What’s Going on in Germany?! by Peter Dehnen
German government supports Turkish EU-membership ? The German government has repeatedly expressed its support for the initiation of EU-membership negotiations with Turkey. Despite several unresolved issues, including human rights, economic stability and the fact that Turkey has still not officially recognized the Republic of Cyprus ? a member state of the EU since May 2004 ? Chancellor Schroeder has welcomed the European Council?s resolution to commence membership negotiations with Turkey on 3 October 2005, emphasizing the strong economic connections between the two countries.
Plans for comprehensive anti-discrimination-law ? Although the principle of non-discrimination is contained in Art. 3 of the German constitution, the ?basic law? ? the practical protection of equal treatment in private and commercial law ? is still fragmented. According to plans of the Social Democratic and Green parties coalition government, this is about to change. The proposal of a new anti-discrimination law from 15 December 2004 goes far beyond the requirements of the EU-Directives it is meant to implement, since it covers not only discrimination on grounds of sex, race or ethnic origin but also applies to religious beliefs, conscience, age, disability and sexual orientation. Politicians and lawyers alike are speculating on the legal and social impacts which such legislation could have.
Welcome changes to labour market? ? Despite of, or maybe due to, the still tense situation in the German labour market, part-time work and temporary employment have reached a national peak. At the end of 2004, 26% more workers were temporarily employed than at the same time twelve months earlier. Part-time jobs have reached a ratio of 27% of total employment. At the same time, the number of people calling in sick has dropped to its lowest figure since 1970.
A transparent taxpayer? ? Imminent changes in informational competences throughout Europe and especially in Germany grant tax authorities access to formerly secret data. In addition to the only partially successful EC Interest Directive regulating the intra-EU exchange of banking data, German tax law will allow not only revenue offices, but also social and financial supervisory authorities, to request secret banking information. The new law enters into force in April 2005, just after the expiry date of the amnesty period for tax evaders put in place by Federal Minister of Finance Hans Eichel.
EC Directive on common taxation of interest and royalties transformed ? Council Directive 2003/49/EC of 3 June 2003 on a common system of taxation applicable to interest and royalty payments made between associated companies of different Member States has been enacted into national law. The new law enables companies to apply for exemption from tax payable on transnational interest or royalty payments. For payments to fall under the exemption, the creditor of interest or royalties must be a company or place of business within the EU related to the German debtor company. The provisions are retroactively applicable to payments made after 31 December 2003. Companies potentially eligible for exemption should immediately check whether the new law applies to them.