Bi-lateral relations, business, climate and other news from Germany and the Embassy
February 2, 2024 View online
GERMANY FOR AMERICANS

Dear Readers,

January was a busy month. As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues and regional tensions rise, both Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have been touring the region to promote de-escalation and to alleviate human suffering. Minister Baerbock visited Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Egypt and Lebanon in January. On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, she coordinated with Secretary Blinken on the way forward on Gaza, before meeting with her EU counterparts in Brussels to adopt new sanctions against Hamas. The German Foreign Minister has also repeatedly called for humanitarian pauses in Gaza to allow for the entry of more humanitarian aid and the release of all hostages. Since October 7th, Germany has tripled its humanitarian aid to the civilian population in the Palestinian Territories, mostly Gaza.

Both the situation in the Middle East and the war in Ukraine will be high on the agenda when Chancellor Scholz meets President Biden in Washington, D.C. next week - a sign of their close relationship. The EU has just agreed on a new support package for Ukraine, amounting to more than $50 billion. German military assistance will amount to around $8.5 billion through 2024. Another sign of the importance of security and defense: Germany will meet the NATO target of investing two percent of its GDP in defense this year.

Meanwhile, on January 27th, we commemorated the victims and survivors of the unfathomable crime of the Holocaust, committed by Nazi Germany. As the world – and Germany - grapples with an alarming rise in antisemitism, it is more important than ever to remember the lessons of the Holocaust. Speaking at the US Holocaust Museum, Ambassador Michaelis made clear: it’s our everlasting duty to ensure that Jews in Germany can live without fear.

In a remarkable signal that #Neveragain is now, hundreds of thousands of Germans took to the streets over the past two weeks to protest against the rise of right-wing extremist ideologies in Germany. Chancellor Scholz thanked the demonstrators and said: “It gives us courage and shows: we democratic people are many - much more than those who want to divide us.”

Yours,

The Germany for Americans Team

CURRENT AFFAIRS

Germany and U.S. continue efforts to resolve Middle East conflict and prevent further escalation

In January, German Foreign Minister Baerbock visited Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Lebanon. In Egypt, she reaffirmed Israel's right to self-defense and called for the immediate release of all hostages. She also made clear that the immense suffering of so many innocent civilians in Gaza must end. In Lebanon, she stressed that the people on the Lebanese-Israeli border want peace and urged both Hezbollah and Israel to de-escalate to avoid regional conflict.

Read more here, here, or watch here.

Germany has tripled its humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Territories since October 7

The German government recognizes the suffering of the people in Gaza and has repeatedly increased its humanitarian aid – tripling its aid to the Palestinian Territories since October 7 to around €220 million. The German Foreign Office is also working with the United Nations and international aid organizations to provide essential food, medical care and hygiene products to Gaza. Meanwhile, like the US, Germany has temporarily suspended further payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) because of allegations that some of its staff were involved in the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on October 7.

Read more here or here.

More than $50 billion - EU agrees on new support package for Ukraine

On February 1st, EU member states unanimously agreed on a further support package for Ukraine worth $54 billion. The package secures predictable, long-term funding for Ukraine at a crucial time, said Ambassador Michaelis on X. Germany is strongly committed to continuing to support Ukraine's defense. This month, Chancellor Scholz spoke to President Biden about the urgency of continued assistance to Ukraine. He also assured President Zelensky of Germany's continued military support - amounting to more than $8 billion in 2024.

Learn more about the new EU support package for Ukraine here or here.

Here is an overview of German military assistance to Ukraine.

German Armed Forces and NATO conduct large-scale exercises to demonstrate ability to defend NATO’s eastern flank

NATO has launched a major exercise called Steadfast Defender, demonstrating its ability to rapidly deploy forces across North America and the Alliance to strengthen Europe's defense. As part of the exercise, the Bundeswehr will conduct a series of large-scale exercises at home and abroad - the largest German land force exercises since Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine. More than 12,000 troops will practice alerting and deploying national and multinational land forces. The aim is to demonstrate the Bundeswehr's determination and ability to make a decisive contribution to the defense of NATO's eastern flank.

Read more here.

In other NATO news, Germany will meet NATO's goal of spending two percent of its GDP on defense in 2024. The draft budget thus underlines that we take our security and defense seriously, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in a speech to the German Bundestag, adding that it “sends a clear signal to our soldiers, to our international partners and also to all citizens." Finally, Germany welcomed the Turkish parliament's decision to ratify Sweden's accession to NATO. Sweden will make the Alliance stronger, said Chancellor Scholz.

Read Pistorius’ speech here (in German) and find the breakdown of the defense budget here.

German Foreign Minister addresses dangerous tensions in the South China Sea

Foreign Minister Baerbock's recent trip to Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore, highlighted the region's economic dynamism and Germany's growing engagement. In addition, Baerbock's meeting with Philippine officials also addressed China's aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Vietnam, where he underlined the strong bilateral relationship between the two countries - a relationship based on economic cooperation, mutual interests, and shared values such as respect for international law and free trade. Earlier this month, the German Foreign Office welcomed the elections in Taiwan, calling them proof of the strength of democracy in the country.

Read more about the Foreign Minister’s Southeast Asia trip here.

Promoting press freedom worldwide: Germany and Estonia to Co-Chair Media Freedom Coalition in 2024

Press freedom is under increasing threat around the world, as evidenced by the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Russia. Germany has therefore stepped up its efforts to promote press freedom globally. This year, it will co-chair the Media Freedom Coalition together with Estonia. The Coalition focuses on promoting press freedom worldwide and consists of fifty countries, including the US.

Read more here.

ECONOMY & CLIMATE

German company to build semiconductor raw material plant in Michigan

North America is getting its first plant to produce colloidal silica, an important raw material for the electronics and semiconductor industries. And it’s being built by a German company! Evonik, one of the world’s leading specialty chemicals companies, expects to open the plant in Weston, Michigan, in 2024. It will create new jobs in the region – and provide additional supply options for companies producing in the Americas that often had to rely on imports from Asia.

Read more here.

Cars of the future: Germany introduces remote-driven car service in Las Vegas

Berlin-based startup Vay is offering Las Vegas customers a thrilling ride into the future of transportation. Unlike traditional autonomous vehicles, Vay's innovative approach uses "teledrivers" to remotely navigate electric rental cars. Vay was the first company to drive cars on public roads in Europe without a person in the car - now it is pioneering teledriving cars in North America. With a fleet set to grow in the "low double digits" by the first quarter, the company is showing us what automotive innovation made in Germany looks like.

Find out more here.

DID YOU KNOW...

… that hundreds of thousands of Germans have been protesting against far-right extremism?

More than 200,000 people took part in demonstrations against far-right extremism in cities including Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover and others, highlighting the need to defend democracy and expressing concern about the rise of such ideologies. The widespread protests were sparked by the revelation of a secret meeting between right-wing extremists and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to discuss plans for mass deportations of migrants and minorities. Chancellor Olaf Scholz strongly condemned the reported plans, drawing parallels to Nazi racial ideology, and welcomed the protests against right-wing extremism.

Read more here or here

... that Franz Beckenbauer, the "Kaiser" of soccer, used to play for the USA?

Franz Beckenbauerm who passed away this month, was Germany's greatest soccer legend. A world champion as a legendary sweeper in 1974, he brought the title to Germany as a coach in 1990. Did you know that towards the end of his career, he also played alongside the Brazilian star Pelé with Cosmos New York in the USA - where he helped make soccer more popular?

Explore Beckenbauer's journey from Munich to New York here.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Germany goes Oscars!

Germany has high hopes for this year's Oscars! Sandra Hüller has been nominated for an Oscar for "Best Actress" for her role in “Anatomy of a Fall.” Moreover, two films made it into the category of “Best international film”: “The Teachers' Lounge” is a German production and “Perfect Days,” submitted by Japan, was directed by German Wim Wenders. Last year, the German World War One epic “All Quiet on the Western Front” was nominated in nine categories and won the Oscar for best international film.

Read more here.

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