Browsing articles tagged with " Economy"

Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, Germany

Berlin, June 2015
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It is the fourth city in Germany, in terms of population, after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, a big city crossed by a hundreds of kilometers long river with centuries of history on its banks. Cologne, Köln, has many churches, like these 12 Romanesque, which are just a sample of the many jewels hoarded on its streets and squares. A bit about each of them can be read here, in German: http://www.romanische-kirchen-koeln.de/kirchen.html

The origin of Köln goes back to the first decades of the christian era, when the Roman Emperor Claudius elevated the then village to Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (Colony of Claudius and Altar of the Agrippiner). This gave Colonia the status of ‘city’ under Roman law, being granted more rights than before. This was in the year 50 a.D. In the past almost 2,000 years of history, Cologne has evolved into a financial center and also… the most “carnival city” in Germany! Indeed, it is the seat of some important automotive companies such as Ford Europe, with about 20,000 employeees, and also of the German headquarters of Citroën and Renault. Firms like Lufthansa, Galeria Kaufhof (a big chain of malls), Rewe and RTL, the main private television corporation in Germany, are based in Cologne as well. Of course, the eau of Cologne was born here!

But not only work is important, and proof of it is the tradition that starts every 11th day of the 11th month (November), at 11.11AM: the craziest carnival in Germany. Its culmination, on Ash Wednesday, is the burning of Nubbel, leaning on an old tradition that at the end of carnival, the carnival itself must die. The Nubbel is impersonated by a straw puppet that represents “somewhere” and “someone”, i.e. someone whose identity and placing isn’t clear, but he is known and sure to exist. The parades of Rose Monday (Rosenmontag, vídeo), and of the spirits (Geisterzug, vídeo) will be left behind. Also, needless to say, liters and liters of Kölsch!

Cologne is well known abroad for its espectacular cathedral. It’s construction, initiated back in 1248, did not finish until 1880, more than 600 years later (the Sagrada Família in Barcelona was begun “only” 130 years ago, so no complaints!). The cathedral, for some years in the 19th century the tallest building in the world, takes in the shrine of the Three Kings, a reliquary said to contain the bones of the Three Kings; it is a large gilded and decorated triple sarcophagus placed above and behind the high altar of cathedral. In 1996, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites.

Now Cologne can be explored in Catalan and in Spanish with itineri.de! You that you can taste a bit of it, we suggest you watch the following two videos: the first one is a presentation of the city, the second one shows some images previous to the destruction of the city during WWII. Enjoy them, and see you in Cologne!

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The limits of solidarity

Berlin, December 31, 2012
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One of the essential paragraphs of the German Constitution clearly states that the 16 regions of the country must offer similar life conditions to all of the citizens of the Republic, regardless of the region they live in. Through the so called Finanzausgleich it is decided what länder (regions) must transfer funds to those with a wealth level below the federal average. This not controversy-free tool is nonetheless a necessary one to provide each and every German citizen similar services.

Within the past years, there have been four donor and 12 recepient territories, although this has not always been the case: Bavaria, for example, was a recepient region until 1986, and in 1993 it turned into a donor territory. All in all, Hessen has been the most “generous” region since the German reunification, having contributed some 38,500 million Euros. Bavaria (capital city: Munich), with some 37,000 million, and Baden-Württemberg (Stuttgart) with about 34,000, are placed in the second and third position respectively. Nordrhein-Westfalen (where Cologne is), with about 11,000 M€, and the city-state of Hamburg, with 5,000 million, close the ranking list of the donors.

On the side of the recepient regions, Berlin is the main beneficiary: the city-state has received some 45,000 million Euros within the past 22 years, an amount which has brought it back to the map of the big world capital cities. It is followed by Saxony (capital city: Dresden, with about 17,000 million) and Saxony-Anhalt (Magdeburg, 10,000 million). See in the chart below the listing of recepient regions (blue) and donor ones (red):

Two länder have decided they will take to court the Finanzausgleich: the regional governments of Hessen and Bavaria will predictably meet up on February 5th in Wiesbaden, the capital city of Hessen, to iniciate the claim. Back in 2011, the then four donor regions contributed 7,300 million Euros (Bavaria, Hessen, Baden-Württenberg and Hamburg).

Here, in German, a piece of news about how the Finanzausgleich works: http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/laenderfinanzausgleich142.html

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A tourist, yes, but well informed!

Berlin, July 23, 2012
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A usual tourist does not need more information about his/her destination than the names of the places he/she considers must be visited, maybe just to take a couple photos. But others, to whom this article is devoted, long for a bit of backround on the place they will soon visit. Flight of capitals, circumcision and the so called fiscal equalization scheme are in the agenda, these days. Also the crisis in Spain, of course.

The regional government of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) did it again: 3.5 million Euros were paid to buy a CD containing information on German citizens having accounts in Swiss banks. Indeed, this is not the first time that such a purchase is done, in order to uncover flight of capitals; it also happened back in March 2010 and late 2011, when thousands of citizens were investigated.

Also a religious practice, which Jews and Muslims share, is these days a top piece of news in Germany: circumcision. According to a court in Cologne, this practice is an attack to the babies to whom it is done, who simply cannot decide by themselves whether they want to be circumcised, or not. The sentence might open the door to a possible ban of this practice in Germany, which led the president of the Conference of European Rabbis speak about “the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust”. Now, politicians will have to decide whether the practice can continue in Germany or not.

The key of the safe

The Bavarian regional government does not want to keep paying as much money as it has been paying so far, to help the poorest regions in Germany. The so called “fiscal equialization scheme” rules in the country since 1950, and since 1993 is Bavaria the region which pays the most, considering its rate of wealth: 3,700 million Euros in 2011. Also Baden-Württemberg pays, as much as 1,800 million, exactly the same amount that Hessen, while Hamburg contributes with 60 million Euros. On the other side of the scale, Berlin gets the most: 3,000 million in 2011. Now, the government of Bavaria has decided the lay currently in force is unfair, for which reason has filed a suit: the German Constitutional Court will have to make a decision, which in any case will not happen before 2014. Watch this video if you want to know a bit more about the system (in German): http://tagesschau.de/inland/laenderfinanzausgleich142.html

Of course, Spain and its banks are also on the German media, these days. On Thursday 19, the Bundestag decided to give the banks in Spain a maximum of 29,000 million Euros (the total amount contributed by the European Union being 100,000 million). Even now, it is not probable that Spain will disappear from the paper covers, from now on. Unfortunatelly.

50 years of Turkish immigration in Germany

Berlin, November 14, 2011
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The powerful German locomotive is in need of foreign work force for qualified jobs. In this sense, the chancellor Angela Merkel recently appealed for unemployed Spanish engineers, encouraging them to move to Germany and try to activate there their work perspectives. Quite often, current issues are a repetition of past events…

Given the spectacular growth of the German economy in the mid-fifties, big companies were forced to turn to foreign workers. With the aim of having an organized arrival of work forces, Germany signed several agreements with countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy. Nonetheless, the agreements reached with Turkey on the 30th of October, 1961 would be the most important ones for the future of the country. Thus started the history of the so called “Gastarbeiter” (guest workers).

Nowadays, about 2,5 million Turks live in Germany, approximately 30% of them with a German passport. The process of integration of the Turkish community in the host country is basicly a success, there have not been significant problems of coexistence, unlike in France, where Paris and other major cities have lived serious acts of vandalism.

The German political spectrum has some representatives of Turkish origin, like Cem Özdemir, born in Germany of Turkish parents (who arrived in the country as “Gastarbeiter”). Özdemir presides the Green Party. Besides, five MPs at the Bundestag have a Turkish origin as well. The web site of the federal government offers complete information about the arrival and integration of the Turkish population in Germany (click here). On the other hand, several cultural institutions around the country present these days some exhibits about these past 50 years, amongst others, the Museum für Neue Kunst in Freiburg, where “Willkommen in Almanya! Deutsch-türkische Geschichten” can be seen until January 8th, 2012.

Document – Deutsche Welle:

Mustafa Akci was one of the first Turkish workers to arrive in the FRG after the agreement between Germany and Turkey was signed, in 1961. 50 years later, Akci explains the first culture shock he suffered was because of… silence: unlike in Germany, Turkey is very noisy, he says. The report also explains a Spaniard, Armando Rodríguez, was considered to be the “Gastarbeiter” number 1 million, after the German-Spanish agreement had been signed in 1960.

++For more information:

this document, published by the Ministery of Labour of Nordrhein-Westfalen in 2000, and
this article of the magazine Spiegel Online, published in November 2011

Euro vs. D-Mark

Berlin, October 17, 2011
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Although the economic situation in Germany has nothing to do with that in Greece or Spain, the crisis is a main issue in the media, also in this country. The spectacular economic indexes this nation offers its citizens (1) are somehow pushed into the backround. Inevitable, when the currency system is shared by 17 states: in the EU, one’s flu can very easily be transmitted to the neighbours. To avoid the dreadful health of Greeks and other Europeans seriously affect the German economy, the Bundestag has recently passed the expansion of the so called European Financial Stability Facility.

Many German citizens ask themselves about the advantatges of being part of the eurozone. Not few of them regret having left the D-Mark and the monetary autonomy behind. Many Germans are critical with the euro, while Chancellor Angela Merkel takes pains to explain her fellow citizens the importance of not looking backwards. According to a survey recently published by the magazine Stern, most German are skeptical with the euro:

1. 54% of the citizens would go back to the D-Mark.
2. 73% of the citizens who did not go to niversity would abandon the euro, while “only” 37% of the graduates would.
3. 67% of the former citizens of the GDR would support leaving the euro.
4. If a “Pro D-Mark Party” would run for the elections, it would get 18% of the votes.

Despite all, it is possible to gather a couple data which balance the scales: the number of skeptics is nowadays a bit lower than it was back in December 2006, before the crisis broke out (58%). On the other hand, 51% of the Germans do not believe things would go better if they had the D-Mark, while those claiming the opposite are “only” 41%.

A “Pro D-Mark Party” is not in sight, but some reputable voices suggest a new currency should be implemented. The former president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Hans-Olaf Henkel, recently explained (here, interview available for the Financial Times subscribers) his recipe to oercome the current situation. Mr. Henkel believes the eurozone should be splitted in two areas. Time will tell.

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(1) It is important to keep in mind that the crisis is not affecting all the European states in the same way: while in Spain many companies are closing down and the unemployment rate is above 20%, in Germany the economy is growing like never before since the reunification, and only 6,9% of the population does not have a job. Austria is even better than Germany, in this sense, due to a lower unemployment rate (5,9%). Outside the European Union but still in the sphere of the German-speaking countries, Switzerland’s data are just impressive: only 2,8% of the population did not have a job last summer.

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