Daily briefing

Justice employee by day, far-right supporter by night

Concern is growing about a demonstration where people chanted "lying press." Source: ZDF

German politicians are concerned about an employee of Saxony’s criminal investigation office who attended a Pegida demonstration. That’s the anti-Muslim, far-right grouping that formed as the refugee crisis took shape in 2015. A TV news crew reporting on the demo last week in Saxony was detained by the cops for 45 minutes after the man complained to officers about the cameras. He’d also been yelling “lying press” at the journalists. The TV station says the police violated press freedom. And, as many politicians are pointing out, it’s disturbing that a man whose job involves upholding the constitution supports a group seeking to undermine it. It’s also a further sign of the seemingly endemic racism in the security forces here – one reason why the crimes committed by the NSU took so long to be investigated.

But beyond this shadow, politicians are instead eying top European posts in a game of musical chairs that threatens to turn nasty. Among the European institutions, two high-profile jobs will soon be free and Germany wants to fill one of them (two would be greedy). There’s the president of the European Commission – or president of the European Central Bank. That’s a tough one. Merkel wants to fill the former, but risks putting the nose of Jens Weidmann out of joint. He heads the Bundesbank and has been given to understand he might get the top spot at the ECB. He may turn out to be a pawn in Merkel’s chess game: she’s rumored to want to send Peter Altmaier, her economy minister, to Brussels instead.

Luckily, Merkel can duck this scrap as she is on a three-day tour in the south Caucasus, stopping in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Tiblisi is the first stop and it’s Merkel’s first visit to Georgia since the country’s war with Russia in 2008. The country might be a trusted, reliable partner of Europe but Tiblisi dreams of more, such as EU and NATO membership – and not having Putin’s forces occupying Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two regions now carved out by Moscow, despite EU protests. Georgia’s passionate hopes seem doomed and distant dreams, as the leaders’ agenda lists only energy, economics and foreign policy.

Back home, business isn’t running smoothly either. The Praxair merger with Linde is possibly on the rocks. Regulators are hampering the German-American tieup: together, the two companies would make the world’s largest maker of industrial gases – think helium and oxygen (a personal fave). They would have to first ditch more assets than they originally planned and that’s now calling the merger into question. But analysts and investors are relaxed, and the bosses of the two companies are “in constructive dialogue.”

That’s more than can be said of the tangled rivalry between two German makers of coffee machines. Two top managers switched from one of the companies to a rival. Things got strange, intimidating and personal: think surveillance at lunch, or detectives armed with binoculars parked outside their homes.

Nor is it easier on the food market. If you live in Germany, you may have seen gourmet burger chain Hans im Glück in your local mall. It’s rustic, upmarket and right-on-time for the growing appetite for burgers. But the chain may have expanded too fast and now has a case of corporate indigestion, with woes spanning fiddly accounting questions to an attempted management coup. Meaty problems but nothing lunch can’t ease.

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