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The tragedy in Genoa is a wakeup call

Genua
Source: DPA

Italians have all our sympathy today after the tragic collapse of the Morandi highway bridge into Genoa. It’s unclear how many people have been killed, but our thoughts are with their families and friends, and with those involved in the rescue operation.

Speculation continues as to how it happened but Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has already found the culprit: Brussels. Politicians don’t seem to tire of seeking blame elsewhere and the EU is a handy target. But the European Union encouraged Rome to put money into infrastructure. Beyond the blame game, leaders owe it to people they tax to invest enough to guarantee their safety. Are any governments anywhere doing enough to service their country’s infrastructure? In Germany, one bridge in eight is run down. And the widespread use of concrete means a similar tragedy could happen here, too, said one engineer, as problems are only visible once it’s too late. Now is the time to spend.

Amid the summer heat, Berlin is more packed than ever – 4 percent more folk are visiting than last year. All those tourists are great news, also for Airbnb, the oh-so-popular vacation rentals from locals. I’m as much of a fan as anyone else. It’s been fun and handy to get to know cities from Marseille to Leipzig from inside other people’s homes, admiring the plants and hunting for the hair dryer. But the flip side is that those homes aren’t available for city dwellers. Plus, the trend comes at a time when a lack of affordable housing is compounded by higher numbers of people moving to cities. Apartment hunters are getting desperate and offering bribes or just spending more time on their friends’ couches. People want to move but can’t find a home. Families are stuck living in two cities. Young workers are scammed. One retiree was evicted from her home in Hamburg as the landlord could earn more for the building through Airbnb’s higher rates and shorter terms. Berliners aren’t likely to become more welcoming to tourists if they can’t find a place to live. Legislators need to move with the times. Sluggish regulation leaves consumers, residents and taxpayers hurting.

Looking ahead, I’m still watching Turkey as tensions rise – and so are the 6,500 German companies doing business in the country. Yesterday, Erdogan called for a boycott on consumer electronics made in the US. But, as my colleague points out, we should be looking for solutions, not gloating. Tensions are high between Berlin and Ankara, but this is not the time for schadenfreude. Europe needs a stable, democratic, cosmopolitan Turkey, even if the country’s problems are partly of Erdogan’s making. It’s in our own interest to help him sort out his mess.

This scorching summer, another problem is in focus: energy and the problematic switch to renewables. Amid the heatwave, green power sources are struggling. Dashing from the baking streets for the relief of air-conditioned malls, I’d have thought solar would be outperforming. But wind comes from changing weather and the sunny spell has turbines still. Solar panels, meanwhile, make less electricity the hotter they get. That has coal fans calling on Berlin to slow down its hasty abandonment of dirty power and hold on to conventional sources for a little longer. Making weather conditions caused by too much carbon in the atmosphere a reason to pump even more carbon into the air? That’s just fresh.

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