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Linux open-source operating systems gain in popularity in Germany; Metalworkers strike in the east hits Volkswagen; EU commissioner warns Germany to stick to budget guidelines.

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Linux penguins are popping up in Germany as more administrative offices switch to the open-source operating system.

Linux gains ground on Microsoft in Germany

More and more federal and state offices in Germany are following the lead set by Munich and are de-installing the Windows operating systems from their computers to switch to Linux, according to German Interior Minister Otto Schily. Several weeks ago the computer-savvy Bavarian capital made news by becoming the first major German city to introduce the freely distributed, open-source operating system for its 14,000 employees. Munich’s decision was made easier by a cooperation agreement signed last year by IBM and the German interior ministry to encourage the open-source software in administrative offices. Since then some 500 offices on the federal, state, and local level have elected to switch to the alternative operating system with the argument that it reduces dependence on individual Microsoft vendors, Schily said at a joint press conference with IBM chairman Erwin Staudt on Monday. So far, large public offices like the Bavarian Surveyor’s Office, the Cartel Office, the Commission on Monopolies and the Federal Commission for Data Protection have all opted for Linux.

20,000 fewer VWs due to strikes

German automaker Volkswagen is beginning to feel the affect of IG Metall's strikes in eastern Germany. The company’s head, Bernd Pischetsrieder, said on Tuesday that the work stoppage at parts factories in the eastern part of the country would result in the production of 20,000 fewer cars by the end of this week. The CEO declined to comment on whether the incident would effect VW’s overall goal of selling five million cars in 2003. The eastern German strikes launched by the engineering and metalworkers union IG Metall at the end of May have also had an impact on BMW. On Monday the Bavarian car manufacturer had to stop production in some of its western plants due to a hold-up in supplies coming from the east.

EU Commission intervenes in German tax debate

European Union Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Pedro Solbes warned Germany not to neglect EU budgetary guidelines in the debate about tax reform. If the German government decides to cut taxes and thereby fails to stay within the fiscal framework established under the Stability and Growth Pact, it cannot count on support from the EU, Solbes said in a statement released Tuesday. The German government is expected to call for a pushing forward of tax cuts planned for 2005 to next year, but it will need to reduce spending in other areas in order to offset the 18-billion-euro loss in finances and stay within the euro zone budget deficit limit. Solbes said the Commission was "very sensitive" to Germany’s economic problems, but added that the government needed to stay within the stability pact framework. For this reason, the commissioner said Germany’s most pressing priority should be long-term structural reforms to help ease its recession-hit economy, including an overhaul of the costly state health and pension plans.

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