“We can get the economy going with a clear conscience”

The topic of the Corona crisis was on the agenda as four weeks ago. Politicians such as the Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister Malu Dreyer and the Green MP Cem Özdemir also took part in the new round. Another guest was Hendrik Streeck, the Bonn virologist, who became known nationwide through the controversial Heinsberg study.

In such a round, the VW CEO is of course the representative of the economy. Herbert Diess is to be representative of many other German companies, explaining how Volkswagen is dealing with the corona pandemic and how the group is trying to get out of the associated economic crisis.

This gladly takes on this role. “We can get the economy going again with a clear conscience,” he says, ultimately referring to his company’s own efforts. Volkswagen is currently starting to restart production in its German plants. It was Zwickau’s turn on Thursday, followed by the main plant in Wolfsburg, Emden and Hanover the following week.

Volkswagen had “very well” prepared for the restart in the past five weeks of the production stop. The manufacturing processes have been changed so that VW employees do not have to fear a corona virus infection.

Hygiene concept for VW locations

Wherever things get narrower and where there is less work to be done, additional masks are used. There is also a comprehensive hygiene concept for the VW locations. The car dealership was also prepared for the virus – the vehicles could in future be handed over without personal contact.

This speaks of the fact that Volkswagen would have continued production breaks for two, three or four weeks. But Volkswagen incurs two billion euros in fixed costs every week. Therefore it is of course also clear that such a forced break cannot last indefinitely, Diess said.

As always with such appearances in recent months, the VW boss brings China into play. There it was possible to control the corona virus and at the same time to restart the economy. “China shows us that both are possible,” he emphasizes. The People’s Republic is extremely important for the Wolfsburg group. VW sells about 40 percent of its cars there and earns billions.

Even if the corona restrictions of the past few weeks have cost Volkswagen a lot of money, the CEO expressly commits to political decisions. “We can be proud of what we have achieved as a state and society,” said Diess.

“We made our contributions”

The German health system had withstood the stresses of the corona virus and the dramatic developments like in Italy or Spain had not occurred. The Federal Republic coped well with the crisis.

Moderator Maybritt Illner once critically asks whether Volkswagen might not be asking too much from the state if the company makes use of the short-time work scheme for 80,000 employees and now demands a purchase premium to boost car demand. Various board members of the group had discussed such a bonus several times in the past few days.

But Herbert Diess disagrees. Volkswagen actively provided help in the acute crisis situation and donated medical equipment for around 40 million euros. Seven million protective masks were also handed over. “We made our contributions,” emphasizes the VW boss. The Spanish Volkswagen subsidiary Seat even produces ventilators.

The receipt of the short-time work allowance is also completely okay. “These are contributions that we made ourselves,” says Diess. In the past ten years that was four billion euros, currently Volkswagen transfers 500 million euros annually. In March, Volkswagen received around 40 million euros in short-time work benefits.

In addition, Volkswagen behaves as a social enterprise and increases the short-time work allowance from its own resources to 100 percent. The VW employees did not suffer any financial losses.

Overall, however, Hebert Diess has relatively little say in Maybritt Illner. Politicians and scientists dominate the group. There is another argument about the Heinsberg study, the discussion about education and schools is given a lot of space. Time and again the roundtable revolves around the question of whether Germany is withdrawing the restrictions on public life too early and whether this threatens further waves of infection.

Herbert Diess only speaks briefly at the end of the program. Maybritt Illner wants to know how he feels about the obligation to wear a mask. The VW boss quickly pulls out his personal copy and holds it up: “We need five million of them in our plants every week.”

More: VW board: “A funding model could be based on CO2 emissions”.


Spahn opts for controversial Corona app model

Berlin The chaos around the planned Corona warning app seems to have cleared up. As the CDU digital politician Tankred Schipanski told the Handelsblatt, the Federal Ministry of Health from department head Jens Spahn (CDU) has now opted for the software framework of the Pepp-PT initiative.

Accordingly, the ministry informed the Bundestag’s digital committee on Wednesday that it had examined three possible technical platforms and then decided on Pepp-pt. The future mobile phone app for monitoring infections in the coronavirus pandemic is to dock on the technological platform developed by over 130 scientists.

“We are on the right track with the Corona app,” Schipanski told Handelsblatt. In close exchange with the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection, Ulrich Kelber, the Cybersecurity Authority BSI and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft is developing an app based on Pepp-PT technology.

The ministry’s decision is remarkable. Because the Pepp-PT project had been heavily criticized in the past few days because of its data protection concept. Around 300 experts signed an open letter warning of the risk of surveillance and misuse if data were stored centrally. The majority of them support the DP-3T concept, which provides for the decentralized storage of data on smartphones.

The Ministry of Health now prefers central storage of user data when developing the planned warning app, as a ministry spokesman said in Berlin on Wednesday. According to the Reuters news agency in the digital committee it was argued that otherwise decentralized storage on the cell phones would have to ask the US companies Google and Apple to disclose data. But that is not in the sense of an effective pandemic control.

The Greens faction leader Konstantin von Notz accused the Spahn of a lurching course when deciding on the app standard. “While it was emphasized on Tuesday that various approaches to data storage, both central and decentralized, were being examined, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health was quoted in the press shortly after the end of the meetings of the relevant Bundestag committees, saying that one preferred central storage of user data,” said von Notz to the Handelsblatt. “The Federal Government’s action is not only fatal for the acceptance of an app solution, it also shows a lack of respect for the parliament.”

Warning of “technological beauty contest”

Schipanski, however, emphasized that the effectiveness of the app in combating the pandemic is paramount. “The fact that data is stored centrally is not a legal or political obstacle,” said the CDU politician. “What matters to me is not so much a technological beauty contest, but more that the app makes an effective contribution to overcoming the crisis.”

The CDU health politician Tino Sorge advised to be more “pragmatic” when weighing up legal interests. Of course, data protection is justified. “But it is also about protecting public health, maintaining our everyday life and preserving our economic prosperity,” the Bundestag member told the Handelsblatt.

“It can not be too much for individuals to participate in a protected way in a Corona app.” After all, the app is not about personal data or even location histories, but only about pseudonymized data.

Sorge stressed the broad benefits for the digital fight against the virus. “Using the app and using pseudonymised data, the risk of infection and infection chains can be understood much better and faster than the health authorities will ever be able to do with the laborious telephone calls,” said. “We shouldn’t waste this opportunity – especially not as long as we don’t have a vaccine yet.”

The CDU politician Schipanski now expects in particular from the US group Applethat this opens its interfaces so that the app also works on the IOS system. According to the Ministry of Health, the authorities are currently using Apple, but also Apple Google Discussions about “how to design the interface and where the data is stored”.

One problem at the moment is that Apple has so far refused to open the interface for the app. However, this is seen as a prerequisite for the most extensive, if voluntary, use of the app. The Chancellery should now also engage in talks with the US company. Google is ready to open its interface. Together, the two US companies equip more than 90 percent of all smartphones with their operating systems.

App should be ready at the end of May

A Corona warning app would be installed on the smartphone. It can send an anonymized warning – if possible confirmed by the Ministry of Health – to people who have had contact with infected people. This would work via data exchange between the cell phones of people who use the app. A European exchange mechanism that protects privacy already exists for this. The broadest possible use of a warning app could make it easier to track corona infection chains – also because targeted contacts would then be tested.

In March it was still expected that a corresponding app, which is recommended by the federal government, would be available after the Easter holidays. Günther Krings (CDU), State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Interior, is said to have mentioned Wednesday at the end of May as a possible date in the interior committee of the Bundestag, according to participants.

The authority of the federal data protection officer Kelber and the BSI should then have five days to check the app. The authorities are constantly informed about the development. In addition, the app should be made a requirement in certain areas, such as in particularly relevant companies.

The Greens politician from Notz was disappointed. “After weeks of highly contradicting statements, expectations for today were high,” said von Notz. “The Federal Government not only did not take advantage of this opportunity, but continued to get caught up in highly contradictory statements.” On Tuesday, the Federal Government still stated that it wanted a purely voluntary solution, “this clear commitment is already obsolete”, criticized von Notz Look at what Krings said.

On Tuesday, the federal government emphasized that it was only considering using the corona tracking app on a voluntary basis. Models and digital applications would have to meet the requirements of data protection law, for which data processing is based on consent. No location data should be collected either.

More: Read here why the dispute over the Corona warning app is alarming the digital associations.


Criticism of the Libra restart is growing

Frankfurt / Denver It was a nice plan. The Libra Association wanted to go into spring with a new, modified concept paper. “Our mission is a simple global payment system that supports billions of people”, in short: building a “more inclusive and innovative financial world”. That was the announcement a few days ago. The Internet giant should do this by the end of 2020 Facebook start the initiated project.

Global, innovative and for the benefit of mankind: Libra’s new concept paper, the “Whitepaper 2.0”, is bristling with pathos in the best Silicon Valley manner. And yet it represents a kind of peace offer by the Libra partners, along with Facebook includes the travel agent Over and the streaming service Spotify to. The pledge is that your planned private currency will be created on the basis of a “collaborative dialogue” with all relevant actors.

The message has been heard around the world. Alone, the recording could have been more cordial. Despite all the modifications, US observers fear “a parallel world to the existing financial service providers”. German politicians warn of a “powerful shadow bank” under Facebook curate. And the advance is also viewed critically by scientists.

The question of whether the Libra launch will succeed on the second attempt or whether global resistance will finally bring the project down is completely open. It is even possible that the partners have made new enemies with the latest modifications. However, giving up is not an option for Facebook. The competition is already in the starting blocks.

Libra board praises new approach

“We still have work to do. But we are in a much better position than last year, ”explains the Libra Association’s operational board, Bertrand Perez, in an interview with the Handelsblatt. “We now have a strong answer to many questions and concerns of the supervisors.” And indeed: The makers have approached their critics, at least in part.

Prevention of abuse has been strengthened. “The Libra network will work better than the traditional financial system” in preventing money laundering, terrorist financing or hacking, Perez promises. For this, the network based on the decentralized blockchain database technology will start as a closed system. Further actors are only to be added later.

“We don’t reinvent the wheel for its own sake,” said Perez. “Our goal is to simplify global transactions. Access to the Internet is a basic raw material for everyone today. It is not yet to receive and send money. We’re working on it.”

Above all, one change is to make Libra’s approval by the supervisors easier: The controversial basket of collateral, which was supposed to form the basis for the Libra coin, has been deleted.

Instead, national currencies should now be digitized step by step in a one-to-one ratio. “In addition to the Libra coin, which is based on a basket of currencies and government bonds, we want to offer stable-value coins for individual currencies,” explains Perez, “for example a Libra euro or Libra dollar.”

Libra is no longer a risk to state sovereignty. “We don’t create new currencies,” says Perez. “Behind every Libra dollar that circulates is a real dollar as security.” Perez does not want to say goodbye entirely to the idea of ​​the art coin based on a currency basket: Such a “multi-currency coin” could allow transfers to those countries, in which Libra has not yet digitized the national currency.

The Libra Association, based in Geneva, has already submitted its first application for state approval – to the Swiss financial regulator Finma. It wants to analyze the application openly and emphasizes that it is in close contact with more than 20 supervisory authorities and national banks worldwide. The calculators could do the trick: Libra would start flexibly where there is little political resistance – without immediately spoiling a large number of states.

Criticism from the USA and Germany

It is rather unlikely that the Libra dollar will start. Again, there is loud criticism of the project from the USA: “There are still too many questions unanswered why Facebook is developing a cryptocurrency and how it will influence the global economy and consumers,” said the democratic financial expert in the House of Representatives, Sylvia Garcia.

In an open letter to the parliament, the Americans for Financial Reform think tank called for stricter laws for payment services that operate outside of the regulated big banks. Otherwise Facebook could build “a parallel world to the existing financial service providers”.

As part of the Libra Association, the group would build the infrastructure on the one hand, and on the other hand store the coins in digital wallets – and thus get too much power with its more than two billion users. The example of Tencent from China has shown how much influence companies have on pricing that connect payment services with social networks.

Criticism is also growing in Germany. Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) told the Handelsblatt: “We will not allow a private global currency. The currency monopoly must remain in the hands of the states. ”

Scholz is currently examining the extent to which the new Libra plan takes into account the previous concerns of the EU states, which they had formulated in a joint declaration on December 5. According to the Federal Ministry of Finance, the assessment also depends on the specific design of the business model. This leaves the new concept paper open.

Gerhard Schick, head of the citizens’ movement Finanzwende, warns that some have declared Libra dead too soon. “Anyone who knows Facebook knows that this company won’t let up on something like that so quickly,” believes Schick.

“If Libra prevails, this will go hand in hand with an increase in data and power for Facebook, although the company is already too powerful today. In our view, central problems remain, which is why we continue to reject the project. ”

Thomas Heilmann, blockchain expert of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group and one of the fathers of the blockchain strategy of the grand coalition, fears a monopolization of digital money and thus a threat to financial stability – for example, if Libra also prevails as a technical standard for stablecoins that are deposited with national currencies.

However, Heilmann does not believe “that we can prevent private stablecoins such as Facebook’s Libra in the long run.” If necessary, the group would simply buy a European bank and meet all requirements.

Danyal Bayaz, financial expert of the Greens parliamentary group, is particularly disturbed by the unclear data protection in the new Libra concept. The makers have responded to some criticism: “However, this does not clear up the core criticism. Nobody can guarantee that Facebook will not use Libra’s data after all, ”said Bayaz. The state’s monopoly on money creation would also continue to be questioned.

The private banking association BdB is afraid of overpowering competition: “If the new proposals were implemented, the balance of power among payment service providers in Europe could shift massively,” he said. “Europe and Germany must not continue to depend on American or Chinese providers for digital payment systems for their economy.”

Better technology, problematic regulation

The question of the consequences for “digital sovereignty” is not new. US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin had already described Libra as a threat to national security in 2019. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg had to swear under oath that one would only start after the green light of the regulators in the USA and other countries.

The question of why Facebook and its partners need their own digital currency is still open. Critics refer to the example Paypal. The US group has been processing virtual payments based on real currencies since 1998. Is not this enough?

Libra board member and ex-Paypal manager Perez explains that the blockchain is a more modern technology than the financial industry systems, some of which are 50 years old. That makes transactions faster and cheaper.

Perez admits that fees may also apply to Libra: “It depends on the conditions of the banks.” Transactions from one digital wallet to the other are free.

To satisfy regulators around the world, Libra apparently relies on the well-networked Swiss authority Finma. It is now up to this to gather all relevant authorities behind.

“Finma is one of the most renowned regulators. It is open to bringing others to the table, which will help wider acceptance of Libra, ”says Perez. You are currently clarifying whether you also need an EU license.

Volker Brühl, Managing Director of the Center for Financial Studies at Frankfurt University in Frankfurt, studied the new Libra concept. “Facebook and its partners have made every effort to address compliance, customer identification and anti-money laundering issues,” he concludes.

But that doesn’t make the project unproblematic. “There is also a risk that Libra will affect the effectiveness of central bank monetary policy measures,” warns Brühl. The additional introduction of stable-value coins based on dollars or euros does not solve the problem either.

The professor believes that the changed Libra concept brings a new dynamic to the discussion about digital central bank money in the euro zone: “The ECB has to position itself clearly here.” Bring offensive and defend the state monopoly on money.

E-euro as a public alternative

Federal Finance Minister Scholz is also putting pressure on this issue. “It is important that the euro zone becomes quickly competitive with digital payment methods. We have to take seriously the new Libra plans and China’s announcement to try digital central bank money, ”he says. Scholz relies on “innovative European responses to these initiatives.” A strong and sovereign Europe must be able to act independently here.

The CDU / CSU parliamentary group is already demanding a digital euro. And the green finance expert Bayaz wants to forestall Libra: on this basis, “private providers could then process payment services”. According to CDU politician Heilmann, the e-euro could be issued by the commercial banks. The left-wing finance expert Fabio De Masi even calls for direct “citizen accounts” with the ECB.

This is the only way from the point of view of Libra critics to prevent US corporations like Facebook or Chinese providers like Ali Pay from becoming powerful “shadow banks”. Because more players are in the starting blocks. So tinker about Amazon according to insiders for years on their own crypto plans. The online giant has already secured the address amazoncryptocurrencies.com. Beijing is also driving the development of a national digital currency. The first practical tests for the “E-Yuan” are running.

The Europeans are slower on the road, but also have the issue on the screen. The Bundesbank has been researching blockchain technology and its limitations for years. And the ECB recently put together its own team that is working on ideas for an e-euro.

Whatever solution wins the race: Facebook and Co. don’t want to be put off by it. The partners are also prepared for state digital currencies: According to Perez, the new Libra version should be sufficiently flexible.

“You have to understand that we primarily offer a payment network. If the ECB provided an e-euro, we could simply integrate it into our network. ”In this case, the association would not have to hold any reserves. “That would even simplify our project,” says Perez.

More: Facebook is responding to criticism with a new Libra concept, experts fear the rise to the “powerful shadow bank”.


Guest contribution: EU in the corona crisis: What are Merkel and Macron waiting for?

A coordinated joint action by Germany and France is hardly noticeable in the crisis. It is high time that the Chancellor and the President act together. .

Nervousness before the big EU summit

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez presented a working paper in which he approached the federal government before the meeting. Like the EU Commission, he also envisions a huge reconstruction fund for the European economy amounting to 1.5 trillion euros.

But at least Sanchez wants to get around the biggest issue: that of common European public debt. Instead, Sanchez’s funding of the fund is based on the Brussels proposal, which is not met with frontal rejection in the federal government.

The idea of ​​the EU Commission is based on guarantees from the member states. This would allow the Commission to raise more debt itself. The advantage: The member states would no longer have to transfer money to the EU budget, but the EU Commission could still finance the reconstruction fund and increase its clout through a “lever”, ie the multiple use of a euro. The financial maneuver is to be secured via the EU budget.

Partial liability as a basis for negotiation

In contrast to corona bonds, i.e. common European debt securities, the Federal Government is more open to this proposal. From the federal government’s point of view, corona bonds are banned simply because they would be highly problematic under constitutional law.

That would be different with the EU proposal. In contrast to corona bonds, the federal government is not fully liable for European bonds that are secured by European institutions, but only in part.

The Federal Government emphasizes how important this is to it in a response to a request from the Greens for European common debts in previous bailout programs.

The issuance of bonds for the EFSM, the predecessor of today’s ESM rescue fund, “is strictly limited in fact and is based on legal acts with a corresponding contractual basis,” writes Finance Secretary of State Bettina Hagedorn (SPD) in the answer.

This would not be the case with corona bonds. The opposition is still putting pressure. “A large reconstruction fund for Europe is now necessary,” says Green budget politician Sven-Christian Kindler. “The Federal Government can no longer refuse to fund the fight against the corona crisis on the basis of solidarity.”

Scholz calls billions

Identical demands come from southern Europe. The Federal Government knows that it cannot oppose everything; the situation in Europe is too tense for that. However, she sees the risk of being legally vulnerable if the reconstruction fund is too large. Ministry of Finance officials and budget politicians also want to keep budgetary risks as low as possible.

Two letters from the Federal Ministry of Finance to the Budget Committee of the Bundestag, which are available to the Handelsblatt, show the burdens that the corona crisis is already having on the federal budget. With them, Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) is calling new huge billions of dollars.

One day, Scholz wants to have 4.7 billion euros on hand to increase the guarantee volume of the European Investment Bank. He needs another ten billion euros to provide guarantees for KfW’s new fast loan. “The sums show that the risks to the federal budget are becoming more concrete,” says FDP housekeeper Otto Fricke. Another budget politician, who does not want to be named, says: “The government is clearly expecting guarantees to be drawn to this extent – and the money is gone with it.”

More: 16 countries, 16 ways out of the crisis – why Germany’s approach to the corona crisis seems arbitrary.


Germany lacks uniform ways out of the crisis

Berlin Nils Ismer’s tigers, dromedaries and flamingos spend quiet weeks. Ismer heads the Ströhen zoo, a family-run company in the Lower Saxony district of Diepholz. 700 animals from five continents live on the land of a former farm. 70,000 visitors come every year, and the spring season actually begins. But the zoo is closed because of Corona.

When the federal and state governments agreed last week in which areas public life could gradually be ramped up, zoos were also on the list. In some federal states, zoos have reopened since Monday. Not in Lower Saxony. Ismer says: “You have to be arbitrary if animal parks in Schleswig-Holstein or Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are allowed to open again, but we can’t.”

A safari park in North Rhine-Westphalia was able to open at the end of last week because the visitors were in cars there. “This is a distortion of competition,” complains Ismer. The veterinarian is now urging the Lüneburg Higher Administrative Court to close his zoo.

How much new normality is possible in the corona crisis and at what pace the measures are loosened depends very much on where in the republic the citizens live and the companies are based. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the prime ministers always emphasized that the aim was to act uniformly if the most drastic restrictions on everyday life in the history of the Federal Republic were relaxed.

But the impression arises that every federal state does what it wants. Some countries were already rushing when society and the economy were shutting down, and the rules were not uniform even during the lockdown.

Relaxation leads to “opening discussion orgies”

And the exit strategy from the Corona standstill also seems cobbled together. Most of the shops in Bavaria will remain closed for the time being, while shopping malls will open in Bremen. Lower Saxony closes the zoos, Rhineland-Palatinate allows party events.

The final classes are returning to Saxony’s schools; elsewhere, classes only start gradually in a week or two. Some countries, including Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Bavaria, make mouth-nose protection mandatory in certain public spaces.

The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia rejects an obligation; Münster, on the other hand, requires wearing masks as the first city in North Rhine-Westphalia. The municipalities also have a say in how everyday life should look in the pandemic.

Merkel goes a few steps too far for the state governments. At a switching conference of the CDU presidium on Monday, she complained that the message of cautious easing in some countries had led to “opening discussions”.

In a press conference, she later warned against risking a relapse in the crisis with premature loosening of the “seeing eye”. “We have to remain vigilant and disciplined.” The extent and pace of the openings do not seem to be a question of infection control, however, but depend heavily on the political moods of different state governments.

Downtown Ulm

Many stores are allowed to reopen in Germany.

(Photo: dpa)

Square mess in retail

Areas can be calculated precisely in mathematics. In politics, units of measurement are more flexible. The federal and state governments basically stipulated that shops with a sales area of ​​up to 800 square meters may reopen – provided they comply with protection and hygiene standards.

While Bavaria wants to strictly adhere to the upper limit, larger stores are allowed to open in several federal states if they reduce their space, for example by partition walls. Bookstores, car dealerships and the bicycle trade, in turn, can open regardless of the size of their retail space.

Some states, such as Rhineland-Palatinate and Bremen, are also unlocking the shopping centers. The area restriction then only applies to the individual shops. In North Rhine-Westphalia, baby specialty stores and furniture stores are allowed to open again, but no electronics retailers. What exactly counts as a “furniture store” is unclear. In Lower Saxony, on the other hand, the electronics markets are open again.

The time of opening also varies. The retail trade opened business on Monday in Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland, among others. In Brandenburg this is only possible from Wednesday.

The Senate in Berlin takes its first decisions on Tuesday; in the capital, however, book and bicycle stores had already been closed. In Bavaria, the retailers have to be patient for a week, after all, access to DIY superstores and garden centers is allowed again. They were open all the time in a number of countries.

The trade is happy to be able to get started again. “Opening stores up to 800 square meters is a step in the right direction,” said Stefan Genth, chief executive of the German Trade Association (HDE). “But this limit also means that many frequency providers in the city centers are still closed.” That continues to threaten the existence of many companies.

Patchwork at schools

The countries also proceed differently when they return to school. Berlin and Brandenburg started the Abitur exams on Monday, Schleswig-Holstein followed on Tuesday. In North Rhine-Westphalia, students return from final classes at secondary schools, special schools and vocational colleges on Thursday, and prospective high school graduates can then attend school before the exams on May 12 – voluntarily.

From April 27, Bavaria plans to resume exam preparation for final classes. Graduated according to age groups, it will then continue from May 11th. It is similar in all federal states that there will be no normal classes for the time being, even if the schools are gradually reopening.

Baden-Württemberg announced that classes will start on May 4th with a very limited start. By the end of April, the culture ministers of the federal states are to develop a concept for hygiene measures, school bus operation, break times and class division.


How the corona crisis will continue for the parents of around 3.7 million day care children in Germany is currently completely unclear. Since March 16, daycare centers have only offered emergency care for children whose parents work in systemically relevant professions, such as nursing and medical care.

A unified path for the around 56,000 day care centers in Germany is unlikely. The “AG-Kita” of the states, chaired by Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, is working with the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs on a concept for the period after May 3, but it only contains “guidelines and recommendations”. In plain language: countries, municipalities and sponsors ultimately decide themselves.

Race for “systemic relevance”

The federal government itself is causing chaos with unclear requirements for the federal states. For example, a lobby race has broken out among associations in recent weeks to declare their own sector to be systemically important – a race that has partially drifted into the absurd. The trigger was the statement by Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) that agriculture was “systemically important”, especially in the corona crisis.

Such recommendations of the Federal Government are of course “non-binding”, as the Ministry now admits in a response to a request from the Green MP Danyal Bayaz, which is available to the Handelsblatt. The respective state authorities are responsible.

However, according to Klöckner’s statement, many associations were still afraid that they might not be relevant to the system and thus suffer disadvantages. Accordingly, individual companies and associations put pressure on their state governments – some lobby organizations even declared themselves systemically relevant.

Association insiders report that the powerful association of the Bavarian economy (vbw) has certified companies in series that they are systemically relevant so that they can continue to do business with their suppliers in northern Italy.

A business association cannot certify this at all. But in Italy you obviously just want to see some stamp. “A complete confusion has arisen,” complains a high-ranking representative of the association.

Legal certainty is lacking

A few weeks ago, associations had therefore urged Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) to ensure legal certainty, but this did not happen. The Greens politician Bayaz says: “It does not help if individual ministries, federal states or associations declare their favorite industries to be systemically relevant.” This requires “clear and transparent, especially nationwide, uniform criteria”.

So far, however, this has not existed. And companies are already dealing with the next annoyance: the federal quarantine model regulation, which the federal states implement differently. If a craftsman from Bavaria goes to France on assembly, he must then be quarantined for 14 days if he has been there for more than two days. NRW handles the rule much more loosely: a fitter only has to stay at home for two weeks if he has been abroad in the EU for more than five days.

This causes uncertainty for companies, and especially for those with locations in different federal states, a considerable effort. “We have had very high levels of acceptance of day-to-day restrictions among companies and customers,” said Ludwig Veltmann, general manager of the SME association, Handelsblatt. “This acceptance is at risk if the measures with regard to health protection are not comprehensible.”

In a letter to the heads of government of the federal states, the association of small and medium-sized enterprises, which represents companies from trade, craft and the service sector in particular, warns of a “patchwork of different regulations”.

As a result, the economy was faced with additional burdens: “For companies with multiple locations in different municipalities or even federal states, it is an enormous and, under the current circumstances, unreasonable challenge to quickly adapt to a multitude of different requirements.”

More: Germany will only survive this corona crisis if the rest of the European Union can do it. National self-praise leads past the problem.


Corona crisis: the disturbed German-Italian relationship

Rome, Berlin A tweet from the Lombardy region on Sunday, viewed more than 150,000 times, describes the disrupted relationship between Germany and Italy in the corona crisis better than any sober analysis: the region thanks the video to the many countries, the doctors, respirators, masks and protective devices for the Hospitals. The helpers are counted for two minutes: from Albania, Australia and the USA to China, Turkey, Switzerland, Israel and South Korea.

A country is missing. Although Luftwaffe aircraft flew 43 seriously ill Corona people to Germany for treatment, the Federal Republic paid for the treatment and Berlin delivered more than seven tons of aid, Germany remains unmentioned.

The bilateral relationship is disrupted, even if this is not officially stated and the chancellor’s admiration remains high in Italy. Her press conference, in which she explained the spread of the corona virus in three sentences, was given English subtitles and became a click favorite on social media.

But Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio takes delivery of aid from abroad almost every day at the airport, wearing a mask and gloves, and posts a photo on Instagram every time – just not when it comes to Germany. And it was he who described a German newspaper article, which was about the connection of aid and the mafia, as “shameful and unacceptable” and called on the federal government to distance itself from it.

New ammunition was now released before Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s EU summit on Thursday. Addressed to the German address, he said in an interview with the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” that many countries only looked at their own advantage. Germany’s trade surplus is “higher than the EU rules”. With this surplus, Germany does not serve as a locomotive, but as a “brake on Europe”.

Germany’s blockade on corona bonds is also not well received in Italy

At the same time, Conte repeated its call for corona bonds, common European bonds to finance the reconstruction of the economy. However, the Federal Government rejects this. There is certainly sympathy for corona bonds in the SPD. However, the Union parties refuse to debate, too afraid of the anti-euro party AfD. Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) spoke of a ghost discussion. That was also not well received in Italy.

“The relationship between the two countries is worse than ever before in the post-war period,” said SPD MP Lars Castellucci. “We hardly get through with what we do for Italy.” Meanwhile, the CDU and CSU are also growing concerned about the German-Italian relationship.

The EU member states have agreed on a comprehensive package, some of which has not yet been approved by the Italian side, explains CDU politician Ronja Kemmer, deputy chairwoman of the German-Italian parliamentary group in the Bundestag: “We need to talk about this now. It is important that this takes place in an objective discussion, in which the important relationship between our two countries is not harmed. “

The Italians have long been ardent supporters of European unification. But the mood has turned. In a much-cited survey, 67 percent of Italians surveyed recently stated that EU membership was a disadvantage for their country.

There are two reasons for this mood and the negative image of Germany that forms in it, an internal political and an economic one: on the one hand, the opposition party Lega, with its leader Matteo Salvini, stirs up populist resentments. Germany is the main target of this agitation, which is disseminated in relevant media by all means, from abuse to Nazi caricatures. This is not new, but it is boiling up again because the Lega hopes to be able to capture voices that it had recently lost.

In Germany, the Green Contes support course in particular

On the other hand, the dispute within the EU over the funding of tools to combat the corona crisis is weighing on the bilateral relationship. Here, too, old stereotypes come up again from the thrifty north, which insists on the rules, and the spending-friendly south, which wants its debts to be financed by the other partners. “Nobody has to act as the best in class,” growled Conte in his interview.

The Prime Minister’s strong words are aimed more at the domestic audience than at the address of the Europeans. He must advocate the introduction of common bonds and the categorical rejection of the use of the European bailout fund ESM in order to keep his coalition government together. And he gets a lot of encouragement for it. His support among the population is growing.

In Berlin, Conte receives support primarily from the Greens. The party is aggressively promoting corona bonds. “We need unique, joint bonds in order to stabilize the economy in this situation and to crank it up again,” demands Franziska Brantner, European spokeswoman for the Greens in the Bundestag. Corona bonds are not to be equated with Eurobonds that were discussed and rejected in the financial crisis. “The reflexive rejection of a new idea with the arguments of ten years ago is not appropriate for today’s crisis,” says Brantner.

From the FDP’s point of view, on the other hand, the dispute over corona bonds does not continue. “The debate about solidarity must not be based on the dividing line between corona bonds,” says Kaja Suding. “We will show solidarity even without Corona bonds.” Suding is primarily responsible for the export ban for medical protective equipment, which Minister of Health Jens Spahn issued at the beginning of March, is responsible for the German-Italian relationship crisis: “It gave Italy the feeling of being left alone. So a lot of trust was shattered. “

The German-Italian parliamentary group is planning a solidarity campaign this week. She wants to roll out a banner in front of the Italian embassy in Berlin. “We are in this together” is the message. A little gesture, but maybe the beginning of a rapprochement.

Nathalie Tocci, director of the Istituto Affari Istituzionali (IAI) Roman think tank, says: “The bilateral relationship has not been destroyed. For Italy, Germany is the key so that Europe can finally make a leap in quality. And in Italy this responsibility is not interpreted as a concession to Italy, but as a contribution to the EU. ”

More: Before the EU summit on Thursday, the Italian prime minister is trying everything to convince the partners of joint bonds. That has domestic reasons.


Austrian minister can imagine vacation tourism

Vienna In the garden of Mirabell Palace in Salzburg, there was a yawning emptiness on Sunday afternoon – despite the sun and spring-like temperatures. With its view of the Hohensalzburg Fortress and the surrounding Alpine peaks, the complex is usually a magnet for visitors, especially for tourists from nearby Bavaria. But the border with Germany on Walserberg has become a difficult hurdle to overcome.

Austria generally only allows foreigners to enter the country if they can prove at the border that they are not infected by the corona virus. The hotel industry and gastronomy are closed in Salzburg as elsewhere in Austria. The tourism industry as a key industry for Austria as a tourist destination is therefore back to the wall.

The Austrian government wants to react to this as quickly as possible: Despite the restricted freedom of travel, the Alpine Republic is considering opening the borders again to German tourists. Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger proposes a separate agreement with Berlin so that the Germans can spend their summer vacation in Austria unhindered.

“Because we have a relatively good grip on the spread of the corona virus and, as the federal government, can already offer the prospect of easing the measures step by step, we also plan that there will be holiday tourism in the summer,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s confidant (ÖVP) the “Press on Sunday”. The restriction on freedom of travel will remain in the coming months. “But if countries are also on a very good and positive path, such as Germany, there is certainly the possibility that bilateral agreements can be reached,” said Köstinger.

Köstinger left open when there will be a special regulation for tourists from Germany: “There is no deadline, there could be further waves of infection. And then it cannot be ruled out that far-reaching measures will have to be taken again. “

The black and green government in Vienna wants to present a plan at the end of April on how the catering and tourism sector can start up again. Köstinger said that “there will of course be requirements” such as distance and hygiene rules.

Money from German tourists is missing

Meanwhile, Köstinger left open what such a bilateral agreement with the Federal Republic might look like. Health Minister Rudi Anschober of the Greens reacted cautiously to the advance. “The desire for an opportunity for tourism is understandable, but depends on the development of the corona pandemic in Austria and internationally,” said his spokeswoman for the Austrian news agency APA on Sunday.

Austria urgently needs the money of German tourists. The Alpine Republic has been generating over 15 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in tourism for years. According to Statistics Austria, the turnover of the tourism industry in 2019 was more than 32 billion euros. The Germans with a total of 57 million overnight stays are the largest group of visitors from abroad with a share of over 31 percent.

Because of the negligent handling of ski guests in the Corona crisis, especially in the Tyrolean ski resorts of Ischgl and St. Anton am Arlberg, Austrian tourism had to accept a major loss of image. Consumer advocates are currently preparing an action for damages against Austria on behalf of hundreds of ski tourists.

The country could not pretend that nothing had happened, said Vice Group leader Jörg Leichtfried (SPÖ), referring to the disaster in Tyrolean winter sports resorts such as Ischgl in dealing with the corona virus. “The majority of German infections can be traced back to the late reaction to the illnesses in Ischgl. The work on the Causa Ischgl has not even started, let alone have the lessons learned so far, ”warned the Social Democrat on Sunday. Austria, around ten times smaller than Germany, has so far counted 452 deaths from the corona virus.

Up to a third less income

The pressure on the Austrian government for rapid easing is enormous. Because many hotel owners and innkeepers are already with their backs to the wall over Easter due to the failures. According to experts, the fat years in alpine tourism are over indefinitely.

The Viennese tourism economist Egon Smeral expects international arrivals to decline by around a third this year. “Similar development trends can also be expected for the development of real spending on trips abroad,” said the professor at the private university Modul University Vienna.

The right-wing populists are meanwhile trying to become the advocate of the economic interests of the tourism and catering industry. “I can not and do not want to watch here how to let an important branch of the economy go down the drain,” said the former Vice Chancellor and right-wing populist Heinz-Christian Strache. “Therefore, in the spirit of an alliance of hosts, I am unequivocally calling on the federal government to end the compulsory bans on May 1st.”

The right-wing populist FPÖ demands that the gardens of taverns and cafés be opened immediately. “It’s hard to see why you shouldn’t sit outdoors in warm spring weather when, on the other hand, it is not a problem that people stand for hours in a row at hardware store parking lots,” said fraction leader and ex-interior minister Herbert Kickl.

More: Austria’s Chancellor Kurz is leading the way in loosening the corona.


Why the AfD is a loser in the corona crisis

Berlin The spread of the corona virus has put the country in a state of emergency. The Chancellor and her ministers step in front of the cameras seriously every day, there is always a lot to be said: A billion euros of historic aid for the economy, people who are acutely afraid for their jobs and their homes, for the Food supplies for supermarkets.

It is already clear that the economic consequences of the corona pandemic are serious. One would normally assume that populist parties like the AfD know how to use citizens’ concerns about mass unemployment and poverty to capitalize on it.

But the opposite is the case: the AfD around its chairmen Tino Chrupalla and Jörg Meuthen slips in surveys: It is currently under ten percent, its worst value in two years. What are the reasons for the gradual decline of the AfD?

A problem that other opposition parties are also struggling with is that, in times of crisis, the hour of the executive naturally comes. “The voters gather behind the government parties because only they can make a concrete crisis management policy,” said Berlin political scientist Oskar Niedermayer the Handelsblatt.

Bremen-based political scientist Lothar Probst also stated that voters had “found new confidence in the parties of the grand coalition in the wake of the corona pandemic”. This is expressed in the surveys in significantly increasing values ​​for the Union parties and moderately increasing values ​​for the SPD.

Mainz political scientist Kai Arzheimer recalled that the AfD’s survey figures had already decreased before the crisis – certainly also due to the internal struggles, but above all because immigration had become less important. “In addition, there is currently unusually broad support for the government and especially for the Union parties,” Arzheimer told the Handelsblatt. Similar effects are currently not only observed in Germany, but also in many other countries.

“Brand core” of the AfD is currently not in demand

In the current Sunday trend of the Kantar polling institute for the “Bild am Sonntag”, the AfD falls in the voters’ favor to 9 percentage points (10 percent) and thus to its lowest value since the Bundestag election in 2017. The grand coalition, on the other hand, continues to stabilize. The Union can keep its previous week’s result of 37 percent, the SPD gains one percentage point, now reaches 18 percent. The FDP is growing slightly in the favor of voters, comes to 7 percent (plus 1), the Left Party to 8 percent. The Greens are stagnating at 16 percent.

In the past, the AfD had benefited, among other things, from dissatisfaction with the grand coalition. “That is over for now,” says Probst. According to Niedermayer, this is also due to the fact that the “core brand” of the AfD, the refugee question, “has significantly decreased in its relevance” and the AfD has not yet understood how to establish a credible connection with Corona for the citizens.

The opposite is rather the case, as the political scientist Arzheimer observes: “The fact that individual AfD politicians are spreading conspiracy theories is certainly not helpful for the party in any way,” he said. This is probably the reason why the AfD no longer penetrates with its topic “immigration”.

“Trying to hold migrants responsible for the virus’ advance does not catch on,” explained Professor Probst from Bremen. Rather, there is a “strong demand for factual information”, and this is satisfied by serious scientists. The “agitation” of the AfD, on the other hand, is often based on “half-truths, conspiracy theories and scientifically controversial or unsustainable theses,” says Probst. But that is currently not an issue.

“AfD politicians participate in the” infodemic “”

In particular, the “trivialization and trivialization” of the corona pandemic by AfD politicians has hardly received any response or has met with skepticism. “People see the pictures from Italy, Spain and the USA and are happy that they live in Germany and that their government is better able to protect people.” This is also expressed in a high level of agreement with the government’s measures out.

After the AfD remained largely silent at the beginning of the corona crisis, there are now also concrete proposals in terms of crisis management. However, the right-wing populists are by no means in agreement. Neither in the assessment of the threat from the virus nor in the assessment of the Federal Government’s measures to slow the spread of the lung disease Covid-19.

While some AfDers are alarmed and adhere strictly to the federal government’s guidelines, others are skeptical, reminding them of the party’s stance on man-made climate change. Some in the AfD get lost in conspiracy theories.

“Such conspiracy theories are mainly disseminated via social media, for example by Hansjörg Müller, member of the Bundestag on YouTube, who suspects that statistics on corona deaths have been manipulated,” said communications expert Johannes Hillje of Deutschlandfunk. “So that means: AfD politicians are participating in the” infodemic “that is parallel to the pandemic.”

The leader of the AfD parliamentary group, Alice Weidel, is not surprised by the different opinions in her party. “As in the population as a whole, we in the Group have people who think we are dealing with a normal flu episode,” she said. Party leader Meuthen adds: “I believe that there are many in the AfD who value the danger posed by this pandemic, but there are certainly some of us who saw it a little too careless at the beginning.”

“In a later phase the tide could turn”

The findings of Weidel and Meuthen are one of the reasons for the crumbling support for the AfD among the voters. “The party’s internal conflict over the question of how to deal politically with the pandemic prevents a clear positioning and its communication to the outside world,” said political professor Niedermayer.

In addition, Niedermayer believes that the internal leadership dispute and a “largely tolerated chairman” paralyzed Meuthen. The political scientist Probst also sees it this way: The debates and disputes within the AfD about leadership questions weakened their position “especially at a time when determination and clarity are required”.

In a recent interview, Meuthen had brought into play the possible splitting of the party into a “social-patriotic” and a “liberal-conservative” wing and was then called back by its own federal executive. Since then, the MEP has been the party leader on call, while the far-right wing has further consolidated its position in the party.

The extent to which the AfD can make up for its current weakness in surveys is likely to depend on the length and the further effects of the corona crisis on the population. “The strength of the government parties will only last as long as the citizens support the crisis restrictions and the negative consequences do not yet determine the public discussion,” said political scientist Niedermayer. “In a later phase, the tide could turn completely.”

Whether this will benefit the AfD depends on “whether it can again be the sole mouthpiece for the frustrated and disadvantaged,” explained Niedermayer. In his view, this would be significantly more difficult than in the past.

Lothar Probst from the University of Bremen also points out that the AfD is competing with the FDP, which in the event of prolonged contact-restricting measures will also try to attack the government. He therefore does not tend to assume that the AfD will benefit. “As long as the government decides on its measures based on the recommendations of scientists and makes it clear that one can be on the road sometimes with the brakes on and sometimes with the brakes on before the crisis is over, I do not see the AfD honey growing from a perspective Dissatisfaction can suck. “

According to the political scientist Arzheimer, it will be possible to see in the foreseeable future whether the AfD will win back among voters. “Historical experience shows that the crisis-related turn to government parties is usually a matter of weeks and months,” he said. At some point, politics and the public would return to normal operations and question crisis management as critically as any other political decision.

However, Arzheimer does not believe that the AfD will benefit from this change in opinion on a large scale. “The party speaks with many voices, and its perception was very negative even before Corona.”

More: AfD has fallen to its lowest level on Sunday since the federal election