Hospitality against prejudice

In Witten, North Rhine-Westphalia, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus have been cultivating mutual hospitality for 25 years under the motto "Together on the Path to Peace – Dialogue of the Religions. The initiators are convinced that widespread cliches and images of the enemy can be corrected above all through personal experience. And their efforts are successful.


The shock sits deep

The shock sits deep

Protective measures against the Zika virus © Miguel Gutierrez

The number of Zika cases is stagnating in Brazil. But women are still afraid to give birth to children with microcephaly. Meanwhile, authorities are getting tangled up in bureaucratic chaos.


“You belong to us”

Fellow citizens of Turkish origin in Germany © Boris Roessler

Against the backdrop of the clashes between the German and Turkish governments over the past few days, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel is courting people of Turkish origin in Germany in an open letter.


Nothing goes without grain

The ongoing drought is increasingly causing problems for German farmers, grain growers complain about the lack of rain. And it is not only Germany that is concerned about agricultural products: The UN fears constantly high prices – in the coming decade.

The situation with wheat is particularly critical. The head of the agricultural and plant production department at the German Farmers' Association, Jens Rademacher, told the BILD newspaper, "We are in a critical phase."In many areas it has not rained properly for four weeks."Record crop yields are no longer to be expected this year," Rademacher told the paper. However, it is still too early to ame that there will be massive crop failures. If there is a lot of rainfall in the next few days, a good harvest can still be expected, he said.

OECD/FAO report: Food prices remain ho Prices for agricultural products are expected to remain higher than average over the next decade. That's the conclusion of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) in a report presented Thursday in Paris. Although the current record levels of food prices would probably not be reached again. However, increased price fluctuations are to be expected in return.Both organizations stressed that to combat the current food crisis, agricultural production and yields in developing countries must be significantly improved. This will require an opening of agricultural markets, said OECD Secretary-General Angel GurrIa bi the presentation of the so-called "Agricultural Outlook" by the OECD and FAO. Governments could also do more to promote economic growth and development in poor countries in order to increase the purchasing power of the poorest people.


“Participation must become a matter of course”

Hubert Huppe, the long-time spokesman on disability policy for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, is the new Federal Government Commissioner for the Disabled. Through his political commitment, Mr. Huppe, himself the father of a disabled son, has earned a reputation as a reliable advocate for people with disabilities. In an interview with the Catholic News Agency (KNA), he talks about the focus of his future work.

CBA: Mr. Huppe, what do you want to focus on in your new office??
Huppe: The focus will be on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Together with the people concerned, I would like to develop an action plan that ensures their participation in all areas of life. This extends from kindergarten to school to working life. In the upcoming reform of the social inclusion system, it is important that participation be understood as a human right and that the principle of care be replaced.
CBA: Germany is at the bottom of the EU in the joint education of disabled and non-disabled children. What do you want to do about it?
Huppe: School policy is a state matter. Nevertheless, the federal states are bound by the UN Convention, as is the federal government. They are committed to a speedy introduction of an inclusive school system. International, but also German examples show how well such joint teaching works and how everyone benefits from it. I will counteract reservations through education. I offer the countries support in the implementation process, but I will also remind them again and again. It would help if the private schools, especially the church schools, would take the lead in this area.
CBA: Unemployment among people with disabilities is sometimes twice as high as among the rest of the population. What efforts are needed here?
Huppe: There are numerous instruments and programs that should enable participation in working life regardless of the form of disability. Unfortunately, they are not sufficiently used, are often hardly known to employees, employers but also to consultants. Instead of complicated and expensive inclusion programs, I focus on sustainability and independence. I consider combi-wages and personal budgets for work to be suitable instruments. Overall, though, it's not just a financial ie; it's also about a societal shift in thinking. Participation of people with disabilities must become a matter of course. The interview was conducted by Karin Wollschlager.


“The political will is lacking”

The SPD wanted it, the FDP didn't: The question of introducing a financial transaction tax is what caused the Social Democrats' approval of the Greek bailout to fail. Nuremberg Jesuit Father Jorg Alt is one of the initiators of a campaign for such a levy.

CBA: Father Alt, the financial transaction tax is obviously the sticking point in the vote on aid to Greece. Would you ever have thought that?
Alt: When we launched the "Tax Against Poverty" campaign a year ago, no one, including me, would have believed in such a development. But it shows how explosive and threatening the out-of-control financial market has become and that it indeed threatens, as German President Kohler put it, the functioning and credibility of our social and economic system. That, of course, calls for good ideas for a solution, and the financial transaction tax is one such good idea.
CBA: Apparently, there has not only been a dispute between the SPD and the CDU/CSU over the transaction tax, but also within the governing coalition. Now the proposal seems to be off the table for now, or?
Alt: No, there are enough voices in the CDU who are angry that the FDP has blocked an agreement with the SPD by posing the coalition question. Progress across parties and camps would be quite possible. For this, the FDP would have to start dealing with the content of how a financial transaction tax would work, instead of dodging it with formal references to the coalition agreement. Until then, it remains to be said: All parties in the Bundestag except the Liberals support a financial transaction tax in one form or another, not to mention President Kohler, President Haasis of the savings banks, our campaign with its 59 supporting organizations and tens of thousands of citizens.
CBA: Is your model still being discussed at all?? After all, the revenue should be used to fight poverty, not to plug budget holes.
Alt: In fact, the "Tax Against Poverty" campaign has two demands: the introduction of a financial transaction tax and the use of the funds to fight poverty. These days, we have been talking above all about the first demand, which also has advantages for poor countries – because everyone benefits from less speculation and a less volatile global financial market. What the revenue from this tax will be used for is another question, but here the Left Party, the Greens and the SPD would not oppose increased support for poor countries, and even within the CDU/CSU, as I know from conversations, there is understanding and sympathy for this aspect.
CBA: What happens now with their petition in the Bundestag?
Alt: First of all, it will be discussed on 17. May, the Finance Committee of the German Bundestag will hold an expert hearing on the financial transaction tax and bank levy. We will also make our position clearly heard at other events during the week when Finance Minister Schauble will be inviting people to Berlin for a G20 meeting. In October there will be another hearing in the Petitions Committee. Apart from that, I suspect that if the politicians continue to let the markets have their way, we will soon have to discuss financial aid for Portugal and Spain. Even in this case, our proposal would remain on the parliamentary agenda.
CBA: Many critics say that a financial transaction tax can only be implemented internationally. Do you think something like this can be done at all with the U.S. and the U.K?
Alt: An international enforcement would be the optimal solution. We still see a lot of room for maneuver here. In addition to European states, there is sympathy for this among emerging countries such as Russia and India. The International Monetary Fund has ruled out a financial transaction tax only in the short term, but is positive about it in the medium term if currently outstanding ies can be convincingly resolved. In addition to Germany, there are now similar campaigns in England, Austria, Canada, Italy and other countries. That is, societies and governments elsewhere are also swinging to this course. Technically possible and sensible would be a financial transaction tax also within the framework of the EU and the Eurozone. The only thing missing is the political will to establish the legal basis for such a tax. The interview was conducted by Christian Wolfel.