Church and state

Expats beware: Germany uses dodgy tactics to snatch church tax

Germany has a church tax — unimaginable in the US or France. Anyone who was ever baptized or christened and has not officially left the church is liable.

News Bites

The populist Alternative for Germany party has asked the Constitutional Court to review Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to open the borders to refugees. It claims the move was illegal because parliament didn’t give its approval. (ARD)

The refugee crisis has so far cost Germany €43.25 billion and will likely require an additional €80 billion in the next four years, according to a government report. Future costs will help educate and integrate refugees. (Bild)

More than 15 companies are interested in regional 5G cellular frequencies even though the government has yet to launch an auction. Localized licenses would allow companies to more quickly use the technology. (Reuters)

Daimler will invest €500 million in retooling its plant in Hambach, France, to build its new EQ compact electric vehicle. The plant previously focused on Smarts, which will be solely electric starting in 2020.

TeleColumbus wants regulators to force Vodafone and Unitymedia to sell off parts of their cable networks to win approval for their merger. TeleColumbus CEO Timm Degenhart said he would be happy to buy the pieces. (WirtschaftsWoche)

All the German news. Once a day. In your inbox. Sign up for our News Bites newsletter here and stay auf dem Laufenden, but in English.

Of parliamentarians with a second job, Albert Stegemann from the ruling Christian Democrats earns the most. He has earned €585,000 in sales at his family farm since the current legislative period began in October. (Der Spiegel)

Germany’s vehicle regulator ordered sports car maker Porsche to recall 60,000 diesel models equipped with emissions cheating software. The global recall affects 53,000 Macans and 6,800 Cayennes. (Der Spiegel)

The Federal Administrative Court said bans on older diesel models entering urban areas are legal. The bans are to help lower air pollution to acceptable levels but must be limited in scope.

Chipmaker Infineon will invest €1.6 billion in the construction of a new, automated semiconductor factory in Villach, Austria. The plant, to be completed by 2021, will employ 400.

The majority of Germans – 82% – do not see the US as a reliable partner. That puts the US behind Russia, which isn’t trusted by 58% of the German population, according to a ZDF poll.

Iraqi election officials in Munich tried to plant 2,700 illegal ballots in a voting box during Iraq’s parliamentary election last weekend. Iraqis could vote in seven different German cities. The invalid ballots were tossed. (ARD)

Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to China on Wednesday to discuss trade with Li Keqiang, head of the Chinese legislature. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will head to Washington DC to discuss trade and Iran with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Time Magazine picked Kevin Kühnert as one of its 10 Next Generation Leaders for 2018. Mr. Kühnert is head of the youth wing of the center-left Social Democrats and led an unsuccessful revolt earlier this year.

Compulsory contributions for nursing-home insurance will have to increase next year after the scheme posted a €3 billion deficit last year, Health Minister Jens Spahn said. (Reuters)

Germany’s ministry for migration and refugees will review all 18,000 asylum cases approved by its Bremen office since 2000. The head of the office and five employees are being investigated for approving invalid applications.

German carmakers must install new equipment, rather than software, to lower emissions in illegally outfitted diesel cars to avoid urban driving bans in Germany, Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said. (Deutschlandfunk)

Germany must turn away refugees if new residential processing centers don’t function as expected, Bavarian state premier Markus Söder told public broadcaster ZDF. The EU has said a new wave of refugees is moving toward Europe.

Deutsche Post is raising prices on bulk mail within Germany. Prices for books (up to 500 grams) are going up 20 cents to €1.20 and packages up 40 cents to €1.30. Other prices will be reviewed next year.

The right-wing Alternative for Germany party has invited former Berlin politician Thilo Sarrazin, a critic of Muslim immigration, to speak to the Bundestag on June 11. He will discuss the cost explosion in the Stuttgart 21 train project. (Bild)

The EU’s trade surplus with the US rose more than 18% in the first quarter to €36.1 billion. EU exports to the US rose 2.2% while imports from the US slipped 5.2%, according to Eurostat.

Uber will meet with German states and municipalities this summer in hopes of finding a compromise after courts prevented its most basic ride-sharing services from operating in Europe’s biggest economy. (DPA)

Berlin online furniture retailer Home24 hopes to raise up to €200 million through a Frankfurt IPO. The company, which is 41%-held by incubator Rocket Internet, didn’t say when it hopes to debut.

German industrial orders rose 0.2% in March over the previous month despite the threat of a trade war with the US. German manufacturers have a 5.6-month order backlog, a record, according to the Federal Statistics Office.

African Treasures

German museums pushed to review colonial-era artifacts ‘blind spot’

Germany's new 130-page code of conduct should help museums determine whether colonial-era artifacts were taken unlawfully. But then what?

Extracting concessions

New populist coalition puts Italy on collision course with EU

The new governing accord of Italy’s two anti-establishment parties poses the biggest challenge to the European Union since Britain voted to leave the bloc two years ago. Germans fear a financial blackmail of sorts is coming.

trying talk

Merkel plays the long game with Putin in Sochi

At a high-stakes meeting, the German and Russian leaders pledged cooperation, but danced around their differing positions on Syria and Ukraine.

All at sea

How did shipping firm P&R lose 1 million containers?

Investors could lose more than $4 billion after the bankruptcy of shipping container leasing firm P&R. To make matters worse, prosecutors are now investigating how the company “mislaid” a million of its storage units.

Editors’ Pick

Trans-Atlantic Failure

All-out war of words among Germany, EU and US

From Iran to trade to Russia, this is shaping up to be a critical week for trans-Atlantic ties. The US and EU are on a collision course across the board.

Dive In

Investment fears

Chinese take away another German firm, eventually

Berlin is increasingly worried about Chinese firms buying up German companies and know-how. But its extra scrutiny of deals is stifling investment, says the boss of plane-part supplier Cotesa, the latest Chinese acquisition.

Nationalist comrades

Far-right unionists gain popularity despite rising wages

Capitalizing on workers’ fear of innovation, labor representatives with far-right AfD sympathies are gaining ground at Germany’s corporate icons, from Volkswagen to Mercedes-Benz to SAP.

Power Play

Uniper faces probe over Fortum takeover bid

US investor Paul Singer has joined calls for a special auditor to examine why Uniper has been so hostile to a takeover bid by Fortum.

Ask a German

Handelsblatt explains

Much about Germany is confusing or surprising to foreigners - and even to Germans. Our editors provide clarity.

Gaza violence

Germany rejects ‘loudspeaker diplomacy’ in Middle East

Berlin, historically cautious about Middle East crises, had an unusually strong reaction to the Israel-Gaza violence this week. But it’s still trying to keep a line open to both sides.


Profit and Loss Check

Once a year, we take a critical look at the financial health of selected German blue-chip companies around the time of their annual shareholders' meetings.

last chance

EU takes Germany to court for urban air pollution

Brussels files legal action at the European Court of Justice over excessive levels of NO2 in German cities, which Berlin has failed to address despite previous warnings.

Hard nein

German economists scoff at Macron’s euro-zone reform proposals

Sorry Macron. In the bloc’s biggest economy, most top financial experts are against a euro-zone budget and finance minister, according to a new survey.

Classified Chemicals

Deadly Russian poison Novichok cataloged by Germany in the ’90s

Germany’s intelligence agency shared the chemical formula for Novichok, the deadly Russian neurotoxin, with the US and Britain.

Free rider

Germany’s great European defense heist

Europe needs a security strategy for the 21st century, as well as reforms in the euro zone. Germany makes both difficult. But what if you applied the same German logic about the eurozone to defense policy?

How diplomatic

Heiko Maas – Germany’s energetic, straight-talking, anti-Nazi foreign minister

A relative newcomer in Berlin, Heiko Maas was not afraid to tangle with right wingers or US internet giants as justice minister. Now he’s on the global political stage – outcome pending.

Don't mess with me

How the ECB built its independence into a fortress

The European Central Bank is obsessed with its autonomy. Overly sensitive to all manner of criticism, its rejection of external supervision poses a threat to the very independence it cherishes.

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