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Germany

Germany in Brief

Germany's ministers for defense and foreign affairs support EU mission in Congo; Rolling Stones warm-up act raises ire; North-Rhine Westphalian red-green coalition risks collapse and more.

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A Hanover concert of the Rolling Stones has run into controversy for featuring a warm-up act with a right-wing past.

Germany backs EU peacekeeping in Congo

Germany’s Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer Wednesday endorsed the European Union’s decision to send a 1,400-strong peacekeeping force to eastern Congo. "I think it is a very good, very correct and very responsible decision," he said during a meeting of the EU reform convention. Asked if Germany would send troops, Fischer replied, "Nothing has been decided." In Berlin, Defense Minister Peter Struck, announced Tuesday Germany might provide military support, but said it was still too early to confirm involvement. "I’m quite convinced that if the U.N. asked for support for the people in the Congo through the EU, Germany could not stand aside," he told reporters after a cabinet meeting. So far Germany’s defense ministry has offered to outfit the EU force with a mobile hospital, the MedEvac, and Transall transport planes.

Radio station refuses to promote Rolling Stones

German radio station NDR 2 says it will no longer promote a Rolling Stones concert in Hanover on August 8 in protest against rock band Böhse Onkelz that is pegged to be the warm-up act for the show. NDR said the controversial group was "not compatible" with the image and the musical orientation of the station. Founded in 1979, Böhse Onkelz -- loosely translated as Evil Uncles -- sang radical rightwing songs until the mid-1980s, when they disavowed the right-wing scene. The British press recently reported that the Rolling Stones had considered cancelling the Hanover concert after learning about the Böhse Onkelz past.

Priest suspended after Protestant communion


Three days after the first ecumenical gathering of churches in Germany, Catholic priest Bernhard Kroll has been suspended from office for taking part in a Protestant communion. Kroll may no longer give holy communion and has lost his position in the Catholic Youth Community, a spokesman for the Eichstätt Diocese in Bavaria said on Wednesday. In a service initiated by reform groups during the Ecumenical Kirchentag, Kroll had celebrated the Eucharist at the Gethsemane Church in Berlin. Christian Weisner from the reformist group "We are the Church" criticized the punishment, "The majority of Catholics have no sympathy for this insistence on church law without allowing new ways of ecumenism substantiated by theology." The Pope forbid Catholics to take communion with Protestants in mid-April.

No debate on "can deposit"

Despite facing strong criticism from the beverage industry, Germany’s can deposit law is here to stay, German Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin said on Tuesday. The law, which requires manufacturers to charge a 25 to 50 cent deposit on drinks sold in disposable packaging, was accepted only grudgingly by the beverage industry. It went into effect in January. Trade and industry representatives announced Tuesday they would stop preparations for a nationwide collection system, despite having agreed last year to put one in place. The cost was too high, the German Retailers Association said. For the moment, consumers may only return cans and single-use bottles to the store where they bought them. The Federal Association for Consumer Protection said the industry's threats were "brazen" and that drink manufacturers should work with the government to create a sensible return system. In a conciliatory gesture, Trittin invited opponents from the beverage industry to meet with him early next week to discuss planned measures.

Red-green coalition faces hurdles

The coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens in Germany’s most populous state, North-Rhine Westphalia, is teetering on the brink of collapse. State Premier Peer Steinbrück this week set high hurdles for the coalition to overcome if it wants to continue its work. Creating jobs must take priority over the environment, the Social Democrat stressed during the presentation of a position paper on the future of the coalition. The SPD paper also demanded rapid development of the state's infrastructure, the creation of a sustainable mining industry and the expansion of regional airports not withstanding objections from the Green Party. The Greens referred to the paper as something out of the "junk drawer." Steinbrück and the Greens are due to meet on Friday to discuss the continuation of the coalition. The state’s minister for the environment and Green Party leader Bärbel Höhn, said the situation was "very serious."

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