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.)

“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.

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.)

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.)

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