Bid to unify German environmental law fails

2nd February 2009, Comments 0 comments

At present each of Germany's 16 states has its own set of regulations on issues such as pollution, making the approval process for firms planning new projects like roads or factories highly bureaucratic and complex.

Berlin -- Germany's environment minister declared as dead in the water a mammoth project almost two decades in the making aimed at hacking through the mass of red tape that is German environmental legislation.

"Germany will remain without a simple, transparent, non-bureaucratic and all-encompassing environmental rule book," Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement. "The existing fragmentation will remain in place."

At present each of Germany's 16 states has its own set of regulations on issues such as pollution, making the approval process for firms planning new projects like roads or factories highly bureaucratic and complex.

In the 1980s it was decided to try and simplify the system and in 1997, then environment minister Angela Merkel -- now chancellor -- proposed a new, one-size-fits-all set of regulations to speed things up.

When Merkel's CDU/CSU conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats formed the ruling "grand coalition" in 2005 it was something both parties promised they would make happen.

The government was also hoping that less red tape would help speed up the billions of euros (dollars) worth of infrastructure projects with which Berlin aims to pull Europe's biggest economy out of its worst post-war recession.

But with seven months to go before general elections -- when both parties aim to ditch the other and form a coalition with another party -- Gabriel on Sunday said agreement was impossible in the current legislative period.

Gabriel, who is from the SPD, said that with a lack of readiness to compromise the CDU/CSU -- which in turn blamed Gabriel -- was "damaging the economy and the environment at the same time."

The German branch of Friends of the Earth, BUND, said there was now a danger of a "race to the bottom" among German states to relax environmental regulations in order to attract investment.

AFP/Expatica

 

Pay deal announced in German railways dispute

According to an agreement reached late Saturday, the 150,000 workers will receive a pay hike of up to six percent over 18 months and at least 12 weekends off work per year.

Berlin -- Fresh strikes on Germany's rail network have been avoided after trade unions said Sunday they had struck a deal on pay and working hours with employer Deutsche Bahn.

According to an agreement reached late Saturday, the 150,000 workers will receive a pay hike of up to six percent over 18 months and at least 12 weekends off work per year, trade union Transnet said.

Unions had staged warning strikes across Germany during the Thursday morning rush hour, causing major disruption for commuters particularly in the south of the country.

The deal includes a 2.5-percent pay hike with immediate effect, another two percent on January 1 and a 500-euro (640-dollar) one-off payment in December. Transnet and fellow union GBDA had pressed for a 10-percent raise.

AFP/Expatica

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