulfills the requirements for Verein status, in view of its business activities.

Meanwhile, Spiegel.de described a Wirtschaftswoche article reporting that federal highways money that was allocated but not spent in time in other states got sent to Bavaria, to the tune of an extra 140 million euros in 2013. Four other relatively wealthy states also received extra highways funding in 2013 that poorer states such as Berlin had to give back after not managing to spend it building highways: Lower Saxony (+80 million euros), Hesse (+47 million euros), Rhineland-Palatinate (+40 million euros), Saxony (+38 million). Bavaria’s total federal highways funding in 2013 was 1240 million euros (including the extra 140 million).

Update on 04 May 2014: Spiegel.de has received information that the A.D.A.C. auto club owned about 3.5 billion euros in 2012 in stock, bank accounts and real estate. With its dozens of subsidiaries, the A.D.A.C. auto club had a 2012 gross of nearly 1 billion euros, with about 85 million euros profit. Their next project is to open a car repair franchise, with 150 workshops.

Structurally, a Beirat has been added to the association’s management, whose members include someone from Transparency International and a former judge from Germany’s Constitutional Court. Apparently the A.D.A.C. did not and does not have a supervisory board, despite the enormous wealth and power controlled by the club. After the recent manipulation scandal became public, they added the new Beirat or additional advisory board in lieu of a more powerful supervisory board.

Spiegel wrote that the new Beirat, “at their first meeting before Easter, did not have the impression that the club was starting a transparency offensive. Rather, the top management at A.D.A.C. seemed motivated by the question of what actions would have to be taken for the club to retain its legal form of an e.V. registered association. The Munich Registration Court has been reviewing this privilege, which gives the A.D.A.C. certain advantages, for weeks now.”

(Vay ah   VEE ah click   VISS en   VULL ah,   VELL chh ah   VOGG en   om   best gah VAY ah tett   zye en)

“Wenn das Angebot erst einmal in dieser Breite vorhanden ist, dann wird die Nachfrage sich einstellen”

“When supply is available in this [amplitude/latitude], then the demand will adjust,” transport minister Peter Ramsauer (C.S.U.) said at the May 2013 electromobility summit in Berlin, explaining how supply was going to drive demand for electric cars in Germany. Though his government certainly wanted more electric cars on German roads, they said they would continue not giving individual consumers subventions or tax rebates for purchasing the expensive but environmentally friendly vehicles. Only ~7000 electric cars were registered in Germany (pop. ~80 million). Electric car prices in Germany were considered high by consumers and everyone—government, car makers and consumers—agreed there weren’t many models to choose from. Auto manufacturers at the government-hosted electromobility conference said on 27 May 2013 they hoped to increase the electric car models for sale in Germany to ~15 by 2015.

Update on 26 Nov 2013: Norway is promoting electric cars more than any other country in the world, with free downtown parking, free downtown recharging, no taxes on purchases of new electric automobiles (omitting 25% V.A.T., import fees and tariffs, import customs charges), no highway tolls and permission to drive in bus lanes. Rich in oil and water, Norway has been selling the oil internationally and using the water to create free electricity for electric cars at home, to meet the country’s 2017 carbon emissions reduction goals. The ~5 million Norwegians own about 14,000 electric cars, which have become the most popular vehicles people are applying to register there, unseating the Volkswagen Golf.

(Ven   doss   ON geh boat   eahst   moll   inn   dee zah   BR-R-R-IGHT ah   foah hond en   issed,   don   vee ahd   dee   NOCHH fr-r-rog ah   zichh   eye n shtell en.)

L.K.W.-Maut

Truck toll.

Germany has a relatively new national toll on trucks. On 06 Nov 2013 it became known that interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (C.S.U.) had wanted to use data collected during the collection of that toll “to fight crime” but has supposedly been stopped from doing so.

Wikipedia said the toll was introduced in 2005 and is collected automatically by Toll Collect using G.S.M. and G.P.S. and on-board units on registered trucks or by toll tickets sold by off-ramp terminals.

(LOST croft VOG en   m OW! T.)

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.)

Rundfunk-Staatsvertrag

“Broadcaster’s treaty,” also short for the name of a law, the Staatsvertrag für Rundfunk und Telemedien or German Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting and Telemedia.

The broadcasting treaty regulating one of Germany’s two big public broadcasters, ZDF, is being reviewed by the supreme Constitutional Court [Verfassungsgericht] in Karlsruhe after a political fight in 2009 about firing ZDF’s editor-in-chief. Germany’s other big public broadcaster, ARD, reported that the case’s core question is whether governments and political parties have too much influence in ZDF’s current setup. The states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hamburg brought the lawsuit to the supreme Constitutional Court in the form of a complaint about who’s on two boards that control ZDF.

“I believe that we have, step by step, walked ourselves into too much dominance by the government-influenced members of the Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] and Television Council [Fernsehrat].” –Kurt Beck (S.P.D.) former Rhineland-Palatinate governor and chair of the ZDF Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] who, after trying and failing to make legislative changes, co-brought the suit.

Former Hessian governor Roland Koch (C.D.U.) led the 2009 fight in the Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] to not renew ZDF editor-in-chief Nikolaus Brender’s contract.

The ZDF Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] has 14 members, of whom five represent German states and one represents the federal government. The remaining eight Administrative Council members are selected by the 77-member ZDF Television Council [Fernsehrat]. That board is supposed to “set guidelines for ZDF shows and advise directors about programming questions” and to consist of 77 people from societally important groups, namely

1 person from each of the German states signing the Staatsvertrag, 3 people sent by the federal government, 12 people sent by the political parties proportionate to their proportions in the Bundestag, 2 sent by the Protestant church, 2 sent by the Catholic church, 1 from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, 1 from the German association of unions [Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund], 1 from the association of service job unions ver.di [Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft e.V.], 1 from the bureaucrats’ union [Deutscher Beamtenbund], 2 from the federal association of employers’ unions [Bundesvereinigung Deutscher Arbeitgeberverbände], 1 from the national chambers of commerce association [Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag], 1 from the German agriculture central committee [Zentralausschuss der Deutschen Landwirtschaft], 1 from the central association of German craftsmen [Zentralverband des Deutschen Handwerks], 2 from the association of German newspaper publishers [Bundesverbandes Deutscher Zeitungsverleger], 1 from the German journalists’ association [Deutschen Journalistenverbandes e.V.], 1 from the media section of the service jobs union ver.di, 4 from the Free Welfare Associations [Freie Wohlfahrtsverbände] (and that should be 1 from the German Protestant church’s Diakonie Werk, 1 from the German Catholic church’s Deutscher Caritasverband e.V. umbrella association of charities, 1 from the German Red Cross, 1 from the central committee of the German workers’ welfare group Deutsche Arbeiterwohlfahrt e.V.), 1 from the German cities’ council [Deutscher Städtetag], 1 from the German association of cities and communities [Deutscher Städte- und Gemeindebund], 1 from the German counties’ council [Deutscher Landkreistag], 1 from the German sports association [Deutscher Sportbund], 1 from Europaunion Deutschland e.V., 1 from the German association for the environment and protecting nature [Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V.], 1 from the German nature protection association [Naturschutzbund Deutschland], 1 from the association of displaced persons [Bund der Vertriebenen], 1 from the coalition of victims of Stalinism [Vereinigung der Opfer des Stalinismus] and 16 from education, science, the arts, culture, the film economy, the free professions, family work, child protection, youth employment, consumer protection and animal protection.

Yet ARD tagesschau.de legal correspondent Frank Bräutigam’s chart broke these 77 members down into only three main groups: 45.4% board members from governments/political parties, 27.3% from unions, 20.8% from professional groups. The current judicial review will be casting a sharp eye on the complaint that the 27.3% unions and 20.8% professional groups are also nominated by the political parties. In fact, said ZDF heute journal, a considerable portion of them are selected by state governors, adding that informally the television council actually breaks down into two large groups: the C.D.U.’s allies and the S.P.D.’s allies. Usually, said people defending the current system, the duopoly controlling the ZDF television council is balanced enough to prevent the appearance of violation of the German Constitution, which guarantees freedom of reporting in broadcasting and film (Grundgesetz, Art. 5).

ZDF heute journal said the supreme court cannot change the Staatsvertrag but can define criteria limiting it.

ARD tagesschau.de calmly concluded their report by noting that the German supreme court in Karlsruhe has been issuing decisions that help define Germany’s media landscape for decades now. A verdict is expected in 2014.

Update on 25 Mar 2014: The court issued its verdict, invalidating the ZDF charter because it allows too much political influence to be taken. Germany’s public broadcasters must not become state broadcasters, said the judges. In future, the 44% of ZDF’s board members who are politicians or “part of government or close to government” must be reduced to 33%, and political parties must stop exerting “determining influence” on the naming of the other board members (who are supposed to be “far from government” but were in part being named by e.g. state governors).

Germany’s public broadcasters must also remain available to the public and not be allowed to wither by being restricted to obsolescing technology.

The judges demanded a cultural change at German public broadcasters, to become more of what they were always intended to be, said Süddeutsche.de: an institution for the entire society, reflecting diversity and variety in that society. Freedom of broadcasting as it is guaranteed in the German constitution is based on ensuring variety of content that cannot be achieved via a free market alone, the judges said. One judge’s minority opinion said these measures were too lenient, that 33% was still too high, and he called for emancipation of the public broadcasters from government entirely.

(ROOND FOONK shtots fair TROG.)

Beibehaltung

Retention.

April 2013: After it became known the chair of the supervisory board [Aufsichtsrat] of Germany’s richest and most successful soccer team, Bayern Munich, was under investigation for voluntarily reporting himself [Selbstanzeige] as having an insufficiently reported and taxed ~500 million euros in a Swiss bank account, there seem to remain some loose ends in his origin story for where the half billion came from*. Yet on 06 May 2013 Bayern Munich’s supervisory board voted not to accept Uli Hoeneß’s resignation as its head. Members of the supervisory board who supported Mr. Hoeneß at this meeting included: Herbert Hainer, C.E.O. of Adidas. Rupert Stadler, C.E.O. of Audi. Timotheus Höttges, chief of Finances and Controlling at top Bayern sponsor Deutsche Telekom. Martin Winterkorn, C.E.O. of Volkswagen. Edmund Stoiber (C.S.U.), former candidate for German chancellor in the C.D.U./C.S.U. party.

10 May 2013: Mr. Hoeneß is suing the responsible prosecutor’s office for being the source of the press’s discovery of the investigation into the mysterious half billion euros, in April 2013.

30 Jul 2013: Uli Hoeneß has been charged with alleged tax evasion. The Economic Crimes Chamber [Wirtschaftsstrafkammer] of the second Munich Landgericht [Münchener Landgericht II] must now decide whether it will allow the trial to proceed and whether to open the main trial. The decision is expected in late September 2013.

04 Aug 2013: The president of the German Soccer Association [Deutscher Fussballbund e.V., D.F.B.], Wolfgang Niersbach, declared his support for Uli Hoeneß.

07 Aug 2013: Stern.de report that an anonymous informant told the second state prosecutors office in Munich [Münchener Staatsanwaltschaft II] that Mr. Hoeneß’s untaxed millions are not limited to one account at the Swiss Vontobel bank (said by prosecutors to have contained 500 million Swiss francs but said by Mr. Hoeneß in April 2013 never to have exceeded around 15 to 20 million euros, tops). Stern.de reported the informant said Mr. Hoeneß’s Vontobel account had balances consistently [“durchgehend“] exceeding 500 million Swiss francs in years before 2008 and also supplied information about stock dealings and transactions involving numbered accounts at three other Swiss banks: Crédit Suisse, Julius Bär and the Zürcher Kantonalbank.

The whistleblower said Deutsche Telekom stock with which Mr. Hoeneß participated in so-called dividend stripping was also involved.

04 Nov 2013: Mr. Hoeneß will have to “answer before a court” after all, starting ~10 Mar 2014. Landgericht Munich II’s “Economic Chamber” [Wirtschaftskammer] announced it will allow trial of charges against him of tax evasion and providing inaccurate answers. His Selbstanzeige earlier this year “contained errors.”

Frank Bräutigam, ARD tagesschau.de’s excellent legal correspondent, said the trial will evaluate the correctness of the Selbstanzeige (timeliness, completeness and accuracy). If the court determines that the Selbstanzeige was not properly executed, next it must decide how much money was improperly handled and what penalties could be imposed.

The Bayern Munich football club’s supervisory board reconfirmed that they want to retain Mr. Hoeneß as president of the club.

14 Mar 2014: Uli Hoeneß’s trial for 3.5 million euros of tax evasion was this week. In the two weeks before the trial started on Monday, he apparently gave prosecutors 50,000, some said 70,000, pages of Vontobel bank account statements previously withheld. On Monday he surprised reporters by announcing he’d actually not paid 18 million euros tax, but this was the ultimate number, no more revelations. On Tuesday, an auditor testified that the amount was actually 27 million. He was found guilty of 28.5 million euros in tax evasion and sentenced to 3.5 years, which will probably be in an open prison. On Friday, he said he would not appeal. The prosecutors may still decide to appeal. Uli Hoeneß resigned as president of the FC Bayern Munich soccer club and chair of FC Bayern Munich Inc.’s supervisory board.

Mr. Hoeneß’s salary tended to be about 10 million euros per year. The Vontobel account never had more than 150 million euros in it at one time.

(BY beh HALT oong.)

* Mr. Hoeneß said he netted 500 million euros between 2000 and 2012 by compulsively playing the stock market starting with a 10-million-euro combination gift/loan in 2000 from a now-deceased friend, a former C.E.O. of Adidas.

Bankendaten-Transfer ausgesetzt

Stopped the transfer of banking data.

On 23 Oct 2013 members of the European Parliament parties the Social Democrats, Greens, Leftists and (libertarianesque) Liberals voted 280 to 254 to stop providing bank transfer data to the U.S. under the S.W.I.F.T. agreement until more is done to fix the U.S.’s disrespect for data protection worldwide. Bank transfers have replaced checking in Europe, and the E.U. had originally, reluctantly, agreed to let the U.S. access bank transfer data in order to help fight terrorism.

Only four E.U. countries, including Five Eyes member Britain, and the German C.D.U./C.S.U. M.E.P.’s remained in favor of the status quo (this was before revelations that the U.S. had bugged the cell phone of Chancellor Merkel (C.D.U.)!). France was leading the protest, especially after articles in Le Monde that week about the vast extent of N.S.A. spying in France, slurfing tens of millions of French phone calls in just one 30-day period. The angry M.E.P.’s wanted the U.S. to, among other things, be honest and precise about what its organizations have been doing. An anonymous committee member was quoted in Spiegel.de as saying they know now that the U.S. does not change anything until after you stand up and say no to them.

The European Parliament decision to stop providing S.W.I.F.T. transfers data still must be approved by 2/3 of the 28 member states. The coalition of proponents doesn’t quite have those numbers yet, but lately U.S. intelligence agencies tend to help their opponents by delivering new outrages rather than, say, providing honest and precise information about what they, the myriad private contractor intelligence companies the U.S. hires, and their public and private partners around the world, have been doing.

Some goals, from the press release for the nonbinding solution:

“Parliament stresses that any data-sharing agreement with the US must be based on a consistent legal data protection framework, offering legally-binding standards on purpose limitation, data minimisation, information, access, correction, erasure and redress.”

Update on 27 Nov 2013: E.U. interior commissioner Cecilia Malmström (Swedish Liberal People’s Party, conservative-liberal, liberal with the non-U.S.A meaning of libertarianesque) announced that the commission was negating the E.U. parliament’s decisions to stop sharing E.U. air passenger data and S.W.I.F.T. bank transfer data with the U.S.A. “to fight terrorism” because, she said they said, there was no evidence the U.S. had violated the agreements. And, the E.U. Commission was also not going to change the toothless self-policing “Safe Harbor” data protection agreement: justice commissioner Viviane Reding has given the U.S. a 13-point data protection homework assignment to implement by summer 2014, after which the E.U. will re-examine torpedoing “Safe Harbor.”

(BONK en dot en   TRONZ fair   OW! z’gez ets t.)

EUR 9.85, EUR 8.50

9.85 euros is what a liter of slowly warming beer cost at the 2013 Oktoberfest in Bavaria (6 million visitors were expected this year). 8.50 euros is the national statutory minimum wage the S.P.D. party promised to introduce in its recent election campaign. Looking on the bright side, this labor breakthrough is what the S.P.D. is now hoping to permanently achieve by agreeing to an identity-destroying grosse Koalition with the C.D.U./C.S.U.

Minimum wages in Germany are negotiated individually by each union though not for all job types. Notoriously, German hairdressers often work so many hours that their per-hour earnings are shockingly low. So do many cleaners, cooks, florists, healthcaregivers, waitstaff and especially also meatpacking industry workers whose jobs are subcontracted by subcontractors. ZDF heute journal reported on 17 Oct 2013 that 5 million Germans earn less than the proposed minimum wage, one in four workers in the former East Germany.

In the fight to prevent a national minimum wage, employers and their economists and their other academics and conservative politicians have made predictions about the damage a minimum wage would cause. In the fight to introduce a national minimum wage, proponents have discussed how it would ease strains on a welfare state’s social services, which have had to cover for employers of the working poor. In a country that keeps good records such as Germany it will be interesting to be able to measure the results against the predictions, and to compare them to results from other countries that introduced minimum wages such as Britain (with success) and Poland (results middling but the wage may have been set too low to do much, at 2 euros/hour). If it happens, the German minimum wage will be an ongoing experiment certainly subject to future negotiation and adjustments.

Minderheitenrechte im Bundestag

Bundestag minority rights, minority meaning the multiple parties that aren’t part of the multiple-parties ruling coalition.

Update on 09 Oct 2013: If the two biggest parties, Chancellor Merkel’s C.D.U./C.S.U. and the S.P.D., form another huge coalition, the Green party + Leftists opposition would be so tiny they wouldn’t have the votes e.g. to create investigative committees [an Untersuchungsausschuss], call a special session [Sondersitzung] or ask the supreme court in Karlsruhe to check a law’s constitutionality [Normenkontrollklage]. Because of this, the Green party announced on 09 Oct 2013, they will consider asking the supreme court in Karlsruhe to review the situation and verify that minority rights are still appropriately guaranteed in the Bundestag should a grosse Koalition result from the 22 Sep 2013 election.

Update on 19 Oct 2013: C.D.U., C.S.U. and S.P.D. gave assurances that the ~9% + ~10% opposition consisting of two small parties would be allowed the same rights and control/inspection capabilities that require 25% in a normal Bundestag. Meanwhile, S.P.D. party members voted yes to proceed with negotiations with the C.D.U. for a new grosse Koalition government, that could start ruling in early December.

Interesting update on 16 Jan 2014: The “bonsai” Bundestag opposition really means it about wanting to change the rules so they don’t have to wait for members of the two big parties to magnanimously provide formal support enabling their initiatives. Bundestag president Norbert Lammert (C.D.U.) is considering a Bundestag law that would lower the minimum from 25%, but this pathway is unsatisfactory to the opposition because such a change could be undone just as easily. A change to the German constitution would be more permanent.

Amusing characterizations were swapped in this ZDF heute journal report. A Green party rep said the Leftists were intending to go “full opposition” this time while the Greens wanted to be a “constructive opposition.” A Leftists rep said the Greens were behaving like a “government-in-waiting.”

Update on 11 Feb 2014: The ruling grosse Koalition is still talking about making the changes to give the <25% opposition some tools besides speechifying. Though they are about to propose and pass a 10% raise for themselves within one week.

The grosse Koalition is saying yes, the Bundestag’s rules of procedure really ought to be changed to allow oppositions <25% to create investigative committees. But no, now they refuse to agree to allow <25% oppositions to ask the supreme court in Karlsruhe to check constitutionality of laws [Normenkontrollklage].

Update on 03 Apr 2014: The two parties in the grosse Koalition, C.D.U./C.S.U. + S.P.D., and the oppositional Green party voted to change the Bundestag’s rules of procedure to allow this 19% opposition to create investigative committees and call special sessions. The oppositional Leftists abstained because the compromise agreement did not go far enough. The new rules will apply until the next Bundestag election.

Update on 28 Jun 2014: The bonsai opposition was unable to file complaints against the Bundestag’s creating automatic raises for itself and against the reform to Germany’s switch to renewable power sources. The Greens weren’t able to call a certain type of hearing to review last minute substantial changes to the Energiewende reform because they lacked the numbers.

(MINNED eah height en RECT eh   im   BOON dess tochh.)

“Bekannte Gefangenschaft”

Known captivity” of forming a “grosse Koalition,” a large coalition consisting of Germany’s two biggest political parties and practically no opposition. After the 22 Sep 2013 Bundestag election, Chancellor Merkel‘s C.D.U. was more powerful than ever yet needed another seat or two for a Bundestag majority. Its trusty traditional libertarianesque coalition partner, the F.D.P., didn’t manage the 5% hurdle created to prevent future Hitlers and so is now out of the Bundestag. Whoever partners with the C.D.U./C.S.U. to form the next government will probably lose their political soul and end up with their core voters [Stammwähler] fleeing in droves after the bigger partner forces them to agree to break faith with their supporters and their political identity again and again. Yet, as an old S.P.D. politician is said to have said, opposition is crap [“Opposition ist Mist”].

The S.P.D. promised, swore, during the campaign that they would not form a grosse Koalition.

Update on 25 Sep 2013: The Greens are proposing their pals the S.P.D. as the C.D.U.’s coalition partner and the S.P.D. is proposing the Greens. A cartoon was published showing Angela Merkel saying, “Yoo hoo!” and the Greens and S.P.D. chairs scrambling up a tree to hide in the leaves. But the German constitution requires a coalition be formed by Oct. 22. And the S.P.D. has reason to fear its ~25% result would drop even lower if a new election were called.

Update on 26 Sep 2013: The S.P.D. is supposedly pushing to make the C.D.U. break a campaign promise before the S.P.D. breaks its campaign promise by forming a grosse Koalition with them. Before the election, the S.P.D. promised to raise taxes for the richest Germans, anathema for the C.D.U./C.S.U. (& F.D.P.). Now the S.P.D. is indicating they could and would make the C.D.U. raise some taxes on some rich people as a coalition precondition.

The Leftists party (Die Linken) was originally created by former East German politicians twenty years ago and now houses some apostate S.P.D. pols who felt the Social Democrats were trending too far to the right—especially after joining grosse-Koalition C.D.U. governments. If the socialistical S.P.D. would partner with the Leftists plus their traditional partner the Green party, they might form their own majorities and take over state and federal governments. But the S.P.D. oath never to work with the Leftists seems to be the one campaign promise they’ll keep.

None of the options available can be taken. The most logical solution, S.P.D. + Leftists + Greens, has been ruled out. The most harmful for German voters, a grosse Koalition with no opposition, looks the most likely. Democratic elimination of the most dishonest-seeming party brought about this impasse, which cannot be resolved without further vile treachery. The ensuing wriggling and oath-breaking will occur very publicly, under a high degree of light and attention by U.S. standards.

Update on 27 Sep 2013: Germany’s post-parliamentary election process, within which many people are discussing how to accomplish what seems obviously impossible. After 1) post-election party meetings behind closed doors [geschlossene Gespräche; Konvent], the Green party and the S.P.D. announced they are prepared to talk with the C.D.U. about forming a coalition in the 2) “sounding out” pre-coalition pre-negotiations phase [Sondierungsgespräche]. The S.P.D. chair said he wanted to compensate core voters for the party’s obvious willingness to break the no-grosse-Koalition promise, less than one week after the election, by involving the voters in the grosse Koalition decision in special ways. This almost sounds like hinting the S.P.D. might adopt Pirate Partystyle new technologies in addition to new communications and decision-making systems—if democratic software innovations can be trusted before resolution of the N.S.A./G.C.H.Q. spying that’s been revealed but not yet regulated. In fact, S.P.D. voter participation here would be limited to an up-or-down vote on any grosse Koalition agreement that’s negotiated, giving the S.P.D. comrades minimum input while placing maximum emphasis on the temptations of exiting the opposition, apparently also hoping to force S.P.D. voters to break the campaign promise too.

Update on 28 Sep 2013: “The Greens will make it with everyone,” complained one voter. The Green party is trying to bust out of its traditional coalition role of only partnering with the S.P.D. They want to re-emphasize their environmentalism and “critical accompaniment” of the Energiewende. Then, having strengthened their own political identity thus, they want to seriously consider partnering with everyone including the Leftists (Die Linken). The Greens say they’ll let the S.P.D. go first in negotiating about a coalition with the C.D.U. because, they said, if they negotiated in parallel the C.D.U. would play the two parties off against each other.

Somehow, the Greens also want to start sounding like they’re not telling people what to do, even though that’s how environmentalists work. They’re right however that a vacuum or opportunity has presented itself in Germany for politicians who figure out how to champion personal liberty, now that the <5% F.D.P. who claimed that was them is out of the picture, and the <5% Pirate Party is mostly out too. The German Pirate Party arose in part because the Green party was crewed by 1980’s types who distrusted technology, which is where serious individual liberty and privacy wars are being fought these days.

(Beh CON teh   geh FONG en shoft.)

 

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.)

“Gewährung von Befreiungen und Vergünstigungen an Unternehmen, die mit Dienstleistungen auf dem Gebiet analytischer Tätigkeiten für die in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland stationierten Truppen der Vereinigten Staaten beauftragt sind”

Frontal 21 investigative reporters discovered that Germany’s governments issued permits to private-sector U.S. firms to spy on German soil at least as far back as August 2003, when the Foreign Office under Joschka Fischer (Green party) happened to create the earliest documentation found for this so far by publishing in the German Federal Gazette [Bundesgesetzblatt, BGB] some proposed amendments to what looks like a 2001 permit issued to the U.S.A.:

“Granting of exemptions and advantages to companies commissioned with services in the field of analytical activities for United States troops stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany” [Translation of the German BGB version.]

This English text from another news program might be a less-translated version closer to the original:

“Granting of exemptions and benefits to enterprises charged with providing services in the field of analytical activities to the United States Forces stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany”

The show’s reporters said they found a 2011 document saying the German government had issued spying licenses to 207 intelligence private-contractor companies that apparently have included, to name just a few, Booz Allen Hamilton, L3 Services Inc., Military Professional Resources Inc. (M.P.R.I.), Galaxy Scientific, The Analytic Sciences Corp. (T.A.S.C.), Science Applications International Corporation (S.A.I.C.), R4, Pluribus International, Bevilacqua Research Corp., Silverback, Information and Infrastructure Technologies (I.I.T.), Electronic Warfare Associates (?? E.W.A.), D.S.R. (?), General Dynamics, D.P.R.A. (?), Computer Sciences Corporation, CACI, GeoEye Analytics, Lockheed Martin. The 2011 document was mentioned because Germans were incensed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s C.D.U./C.S.U. + F.D.P. coalition government’s claim that it only found out about Prism via the newspapers.

The Frontal 21 report opens with a local mayor’s delightful driving tour around an area called the Dagger Complex in the Hessian town of Griesheim, only 30 km from Frankfurt/Main. Frankfurt apparently has the world’s largest node for internet traffic, operated by a German company called De-Cix. A representative from De-Cix reminded the reporters that any U.S. companies involved with manufacture or operation of the Frankfurt node’s cables or computers could have been forced by U.S. law to violate German law and grant access to the data flowing through them, and ditto for Chinese companies and Chinese law, et cetera. The U.S. firm Level 3 Communications, apparently the world’s biggest data network operator, runs an important computer center for the Frankfurt node. (It said it runs five Germany data centers actually, in Berlin, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt/Main and Munich.) Frontal21 narrator: “Like all U.S. network operators, [Level 3] had to agree to let its data be saved off to America and to give American intelligence agencies access to it.” Commentary from pundit historian Josef Foschepoth concluded the report by saying post-W.W.II German law still provides some outdated protections to allied countries spying on German citizens in violation of German law. He said they used to call it the Alliertes Vorbehaltsrecht and now they’re calling it “legal obligations of the German government.”

(Geh VARE oong   fon   beh FRYE oong en   oont   ferg IN stig oong en   on   oon ta NAME en,   dee   mitt   DEENST lye stoong en   ow! f   dame   geh BEET   on oll it ish ah   TATE ichh kite en   foor   dee   in   dare   BOOND ess ray poob leek   DEUTSCHLAND   shtah tee own EAR ten   TROOP en   dare   fare EYE nichh ten   SHTOT en   beh OW! f trog t   zint.)

Gemeinsames Terrorabwehrzentrum, G.T.A.Z.

“Joint Terrorism Defense Center.” Apparently the German police and secret services have been working together at this institution since its founding in 2004 under poor Otto Schily. Many Germans are terrified by the idea of police and spies working together.

If the reasonable, brave, intelligent, energetic and left-leaning defense attorney Otto Schily, cofounder of the German Green party in 1980, could as interior minister in an S.P.D. + Green party coalition federal government help set up the “antiterrorism” cooperations that Otto Schily apparently did, then institutions in governments around the world could use a good hard review by politicians who don’t want to see themselves forced into similar stances in the very near future.

A recent review of Germany’s antiterror laws by the interior ministry and the justice ministry, examining in particular who has what authorities and who checks their work, has concluded and published its nonbinding report. Interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (C.S.U.) was satisfied with the current laws but justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Scharrenberger (F.D.P.) is not: she is calling for a new law providing uniform and limiting rules for antiterror centers where police and intelligence services exchange information.

“When we’re talking about intervention authorizations that go deep, precisely the ones that penetrate into the privacy and personality spheres of individual people, then there have to be definitive rule-of-law procedures, mandatory notifications, inspection and controls, transparency.”

(Geh MINE zom ess   TARE or OB vare tsent room.)

Anklagebehörde

“Prosecuting authority,” prosecutors’ office.

The Bavarian state bank BayernLB (Bayerische Landesbank), owned by the state of Bavaria and the Sparkasse banks (the largest German public bank), bought the Austrian bank HypoGroup Alpe Adria in 2007 and lost billions of euros as a result. On 07 Aug 2013 the Munich regional court Münchener Landgericht I announced it would not permit prosecution of charges brought against the entire Landesbank’s management board [Vorstand] while criticizing that charges hadn’t been brought against members of the higher-level overseeing “administrative board” [Verwaltungsrat], which gave permission for the sale. The supervisory Verwaltungsrat contained important C.S.U. politicians who might have been thus being protected by Bavarian prosecutors, the Bavarian judges imputed. Bavarian opposition parties S.P.D. and Freie Wähler [Free Voters] had filed complaints against BayernLB Verwaltungsrat members and state ministers Erwin Huber, Günther Beckstein and Kurt Faltlhauser plus some less important C.S.U. politicians for breach of trust of bank assets [“Veruntreuung von Bankvermögen”] in the Austrian acquisition, according to Süddeutsche.de and tagesschau.de.

BayernLB’s management board allegedly cited a falsely inflated purchase price to the supervisory administrative board, so theoretically criminal charges should be brought against management board members, according to tagesschau.de. But the Munich Landgericht I court denied prosecution of that on 07 Aug 2013, citing the latitude enjoyed by managers in negotiating sales. This allegedly angered Bavarian state prosecutors. Also angered by accusations they’d protected C.S.U. politicians by not bringing charges against members of the higher-level Verwaltungsrat [administrative board] supposed to monitor or do “controlling” of BayernLB’s management board, Bavarian state prosecutors responded that the management board members had failed to adequately inform the higher-level administrative board; indeed the supervisory Verwaltungsrat was deliberately defrauded with malice aforethought (“vorsätzlich arglistig getäuscht”) by members of the BayernLB management board, in the opinion of the prosecutors. The supervisory administrative board that okayed the deal consisted of people from the Bavarian state government (ruled by the C.S.U. since 1946) headed by Edmund Stoiber and people from the Sparkasse banks.

The German bank manager Bernie Ecclestone was accused of paying a bribe to was a member of BayernLB’s management board [Vorstand], not supervisory board [Verwaltungsrat].

In its 07 Aug 2013 announcement in the ongoing discussion about whom to prosecute at BayernLB, the Munich Landgericht noted that this sale of banks between state governments was partially a political act. But because no one could have foreseen events, the Munich Landgericht was only going to look into the BayernLB management board’s criminal culpability in overpayment of an additional 75 million euros lost by subsequently purchasing additional shares, and not into the BayernLB management board’s overpayment of 550 million euros in the 1.7-billion-euro deal as the prosecutors originally proposed.

Prosecutors filed a complaint about the Landgericht’s decision not to allow a criminal trial against the BayernLB management board for the lost half billion; the Munich higher regional court [Oberlandesgericht] “will now have to decide the dispute taking place in its own house.”

Before Bavaria bought it, according to the Guardian.co.uk, the Carinthian state government-owned Hypo Alpe Adria “acted as financier” for the horrifying Jörg Haider, charismatic leader of a terrifying populist racist Austrian political party that promoted hatreds in order to surf them to power. WienerTageszeitung.at wrote that HGAA had had to help support Haider’s Carinthian state government’s “patronage policies” [“gönnerhafte Politik”]. The recent Munich Landgericht I court decision about how to prosecute the Bavarian side did allow prosecution of an accusation that Jörg Haider, Kärntner Landeshauptmann [“Captain of Carinthia”] at the time of the sale, received a soccer stadium sponsorship bribe from BayernLB (2.5 million euros). An Austrian website also talked about overpayment for the expert opinion of an Austrian tax adviser associated with Haider as another possible bribe to him from the deal (6 million euros for six pages). No details found yet about money improperly funneled to Haider & Co. before the sale, when his party controlled the government that owned the bank.

According to the Manager-Magazin.de article, a 2007 audit by the Österreichische Nationalbank [Austrian National Bank] reported that Hypo Alpe Adria was shuffling fake capital around as early as spring 2006 to hide its losses, through obscurant Liechtenstein entities, and selling stock to itself to create the illusion of solvency. There was no Austrian regulatory follow-up on the audit report apparently.

BayernLB’s purchase of HGAA has already sparked multiple trials, with more to come. For example, Manager-Magazin.de wrote that Munich prosecutors initiated a criminal trial against BayernLB management board members on 05 May 2011—that trial hasn’t started yet—and BayernLB sued its former management board members for 200 million euros in damages in a civil trial that actually did start, on 19 Jun 2012. An Austrian criminal trial sentenced a Carinthian state party chief to five years in prison on 10 Oct 2012 for diverting money from the sale to his political party (a state government coalition partner with Jörg Haider’s FPÖ). The current head of the Bavarian C.S.U. party, Horst Seehofer, is to testify in Vienna before a commercial court [Handelsgericht Wien] about the schlamassel. When they gave Hypo Alpe Adria back to the country of Austria, did BayernLB sign a paper saying they would not sue for damages? The Vienna trial is about 3 billion euros of Bavarian taxpayer money that now-nationalized Hypo Alpe Adria does not want to return; this would be in addition to the 3.7 billion euros Bavaria already spent to bail out the bank.

Update on 24 Oct 2013: Bavarian prosecutors won their appeal! The Munich Oberlandesgericht overturned the Munich Landgericht’s decision and will be allowing full prosecution of ex-C.E.O. Werner Schmidt and six of the seven members of the BayernLB management board on the counts sought, for breach-of-trust losses of 550 million euros in the 2007 purchase of Hypo Alpe Adria in addition to the 75 million lost on extra HGAA stock bought after the purchase.

Update on 27 Feb 2014: Three former management board members of Hypo Alpe Adria were given prison sentences by an Austrian court for granting investors buy-back guarantees and thus, the court said, costing the bank several million euros. The Klagenfurt court [Schöffensenat] said they held back important information when they sold Hypo Alpe Adria to Bavarian state bank BayernLB. A 2.5-million-euro dividend they issued was also not in order, the court said.

In this breach of trust trial, former management board member Josef Kircher was sentenced to three years, some of which was changed to probation because he was willing to testify. Former management board member Siegfried Grigg was sentenced to three and a half years. The Flick Foundation was fined 600,000 euros. Former H.A.A. C.E.O. Wolfgang Kulterer was sentenced to one year. He has already been sentenced to several years in a related Hypo Alpe Adria matter in January 2014, when he admitted having kept mumm about side agreements. Former Hypo manager Tilo Berlin is also a defendent in the breach of trust trial but was unable to appear for health reasons, delaying resolution.

(ON clog ah beh HEARD ah.)

Null-Nummer

“A nada number,” zilch, zip, zero. Opposition politicians criticized the 24-hour visit of Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (C.S.U.) to the U.S.A. on July 12 to discuss N.S.A. spying with the Obama administration, saying Mr. Friedrich let himself be fobbed off with nonexplanations and didn’t realize the seriousness of the issues when he apparently decided to choose government rights over burgher rights. An op-ed in the Süddeutsche Zeitung said democracies can’t have freedom unless individuals in the democracies have freedom and privacy at home, and that this is a time that calls for voices and courage.

(NEWEL new mah.)

Volksbegehren gegen Studiengebühren

“Referendum against tuition fees.” The states run the universities in Germany. Usually they charge very low tuition fees by US standards or university is free and students just have to pay registration and student union fees and buy subsidized cheap universal health insurance (includes dental and medicine). After some states experimented with introducing tuition fees in the 1990’s, almost all the states unintroduced them except Bavaria and Lower Saxony. In 2012, Bavarian citizens collected the 25,000 signatures required for a referendum to let people vote directly to eliminate college tuition throughout the state.

Though Bavarians have the Volksbegehren option, it’s hard to pass a referendum in practice. In 1968 the Bavarian state parliament (Landtag) made conditions for passing direct referenda much tougher, reducing the time frame from four weeks to two, banning public solicitation of signatures in the street or door-to-door, while requiring signatures of 10% of all registered voters for passage and, writes Hans Herbert von Arnim, making mail-in ballots much more difficult [von Arnim, Die Selbstbediener, pp. 162–3].

Before the voters had a chance to decide on the anti-tuition referendum however, Bavaria’s Interior Ministry (CSU) filed a complaint against it with the Bavarian constitutional court or Verfassungsgerichtshof in Munich saying the referendum was unconstitutional because it would affect Bavaria’s budget. The Bavarian constitutional court has interpreted the state’s so-called “budget caveat” or Haushaltsvorbehalt to mean that referenda that would cost money, i.e. most of them, can be kept from a vote if they will impact the state budget in a way that isn’t slight [von Arnim, p. 173].

Bavaria’s supreme or constitutional court is a bit unusual in Germany [von Arnim, p. 27] and possibly one reason voters might be glad to have a direct referendum option. Federal German constitutional court judges have to be elected by a 2/3 parliamentary majority, to prevent judiciary dominance by one party; they have a 12-year term; and they cannot be reelected. Bavarian constitutional court judges have been mainly elected by the CSU party, because it has governed the state since 1946; they have an eight-year term; and they can be reelected an unlimited number of times.

In October 2012, the Bavarian constitutional court decided eliminating college tuition would not affect the state budget and allowed the referendum to proceed. In January 2013 the referendum passed with over 1.3 million signatures. In response, the Bavarian Landtag or state parliament quickly passed a law eliminating college tuition on 24 Apr 2013.

(FOKES beg AIR en   GAY gen   SHTOO dee en geh BOO ren.)

Auf dem reichen Auge blind

Blind in the rich eye,” a punning headline for a Zeit article about Bayern Munich soccer club president Uli Hoeneß that reminded readers Bavaria is the state with the least number of tax auditors per capita and the least number of audits per auditor (29 audits per 100,000 taxpayers in 2011). Taxes are still collected state-by-state in Germany, not by a central federal office like the USA’s IRS.

“Steep theses,” “sometimes tending toward polemics” this review said but also that the 2013 book Die Selbstbediener: Wie Bayerische Politiker sich den Staat zur Beute machen (“Serving themselves: How Bavarian politicians make the state their booty”) by Speyer professor Hans Herbert von Arnim started the recent discussion about the Bavarian CSU party (which has monopolized their state gubmint for fifty years and is also the only state party to join national-level ruling coalitions, such as Angela Merkel’s current government CDU/CSU + FDP). People are still shocked by the 500 million euros recently discovered in Uli Hoeneß’s Swiss bank accounts and by the number of Bavarian MP’s (17, no 30, no 79) subsequently discovered to have taken advantage of loopholes in a 2000 nepotism law to hire their relatives at government expense. Von Arnim says the nepotism is just the tip of the iceberg for upcoming Bavarian parliamentary scandals.

Other emerging facts that shocked this week included: that the Bavarian state parliament members (CSU monopoly) complained loudest about southern European countries takin’ all our money yet paid themselves the highest income of all the German state MP’s, at 10,200 euros/month before taxes. Von Arnim says this is possible because of a lack of transparency in Bavarian state budgeting which other German states have deliberately prevented by passing separate rules governing important financial issues such as legislator compensation. He criticizes insufficient transparency and controlling in Bavaria’s very large budget, which is the size of several other German states’ combined.

How can corruption like this happen? Recent angry op-eds said the newly discovered nepotistic politicians aren’t exactly Raffke (Berlin slang from ~1920 for a greedy grabber) but that after a party is in power for a long time its members’ mentality can shift. Politicians in the party no longer orient their moral sense on what’s right and wrong, but instead on what the other politicians are doing and, eventually, toward what’s possible. Politicians in other parties of the monopolized government begin to think the same way as well. So far the only party in the Bavarian parliament not discovered to have employed family members after 2000 is the FDP, which wasn’t in the state parliament because it lacked the votes.

(Ow! f   dame   REICH en   ow! ga    blinned.)

 

Fantastillionen

“Lots of money,” an “unimaginable fortune,” but no one knows how much yet. The Münchener Abendzeitung reported reports, firmly denied, of account balances totalling several hundred million euros. Uli Hoeneß, the president of German soccer’s version of the NY Yankees, FC Bayern Munich, submitted a Selbstanzeige in January 2013 for unpaid taxes on funds in one or more Swiss bank accounts and has already paid an initial lump sum of about six million in unpaid taxes. He said he didn’t report himself before January 2013 because he was betting the tax agreement with Switzerland would be ratified that provided amnesty, anonymity and a low tax rate for “tax sinners.” Tagesschau.de reports that it’s still unclear where the untaxed monies came from, whether from his bratwurst factory or from other sources.

ZDF heute journal found footage of Hoeneß on talk shows such as the charming Günther Jauch’s in autumn 2012 recommending low taxes for rich Germans because otherwise, he said, they would move to Austria, Switzerland or “who knows where.”

CSU chair Horst Seehofer confirmed on Saturday, 20 Apr 2013, at a CSU meeting in a Munich Hofbräuhaus cellar, that the district attorney was looking into the matter. The CSU had been going to propose Hoeneß as a political candidate, and he probably would have been confirmed.

The Münchener Abendzeitung commented on 20 Apr 2013:

“The question remains whether Hoeneß can now hope for the same support from the Bavarian state government as Franz Beckenbauer, to whom Bavarian finance minister Ludwig Huber once gave tips about tax flight into Switzerland while Huber was still in office?”

Achtung: Focus Magazin’s publisher is on the board of FC Bayern Munich.

(FAHN tossed ill ee own en.)

Inländische Steueroasen

“Domestic tax oases” inside a country. The head of the largest opposition party to Chancellor Merkel’s government coalition has accused the states of Bavaria and Hesse of acting like tax paradises within Germany by hiring low numbers of tax officials, reducing tax auditing frequencies and bruiting that about in order to attract businesses. It’s probably no coincidence that Bavaria and Hesse recently filed a lawsuit seeking to break the decades-old post-WWII reconstruction “solidarity pact” in which German states that are doing well financially pay money to German states that are not.

US state Delaware was mentioned in a “Planet Money”-style ZDF report that said it has very low taxes, very business-friendly courts, 800,000 inhabitants and 900,000 companies and is where most of the world’s firms “organize their America business.”

(E’en LEND isch ah   SHTOY er oh OZ en.)

Transall

The type of the two transport planes Germany originally sent in January 2013 to support France’s intervention in northern Mali. France then asked for more military support from Germany, such as planes that could refuel French fighter jets in the air. Germany’s Green Party was among those questioning the wisdom of this; Bundestag member Katja Keul said for example that it is crucial that any military aid should transition to a political process, “because the military can never bring the solution to the problem.” However, Germany then agreed to send 40 soldiers for training purposes. On 18 Feb 2013 Spiegel-Online reported that Angela Merkel’s government was planning to ask the Bundestag to increase that to “up to 330” soldiers, i.e. 180 for training and 150 for logistics. The 18 Feb Spiegel article also mentioned that Germany was now providing three Transall and one in-flight refueling Airbus planes to the multinational effort in Mali.

(Tronz ollll.)

Grossspenden

“Large donations,” in this case business donations to political parties exceeding 50,000 euros. Private donations to Germany’s political parties are low by U.S. standards and have been decreasing since 2002, though they still spike in election years. Of the reported large donations of this type from 2002 until 2012, 45.2% went to Angela Merkel’s CDU, 21.4% interestingly went to the CDU’s Bavarian sister party the CSU (a state party that manages to hold power at the national level), 17.0% to the FDP and 10.8% to the SPD. The Greens and Leftists are calling for reforms mandating that private political donations go to individuals and not parties, and capping them at 100,000 euros.

Update on 10 Aug 2013: The Bundestag published a list of Q1 + Q2 2013 “large donations” >50,000 euros by political party:
CDU 600,000 euros, SPD 290,000 euros; FDP 130,000 euros, and no large donations were listed for the Green party or Leftists (Die Linken).

The Bundestag website enables easy comparison to their large donation lists from previous years.
Q1 + Q2 2012: CDU 267,000 euros, CSU 141,000 euros, SPD 259,000; FDP 59,000 euros.

Update on 16 Oct 2013: Three major Bavarian Motor Werks [BMW] shareholders each made a large donation of ~200,000 euros to the C.D.U. party on 09 Oct 2013. The political donations were properly reported. However, at about the same time the German government (C.D.U./C.S.U. + a new coalition partner t.b.d.) made the unusual move of blocking stricter carbon dioxide standards for car exhaust under discussion in Brussels. The C.D.U. denied the two events were connected.

Update on 17 Oct 2013: The C.D.U.’s Bavarian state sister party the C.S.U. also received a relatively large large donation after the recent Bundestag campaign: half a million euros from the Bavarian Metal and Electronics Industry Association [Verband der Bayerischen Metall- und Elektroindustrie]. Süddeutsche.de reported that the C.S.U. received the donation on Tuesday, 15 Oct 2013, and reported it on Thursday, 17 Oct.

(GROSS shpen den.)

EEG-Umlage

The “Renewable Energy Act Contribution” or sharing of the investment costs of Germany’s “biggest infrastructure project of this age,” the Energiewende conversion to renewable energy sources. Shortly before Christmas, on 19 Dec 2012, Angela Merkel’s government announced that a record ~1550 companies had received permission to not pay the increased EEG-Umlage contribution for 2013. About 2000 firms had applied for the 2013 rebate; about 500 of these applications were “questionable” and still under review, though not yet rejected. Only 778 companies received the 2012 rebate. The costs resulting from the ~1550 companies’ nonpayment in 2013, estimated by the Green party to be “up to” four billion euros, will be divided up among and paid by private consumers.

Update on 7 Mar 2013: The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court voided businesses’ exemption from sharing the costs of building the new power lines required to connect the new alternative energy sources to the electricity grid. Chancellor Merkel’s government said in response that it will quickly eliminate this exemption (the Netzentgeltbefreiung). The opposition parties welcome the decision.

Update on 09 Oct 2013: The EEG-Umlage paid by private households will go up again in 2014 to 6.3 eurocents per kilowatt hour. Tagesschau.de’s graph showed it rising from 1.2 eurocents in 2008 to 5.3 eurocents in 2013. Household consumers’ EEG-Umlage is used to subsidize not only a steadily increasing number of businesses receiving electricity rebates from Chancellor Merkel’s government but also to pay the higher kilowatt-hour price guaranteed for twenty years at the subvention in force when the photovoltaic system is installed to people who put solar panels on and around their buildings to feed electricity into the grid. As announced long ago to incentivize folks to install decentralized home solar feeds faster, the guaranteed twenty-year price+ solar subventions are currently being tapered down, steadily reduced in what looks like annual amendments to Germany’s EEG law. The rising Umlage fee compensates in part for falling electricity prices on the exchanges, because of the conversion to decentralized renewables and despite the closure of all of Germany’s nuclear power plants and now, possibly, several coal-fired plants as well. And perhaps also closure of a giant “surface mine” that produces the more-polluting “brown coal” or lignite to run an adjacent coal-fired power plant; the Garzweiler pit is so big it has swallowed 14 villages so far and was scheduled to eat several more.

(Eh eh geh   OOM log ah.)

2649 Belege

2,649 pieces of evidence” which have been collected in a report that will be used in preliminary discussions of another runup to an attempt at banning the far-right German political party NDP (“usually described as a neonazi organization“) for violating the German Constitution. Every failed attempt to ban the NPD apparently has worse consequences than if they hadn’t made the effort, which is one reason why Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) said he’s skeptical about the current process. In 2003, the high court in Karlsruhe could not ban the NPD because too many people involved with the party and trial had been paid informants (V-people) for various government agencies. The current report has acknowledged that pitfall by collecting its 2,649 evidence items from public statements rather than testimony from potentially compromised witnesses.

On 5 Dec 2012 one of the small number of government institutions (Bundesverfassungsorgane, lit. “Federal Constitution Organs”) authorized to petition to ban a political party in Germany—in this case the state governors, who were also the group behind this report—unanimously voted to try again to ban the NPD. As Tagesschau.de explained in an online guide to this procedure, the hurdles for banning a political party in Germany are quite high due to lessons learned during the Weimar Republic.

Update on 22 Nov 2013: The federal states announced their petition to ban the N.P.D. party is now complete and will be submitted to the supreme constitutional court [Bundesverfassungsgericht] in Karlsruhe in early December 2013. The federal parliament, Bundestag, and federal government had decided not to join a new attempt at a ban, after failing to achieve one ten years ago before the court in Karlsruhe. The N.P.D. is currently experiencing financial troubles.

Update on 03 Dec 2013: The petition to ban the N.P.D. was submitted to the Bundesverfassungsgericht, which will decide whether to hear the case. Only two political party bans were ever issued in the Federal Republic of Germany, and both were more than fifty years ago, said ARD tagesschau.de legal correspondent Christoph Kehlbach.

(TSVYE t ow! zant, ZEX hoond errrt, N OY! N   oond   FEER tsig   beh LAY geh.)

Dividendenstripping

Dividend stripping.” A tax avoidance scheme the HypoVereinsBank is accused of, wherein they allegedly transferred customers’ stocks back and forth between German and foreign banks until it was unclear whether the Kapitalertragssteuer had been paid and then claimed more capital gains tax credits than were owed. Reuters and the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that a single Frankfurt investor working with HVB and other banks was told he owed 124 million euros in tax for 2006–08 after the IRS-equivalent refused to accept his capital gains tax break from the scheme; he has been fighting in court since 2011 to get HVB to pay the tax bill. HVB and this investor split the profits 65% HVB, 35% investor. Wikipedia says dividend stripping lost its tax-law basis in 2000, Spiegel says it hasn’t been accepted by German tax authorities since 2007, and Süddeutsche Zeitung says since 2012.

Weird story about the HypoVereinsBank in Spiegel-Online on 30 Nov 2012: A guy accused his ex-wife and other HVB employees of large-scale tax avoidance schemes that moved money to Switzerland, was declared non compos mentis by the Bavarian justice system and has been locked up in a mental institution ever since (2006). The man probably was violent, but he may have been correct about the tax avoidance. He cited names and numbers when he blew the whistle to the Bavarian tax authority, but a judge who was not involved in that case called the tax office and told them not to investigate the bank because the whistleblower was crazy. The institutionalized whistleblower’s case was re-opened in 2013. He was set free  in the summer of 2013, after seven years of confinement. Laws committing people to mental institutions and keeping them there are going to be reformed as a result of his case. This started with an 05 Sep 2013 decision by the supreme court in Karlsruhe, the Bundesverfassungsgericht, which prioritized a review of the whistleblower’s case and announced failures of the various state courts and criteria that need to be met in future.

The Frankfurt district attorney’s HVB razzia last week found a trail leading to “a Swiss private bank.” Süddeutsche Zeitung says it is thought that Swiss banks will be a very fruitful place to investigate this German tax scandal. Deutsche Bank and UBS are now implicated as well.

Update on 16 Dec 2013: HSH Nordbank has been accused of dividend stripping.

(Dee veed END en shtrrrip pink.)

Bayrisches Paradox

“Bavarian paradox.” When the CSU says they’re against something but collaborates with it anyway. Peter Gauweiler (CSU) said in this ZDF interview that although the CSU co-governs the country of Germany, it understands itself as a pike in a carp pond because its ambitions are not focused on federal power but rather on power inside the state of Bavaria.

(BY rish ess   PAR a DOX.)

“Andere Journalisten stellen sich nicht so an.”

“Other journalists aren’t doing that.” “Other journalists aren’t taking that attitude.” Spiegel-Online reports that this was the CSU response in late May 2011 when asked for a written statement on the Bavarian government’s position in the ongoing German search for “final storage” (Endlager) locations for nuclear waste. At the time, the CSU indicated that Bavaria might reverse its position and become a candidate for permanent nuclear waste disposal. The state’s environmental ministry did not respond to Spiegel’s follow-up questions, even though the government “is legally obligated to provide information.” Finally, they agreed to a phone interview but no written statement, because “other journalists weren’t” demanding written statements. CSU party spokesperson Ulrike Strauß told der Spiegel that written statements weren’t normal.

Spiegel emailed Strauß their versions of her oral statements for her approval, and she called the top editors’ secretary (Sekretariat der Chefredaktion) to complain. Instead of the senior editors, the business editor returned her call, repeating that the magazine was going to insist on written quotes. Ultimately, nine days after Spiegel’s initial query on 23 May 2011, the state environmental minister announced that Bavaria would not be used for permanent nuclear waste disposal.

Spiegel goes on to report that, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, in March 2011 CSU spokesperson Ulrike Strauß phoned the Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian {Public} Broadcasting, BR) news department to complain about a critical report about a CSU politician. The critical report was then replaced in subsequent news programs; it aired only once. BR says no pressure was exerted. Strauß says she acted entirely alone, on her own. The report in question was about environmental minister Markus Söder (CSU)’s contradictory statements before and after the Fukushima nuclear disaster regarding whether the Bavarian nuclear power plant Isar I was entirely safe. Before Fukushima it was safe. After, not so safe.

(ON derr eh   journaLIST en   SHTELL en   zichh   nichht   zoh   ON.)

Causa Strepp, Causa Horst Seehofer

“The Strepp Affair,” “The Case of Horst Seehofer.” The Bavarian state branch of Angela Merkel’s CDU party insists on remaining separate from the general CDU and calls itself the CSU. Horst Seehofer is in charge. The CSU has been posturing in national politics for an upcoming state election. Last Sunday, CSU spokesperson Hans Michael Strepp called the public broadcasting ZDF television station and said he’d heard they were going to broadcast a news report about the rival Bavarian SPD’s recent festive nomination of their top candidate, Christian Ude. Strepp told ZDF that neither the public broadcasting ARD nor the public broadcasting news and documentaries channel Phoenix was planning to report on the Bavarian SPD’s state convention and far be it from Strepp to want to tell them their business but he wanted to give them food for thought that there could be discussions afterward if ZDF went it alone. ZDF interpreted this as exerting influence and broadcast the report anyway. Then they broadcast a report about Strepp’s phone call.

At first, the CSU said nothing bad had happened. At noon on Thurs. 25 Oct 2012, Horst Seehofer announced that Spokesperson Strepp had resigned because Strepp had said he hadn’t exerted any influence on ZDF and the ZDF disagreed with that statement and Seehofer could not clarify this situation. The CSU’s position is now that Strepp acted entirely alone. In a lively parliamentary discussion after Seehofer’s announcement of Strepp’s resignation, Bavarian M.P.’s cast a lot of aspersions. CSU General Secretary Alexander Dobrindt has now been dragged into it because he obfuscated rather than clarified and because people find it credible that he might have given Strepp the incredible order to make the call. The Bavarian SPD demanded that Seehofer and Dobrindt resign their seats on ZDF management boards (!).

German Green party member Jürgen Trittin has demanded that all politicians holding government office resign from public broadcasting channels’ supervisory boards. Trittin said the Greens have been demanding this for years, and that a gray zone forms where government and media entangle. Trittin also said this is what you get when people have been in power longer than Fidel Castro.

(COW zah   SHTREP,   COW zah   Horst   ZAY hoaf er.)

Regulierte Selbstregulierung

The German Interior Ministry, headed by Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU), has called for the EU to take a “regulated self-regulation” policy with regard to data privacy.

(RAY goo leer teh   ZELBST ray goo leer oong.)

Gläserne Abgeordnete

“Transparent parliament members.” What the CDU/CSU wants to avoid, which is why they oppose full disclosure of Bundestag members’ supplementary income. The CDU/CSU is concerned that full disclosure of supplementary incomes would make it more difficult for middle-sized businesspeople to become M.P.’s. The FDP is worried about protecting lawyers’ privacy.

(GLAY zer neh   OB geh ord net teh.)

Nebeneinkünfte

“Side incomes,” translated by dict.leo.org as ancillary or auxiliary income; casual, incidental earnings or discretionary earnings; emoluments and perquisites. On 16 Oct. 2012 the Bundestag debated the SPD’s proposal to have Bundestag members disclose all incomes in addition to their M.P. compensation. Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU party was opposed, as was their coalition partner the FDP, who said their primary concern was that working lawyers would have to disclose their clients. Greens and Leftists said they were ready for full transparency.

The debate was triggered by attacks on a vulnerability of the SPD’s challenger to Angela Merkel in the upcoming election. Peer Steinbrück, who was called the Bankenschreck (terror of the banks, banks’ bane) when he was Finance Minister under an SPD government, has since then been receiving high speaking fees from banks and e.g. hedge funds. Calls from rival party members for Steinbrück to disclose these fees have turned up opportunities to improve the laws regulating extra-parliamentary compensation. The SPD’s proposal suggested disclosing the type of work, amount paid and payer’s name, because apparently that’s not required now. Violations would be punished by a reduction in the M.P.’s salary.

Tagesschau.de reports that Peer Steinbrück (SPD) is the top earner in the Bundestag, followed by mostly members of the ruling conservative CDU/CSU and FDP parties (nine of the top ten, yet because of the nature of the old system these are minimum incomes and not accurate numbers).

Update on 25 Oct 2012: The ruling coalition CDU/CSU + FDP finds themselves in a bind because while they wanted to attack Steinbrück, they never wanted transparency for supplementary M.P. incomes, reports Spiegel-Online. The ruling coalition has now agreed to a reform plan that changes the disclosure system from three steps to ten steps. The three-step scale was up to EUR 3500, 3500 to 7000, and >7000, monthly. The ten-step scale will be, either monthly or annually (hasn’t been decided yet), EUR 1000 to 3500, to 7000, 15000, 30000, 50000, 75000, 100000, 150000, 250000 and >250000. With the old scale an M.P. who earned e.g. EUR 150,000 for a speaking engagement only had to disclose EUR 7001. The SPD is concerned that under the new system an M.P. could take ten EUR-900 fees without having to disclose, so they have proposed disclosure of fees exceeding EUR 10000 in one year. The SPD and Leftists (Die Linken) parties remain committed to full transparency. The Greens have proposed two models: full disclosure or a thirteen-step scale. The frequency of mandatory reporting is also still under debate; AbgeordnetenWatch.de points out that with modern technology this useful information can be made available very rapidly to voters.

Update on 22 Feb 2013: Today the Bundestag agreed on a new 10-step plan to disclose M.P.’s supplementary incomes.

(NAY ben eye n coon fteh.)

Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND

“Federal news service,” the German foreign intelligence agency. Wikipedia said maybe 6500 employees, with maybe 100 domestic offices (of which ~70 have been captured by Bavaria, i.e. Merkel’s Texan sister party the CSU) and perhaps 100 offices abroad. In 2011 the domestic German offices were all supposed to move to new premises in Berlin, but the CSU managed to wrangle some remaining presence in Bavaria.

The predecessor “Gehlen organization,” formed in 1945 in a hurry by the Allies under Wehrmacht spymaster Reinhard Gehlen, became the BND in 1956 but no law was created regulating it until 1990.

There has been an interesting tango between the BND and renowned historians for the past few years, in which historians with good reputations have been invited to view the BND’s records and write up its history but were then ultimately blocked from doing so.

(BOON dess NOCK rick ten DEENST.)

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