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Germany

Germany in Brief

German member of European Parliament says Italian government is "racist", a landmark heat wave is making Germany sweat and Germany could withdraw troops from Africa.

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Brutal heat -- water levels are falling fast in Germany's rivers.

German MEP calls Italian government "racist"

The ongoing diplomatic row between Germany and Italy was sparked anew on Wednesday after European parliament member Martin Schulz said the Italian government was "racist" in a German television interview. "Quite simply, there is a racist government in office in Italy," he said. He also hit out at Italy’s "dubious justice policies." The German MEP later said he was not branding Italian Premier Berlusconi racist, but was referring to Reforms Minister Umberto Bossi, who was last month quoted as saying the navy should fire on boats carrying illegal immigrants to Italy’s shores. Schulz incurred the wrath of the Italian premier earlier this month when he criticized Berlusconi’s use of an immunity law to dodge bribery charges in a Milan court. Berlusconi then said Schulz would be an ideal candidate for the role of a concentration camp guard in an Italian film. The furore that followed ended in the resignation of an Italian deputy tourism minister.

Germany reeling under heat wave

A record heat wave rolling over Europe claimed two lives in Germany and led to widespread concern among farmers and shippers. Two people died in East Frisia, in the north of the country, on Tuesday. Water levels have sunk dramatically in most rivers, crippling freight ship traffic. While most ships traversing the Rhine and Elbe rivers have been advised to reduce their loads, others have been completely ordered off waters. Authorities fear historically low water levels in some rivers such as the Spree are choking off oxygen supply to marine life. The German Farmers’ Association is also counting on a bad harvest this year, particularly in eastern Germany, on account of extreme dry conditions. The heat wave in Europe has hit Italy the worst, with officials considering declaring a state of emergency, which would include limits on use of water if there is no rain in coming weeks. Major Italian cities are also in danger of power shortages, mainly because of the increased use of air conditioning.

Report: Germany could pull back troops in Africa

The German Defense Ministry has denied newspaper reports the army wants to end its anti-terror mandate "Enduring Freedom" around the Horn of Africa. The daily Die Welt quoting defense sources Tuesday said instructions had already been received from high command to close down the military base at the port of Djibouti and withdraw supply ships by October this year. The newspaper further cited sources saying German troops stationed at the Horn of Africa and Kenya had nothing much to do since the end of the Iraq war, other than occasionally checking ships traversing between Asia and Africa. However a spokesman at the defense ministry denied the report and said the German deployment both at the Horn of Africa and in the Mediterranean would continue. The report comes at a time when Germany expects a U.S. request for troops to keep the peace in Iraq. However, with around 9,000 German soldiers deployed in three continents abroad at present, the German army is considered too overstretched to fulfill such a request.