Trade is a virtue. Just ask any German, or check with Angela Merkel and Li Keqiang, who talked up a storm about it at their last meeting. But Berlin just slammed on the brakes for a proposed takeover of engineering firm Leifeld by China’s Yantai Taihai Corp. The veto comes just a day after lawmakers prevented a Chinese government company from investing in 50Hertz, a power network. Berlin’s angst about China’s influence is chipping away at the country’s virtuous historic overtones on free markets.
And an alliance of retailers from Germany is also failing to put its money where its mouth is. The group was formed after a textiles factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed in 2013, killing 1,134 workers. The clothiers pledged to improve working conditions, but big names are now pulling out – or are being kicked out – as the coalition moves from words to actual actions and corresponding penalties. Those leaving or absent from the coalition have plenty of words for their decisions, but it would be nice to see actions that could save lives instead.
Criticism continues over the new Bavarian “anchor” transfer centers that aim to speed the processing of asylum seekers as well as the deportation of those who are turned down. Sure, scaling back bureaucracy makes sense but those decisions can take months, if not years. During that time, refugees are housed en mass, prevented from learning German, meeting people and working, making eventual integration even more difficult. The lack of access to education and healthcare may also contravene children’s human rights. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the centers’ brainchild, is confident they will be a success. Local graffiti artists disagree. Their latest effort: “Deport Seehofer”.
Tomorrow I’ll be eye-balling Checkpoint Charlie, watching whether it will become a Disney-style attraction or stay a chaotic junction with a KFC, shabby replica hut and fake soldiers posing for selfies. A hokey juxtaposition at the site along the former death strip where US and Russian tanks faced off in the ’60s. Locals are now as mad as the summer heat at a suggestion that the council went behind their backs to do a real-estate deal. Watch this space as Berliners weigh up development versus history.
And stand by for Wacken, the wacky festival in a north German village where metal heads mosh and beer flows. Aging men with impressive beards and bellies are already gathering amid a joyous but thirsty mood. Visitors usually wind up caked in mud after days of camping and partaking, but given the heat, it’ll be a dust fest. I’m already seeing pics of travelers with their heads encased in watermelons, in hats improvised out of ice cubes, or just drinking plenty of the good stuff. Essentially my normal Thursday evening.
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