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German mobile phone bills should shrink significantly from the start of December, as the big four providers were told on Friday to halve the amount they charge customers for mobile calls between networks.


The Federal Network Agency which regulates communications facilities, said it was reducing the amount T-Mobile, Vodafone, E-Plus and Telefonica/O2 could charge for calls between them, from a top price of €3.39 per minute to a maximum of €1.85 per minute. In a year’s time this would be further reduced to €1.79 per minute, a spokesman said.

Jochen Homann, president of the agency, said the spread of smartphones and the accompanying rise in data transmission meant that voice transmission was accounting for a dwindling share of the total cost of mobile phone networks.

Telekom said the decision was difficult to comprehend, and that it would lose €500 million in turnover as a direct result, and this would be bad for future investments.

A Vodafone spokesman said the decision was completely the wrong signal, and would take money from the market which was needed for the expansion of digital infrastructure.

A four-week consultation period now starts, while the European Commission and EU regulatory bodies must also have time to comment.

DPA/DAPD/The Local/hc

 

 

The deal behind one of the biggest German drug busts of recent times only happened due to pressure from the police - the man who could be jailed would not have got involved without them, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

A 52-year-old man who was desperate to pay off debts and make a new start was effectively entrapped and bullied into organising the shipment of nearly 100 kilos of cocaine into Germany, his lawyer said. 

Berlin's district court has been trying the man, named only as Namik A., since April, and what initially seemed like an open-and-shut case is proving to be much more complicated. 

His lawyers said he would never had become involved in drug smuggling if it had not been for the enthusiastic work of an informant set to make hundreds of thousands of euros from the police if he was able to steer a big deal and bust, the Berliner Zeitung reported on Tuesday. 

Police had started watching Namik A.'s cafe in Charlottenburg, West Berlin, in 2009 after an informant tipped them off that heroin was being sold there. But when they failed to gather any evidence, they sent in an informant already involved in the drugs business to try to catch Namik A. in the act, the paper said.

The informant befriended his target, meeting him around 60 times in 18 months, telling him about a friend who could arrange for drugs to be moved into Germany via Bremerhaven harbour - and then started to talk about smuggling cocaine. 

Namik A.'s lawyer told the court he was keen to pay off his debts and start up a hotel, and so met the man in Bremerhaven - actually an undercover investigator - and then with the informant nagging to get on with it, he went on the hunt for someone who could provide him with cocaine. 

It took him more than a year, but he found someone in Holland who was excited about the idea and said he had contacts to suppliers in South America, theBerliner Zeitung said.

Finally, in August 2011, Namik A. and the undercover investigator still posing as an employee at Bremerhaven harbour opened up a container that had arrived from Venezuela and from out between bunches of bananas they pulled bags of cocaine. 

Namik A. was arrested by police as he loaded the drugs into his car and has been in investigative custody ever since. 

A's lawyer told the court that without the encouragement of the Berlin state criminal police (LKA) and what he called the illegal incitement of the informant, Namik A. would never have got involved and the drugs would never have reached Germany. 

Prosecutor Michael Stork has admitted a certain degree of provocation was involved in the case, the paper said, but nothing that went against the law. 

He said they had caught a defendant who was ready to commit a crime. "The result shows that the tip that we got was right; that the subject was one who could realise such a big deal. Not everyone can organise a hundred kilos of cocaine," he said. 

A verdict is expected to be delivered on Wednesday. 

The Local/hc

 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened his country’s giant new embassy in Berlin on Tuesday and used his speech to call on Turks in Germany to learn the language.


More than 1,400 guests attended the opening of the biggest Turkish embassy in the world in central Berlin, including German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

"We want the Turks in Germany to speak fluent German," Erdogan said in his speech. "In this sense they should be bilingual and participate more and more in life here."

They should not see themselves as guests here," he said. "They should see themselves as belonging here." At the same time, he said Turks should recognize that "a strong Turkey, with a strong economy and an active foreign policy" was standing behind them.

In his speech, Westerwelle emphasized that the three million people of Turkish origin living in Germany enriched German culture. "We cannot imagine our society without them. They are a part of us," he said.

He also called for greater cooperation between Turkey and the European Union, and said the two-year stalemate in negotiations for Turkey's entry into the EU was not doing either side any good.

Acknowledging that Turkey had realized many reforms, he promised a "new beginning" on talks in the coming year. "There is a lot still to do, but important stages have been reached," he said.

Erdogan also offered Turkey's help in the ongoing euro debt crisis.

The new embassy was built on property bought by the Ottoman Empire in 1918, where Turkey's old embassy was situated until 1944, when it was destroyed by Allied bombs in World War II.

Erdogan is scheduled to hold a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday.

DAPD/The Local/bk

Several primary and secondary schools in Berlin are segregating migrant children into classes with “vastly inferior education,” to attract "ethnic Germans," an NGO has told a United Nations Human Rights session in Geneva.

The report, drawn up by the international NGO Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), noted that children of immigrants are being segregated from native-born German pupils on the putative grounds that their German language skills are inadequate for regular classes.

“In fact, although they speak German as a second language (in most cases), their language skills generally are adequate for regular classes, but serve as a proxy for discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or other suspect criteria,” the OSJI reported.

“The discriminatory practices stigmatise migrant students, undermine their potential to integrate and participate fully in German society, and violate Germany’s obligations to prohibit discrimination,” the report concluded.

Serdar Yazar, of the Berlin Brandenburg Turkish association (TBB), which helped gather data and parents' testimonies for the report, was unsurprised by its conclusions, but said that active segregation was a new development.

"This is a new tendency," he told The Local. "We've had a lot of negative references for children of immigrant background who want to go to other schools, but in the last two or three years we've had more and more cases of separated classes."

He cites one particularly well-known case of a primary school in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin.

"There was a parents' initiative from German parents, who said, 'We're worried because our children won't get a good education, and will have difficulties with the German language. We live in an area with a large number of children with immigrant background. So we have to find a system where there are so-called immigrant classes, and classes with native German speakers.' And the school directors bowed to their wishes," Yazar explained.

The NGO found that school directors were creating separate classes - “with preferential conditions, better teachers, and additional learning projects” - specifically to attract ethnic German parents.

The report added that school administrators were colluding with teachers to keep classes closed to children of immigrants, in order to “guarantee” elite groups to ethnic German parents.

The report also made clear that this segregation was helped by Germany’s three-tier education system, which funnels children into either a
 Gymnasium,Realschule, or Hauptschule straight after primary school. 

This system was criticised by the UN two years ago as encouraging "de facto racial segregation." "The system is still very non-transparent," said Yazar.

"What we find is that children with immigrant background often don't find a place in the popular, attractive schools, apparently because of lack of capacity. And a lot of people don't believe that. There's a very strongly-felt discrimination, and sometimes evidence for it appears."

Yazar also thinks the problem is not just confined to Berlin. "I know cases from North Rhine-Westphalia, and I know a few cases from Hamburg too," he said.

The NGO called on the German government to expand its discrimination laws to include public education, and on teaching authorities to provide additional support for children of immigrant backgrounds to ensure they are integrated into regular classes.

The report was commissioned by the UN for its 106th Human Rights Committee session in Geneva, which runs until November 2.

The Local/bk

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A German data protection expert voiced concern on Wednesday after the owner of the O2 mobile phone company said it was preparing to sell information about customers’ locations and movements.


The idea is that information about who spent how long in which shop and when, could be valuable to retailers as marketing data. The information could even include intelligence about how long people spend standing in front of specific shop windows, and where they went afterwards.

The data could also be sold to city authorities so they can see for example, the effect of different opening hours, the firm said.

Yet although the programme, dubbed Smart Steps, which collects the data also removes all personal information apart from gender and age, it has attracted the attention of data protection commissioner for Schleswig-Holstein Thilo Weichert.

He told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper that the idea made him very uneasy.

“Positioning data are highly sensitive exactly because they can be used to determine where someone is,” he told the HR-Info radio station.

“It gives me stomach ache that telecommunication companies are obviously starting to distribute this information.”

O2 owner, Spanish-owned, debt-riddled, Telefonica, said this week it had set up Telefonica Dynamic Insights to sell the data.

There is no plan for how this would work in Germany as “data protection has to be 100 percent ensured,” a Telefonica spokesman told the Frankfurter Rundschau, and said it was taking advice from the German Society for Consumer Research.

Customers starting a new O2 phone contract will be asked to tick a box saying they agree to their details being used. How and whether existing customers would be asked is as of yet unclear.

The Local/jcw

The German police have apologised for targeting a black German for spot ID checks on the basis of his skin colour – after a judge said it was illegal to do so, contradicting an earlier court ruling.

The now 26-year-old student told The Local in March he had been asked for his identification around 15 times in three years when travelling on trains between Kassel and Frankfurt. “The only thing I probably did was to look illegal,” he said.

In December 2010 he got into an argument with two federal police officers who demanded his ID but could not tell him why – so he refused to show them.

The federal police admitted they generally selected people for spot ID checks on the basis of their appearance – including skin colour, and this led to a court case at the end of February.

To the outrage of many, the Koblenz administrative court said such racial profiling was justified.

The student, who does not want to be identified, vowed to fight it, and on Monday afternoon the Koblenz administrative appeals tribunal nullified the initial ruling.

“The two officers were questioned by the tribunal, which then said making decisions on the basis of skin colour was illegal,” the tribunal’s spokesman Hartmut Müller-Rentschler told The Local.

“A representative of the federal police apologised to the plaintiff, who said that this was enough to satisfy him. As a result the case was deemed closed and the ruling of the lower court was declared to have no effect; it was nullified.”

Though this is not as legally strong as a formal verdict that racial profiling was illegal, Müller-Rentschler said it was likely to be taken as a signal, and that the federal police were likely to examine and change their practices.

“This result is a milestone for the legal classification of racial profiling as against the law. This case sends a significant signal for the practice of the federal police,” the student’s lawyer Sven Adam said afterwards in a statement.

“I am happy that the decision of the Koblenz administrative court’s decision has been declared null and void,” said the student. “We had to fight for a long time so that the federal police had to adhere to the ban on discrimination.”

Tahir Della, from the Initiative of Black People in Germany (ISD) welcomed the ruling. “We have been fighting for years for public recognition of this practice. Police checks of this kind are no one-off.

 

“They are the everyday experience of many black people and people of colour in Germany. They are put under suspicion and criminalised by this police practice. We hope that this verdict will serve as a basic political signal.”
Hannah Cleaver (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

Senior citizens in Germany have seen a fifth of their buying power disappear since 2000, with the elderly in the former East Germany losing the most, new data shows.

The data, released by the German government at the request of the parliamentary faction of the socialist Left party and published in the daily Thüringer Allgemeine, shows the buying power of seniors in eastern Germany dropping 22 percent since 2000, and 17 percent for those in western Germany.

Left party co-chair Bernd Riexinger criticized the government over the figures, and said the "downward spiral in pensions" must be stopped. He added that in eastern Germany, more than anywhere, there is an "avalanche" of old age poverty on the horizon.

The average pension payments, after deductions, in western Germany are €1,062 (up €17 since 2000), in eastern Germany the figure is €1,047 – a drop of €23 since 2000, the paper reported. Over the same period, the consumer price index rose about 20 percent.

More seniors in Germany are continuing to work into their old age. In 2000, 280,000 pensioners had €400-a-month jobs, which are exempt from taxes and national insurance contributions.

This figure has risen to about 761,000, the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported last month. Of those, 120,000 were 75 and older, the newspaper said.

Critics views those statistics with alarm, arguing that the seniors are not staying in the workforce because they want to, but because they can't live off their pensions.

The issue of pension reform has recently pitted Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen against younger members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party (FDP).

Von der Leyen supports supplements to raise the current basic pension of €688 per month to €850. In a letter to her party's junior members, she said: "At stake is nothing less than the legitimacy of the pension system for the younger generation."

FDP leader Philipp Rösler told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper last month that the plan would "cost millions. We do not have the money for that in the pension fund."

Young members of the FDP and CDU are promoting more private pension savings for low income earners.

The government has proposed reducing pension contributions from 19.6 to 19 percent by the end of the year, but the proposal has stalled in the Bundesrat, or upper house of parliament, where members refused to take a stand on the issue, the daily Die Welt reported Saturday.

The Local/mbw

 

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