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West Germany's Cold War ransoming of prisoners encouraged fraud: research

By Monica Raymunt BERLIN (Reuters) - Former West Germany's decision to buy the freedom of political prisoners in the communist East during the early years of the Cold War may have encouraged fake ransoms demands and more arrests, according to new research. Between 1963 and 1989, West Germany paid to free more than 33,000 political prisoners from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in exchange for around 3 billion deutsche marks' worth of goods that the East badly needed such as food and petroleum.

Conservative Merkel ally criticizes German foreign minister over Russia

BERLIN (Reuters) - A senior Christian Democrat criticized German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's stance on Ukraine and Russia in a signal of a possible rift appearing within Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition over relations with Moscow. Conservative leader Merkel and Steinmeier, who is a senior member of the Social Democrats (SPD), have been at pains to stress how closely they are coordinating on policy since the Ukraine crisis began, despite the traditionally warmer ties to Moscow maintained by the leftist SPD.

Germany says it salvaged power discounts for electricity-heavy companies

BERLIN - Germany said Tuesday that it will reduce the number of companies allowed to receive discounts on their electricity bills as part of an effort to satisfy European Union concerns. The changes will decrease the number of companies largely exempted from a surcharge placed on consumers' power bills and used to promote renewable energy — something that is important as Germany weans itself off nuclear power.

German cabinet adopts national minimum wage: government source

The German cabinet Wednesday adopted draft legislation establishing a fixed national minimum wage of 8.50 euros ($11.70) to be phased in from 2015 and fully in place from 2017. "It's done," a government source told AFP following a cabinet meeting. A fixed minimum wage was the carrot which conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel dangled in front of centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) to woo them into a coalition that won her a third term in power.

Most Germans unhappy with Merkel's new government: poll

BERLIN (Reuters) - Most Germans are unhappy with Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition, a poll showed on Friday, even as support for the parties that make up her government has hardly changed since September's election. A Deutschlandtrend poll published on Friday showed 55 percent of those asked were "not very or not at all happy" with the first 100 days of the coalition between Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats.

Merkel's sway endures as new government notches up 100 days

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has steered her power-sharing government through a rocky 100 first days in office with a high-profile resignation and the Crimea crisis but remains at the height of her powers. After the eurozone turmoil dominated her first two terms, Merkel now faces the worst political stand-off since the end of the Cold War, while at home her left-right government pushes ahead with social reforms opposed by business leaders.

Germany's Gabriel wants Swiss bankers who aid evasion in court

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's center-left deputy chancellor hailed the jail sentence for tax evasion handed to Bayern Munich soccer boss Uli Hoeness and said the directors of Swiss banks that hide such funds should be hauled before the courts. "I hope we will now reach a new level in the fight against tax evasion," Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democrats (SPD) said in an interview published on Friday, when asked about Hoeness's 3-1/2-year jail term for evading 27.2 million euros in taxes.

Merkel's Bavarian ally expects her to run again for German chancellor

BERLIN (Reuters) - The leader of Angela Merkel's Bavarian sister party Horst Seehofer said he expected the German chancellor to stand for another term, after calls from her other coalition partner to stand down when her second term ends in 2017. "I have no doubt that Angela Merkel will run again in 2017," Der Spiegel magazine quoted Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), as saying on Friday.

Court clears former German president of corruption

By Jan Schwartz HANOVER (Reuters) - A German court cleared Christian Wulff on Thursday of corruption charges for accepting roughly 700 euros in expenses at a beer festival when he was a state premier, ending the first trial of a former post-war president. Once tipped as a future chancellor, 54-year-old Wulff served just 20 months as president before resigning in disgrace in 2012 over favors he accepted two years before he was vaulted into the ceremonial post by his conservative ally Angela Merkel.

German ex-president Wulff cleared in favours trial

A court on Thursday cleared former German president Christian Wulff of influence-peddling, closing a high-profile case that sparked the resignation of the former head of state two years ago. "The accused Wulff has been found not guilty," presiding judge Frank Rosenow told a regional court, adding that Wulff was entitled to compensation for police searches in the investigation. lfn-fz/kjm/txw
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