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Germany

Germany In Brief

Who stands to gain from planned tax cuts; Sudeten discussion takes a turn; atomic waste is on the move; and Jeff Koons hopes to decorate Hamburg

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Jeff Koons presents the model of his sculpture for Hamburg's St. Pauli district.

Lower Taxes: Good for the SPD

Germany’s recent decision to lower taxes is good for the ruling Social Democrat party (SPD), but won’t make much difference in terms of boosting consumer spending, a recent survey shows. Germany’s Forsa Institute polled 1,002 people on behalf of the magazine Stern and the RTL private television station. This week the SPD’s popularity among voters increased to 32 percent – up one percentage point from the previous week. However, respondents told pollsters they don’t plan on spending the money they gain from the tax cuts, but will save it instead. As the party goes, so goes the man: German voters’ image of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has also improved in response to the SPD’s pushing through of its Agenda 2010 reform plan, according to a study by the FAZ Institute.

Support for Sudeten Reparations Denied

The German government doesn’t want its relations with the Czech Republic harmed by a new debate over reparations for Sudeten Germans – those Germans expelled from the Czech Republic after World War II, the German foreign ministry said. On Wednesday, the ministry denied a report from the Süddeutsche Zeitung that said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer supported reparation payments for Sudeten Germans. "There is not, and never was talk of reparation payments," said Walter Lindner, spokesperson for the ministry. Fischer has long advocated a "humanitarian gesture" for a small number of people who particularly suffered as a result of expulsion, he said. It hasn’t been decided what sort of gesture should be made, but specific suggestions should be the work of the German-Czech Future Fund, which has been in existence since 1997, Lindner said.

Atomic Waste on the Move

The year’s biggest atomic waste transport is underway from atomic energy stations in northern and southern Germany. A total of six so-called castors containing nuclear waste started off from power plants in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg on Tuesday, headed for final destinations in France and England. The environmental group Greenpeace was awaiting a transport of further castors from a different plant in Baden-Württemberg and possibly one from the Grohnde plant in northern Germany. Two further castors left each of two atomic energy plants in Lower Saxony on Monday evening. Each year the transports generate huge protests as environmentalists attempt to block the castors and prevent them from moving across Germany. The fear is that the atomic waste is a threat to the environment.

Jeff Koons’ Hamburg Design

American pop artist Jeff Koons altered his disputed building-crane design for a disused stretch of land on Hamburg’s infamous Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli district. But whether the work will eventually be built depends on its being approved by city politicians. Local building and culture officials looked over Koons’ revised plan for the Spielbudenplatz, which consists of two oversized cranes with lifesaving rings dangling from them. Compared to the original plan which was rejected several weeks ago, the newest model calls for smaller rings –85 meters (280 feet) high instead of the original 110 meters. Also, the work now conforms to building safety regulations. The sculpture is expected to cost €2.5 million, to be paid for by sponsors and arts patrons. But various representatives of the city-state’s political parties have yet to agree to the sculpture. "The party hasn’t definitively made up its mind. As for me, I’m skeptical," said Karl-Heinz Ehlers of the Christian Democratic Union.

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