ANGELA MERKEL MEETS ASTRONAUT ALEXANDER GERST
“An ambassador from outer space”
Astronaut Alexander Gerst is to return to space in 2018, where he will be the first German Commander of the International Space Station (ISS). The European Space Agency (ESA) made the announcement during the Chancellor’s visit to the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne. Angela Merkel offered her congratulations and praised Alexander Gerst as a “true ambassador from outer space”.
Alexander Gerst will be the first German astronaut to take command of the International Space Station (ISS), announced the European Space Agency (ESA) during Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to their Cologne centre. This will be the 40-year-old astronaut’s second long-term space mission. In 2014 he was at the International Space Station from May to November.
During her visit to the European Space Agency and the DLR, the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany, in Cologne, the Chancellor stressed the importance of international space missions. “In spite of all the political conflicts we must overcome, we can say that space travel brings us together – not only at a European level. It brings together very many countries of our world.”
The fascination of space
Angela Merkel believes that international space research generates a large number of benefits for everyday life. “Manned space travel gives us the opportunity to undertake experiments under different conditions, in zero gravity, across the entire spectrum from technical alloys to medical experiments and many other things.”
In this context she also pointed to environmental and climate monitoring and materials research. “It is not always apparent how much hard work goes into it, and what Germany’s contribution is to international space research,” said the Chancellor.
Looking over the scientists’ shoulders
Space research enjoys a high priority within the High-Tech Strategy of the German government. “Germany is second only to France in terms of leading European space nations, and we are very proud of that,” said Angela Merkel. She praised the DLR, Germany’s national aeronautics and space research centre, as “home of excellent German science and engineering”.
During her tour the Chancellor found out more about the European Rosetta Mission, the first to rendezvous with a comet. At the DLR space laboratory she met school students and discussed their research projects, while at the European Astronaut Centre she talked to German astronaut Alexander Gerst about his experiments at the International Space Station.
The DLR, the national aeronautics and space research centre, is responsible for planning and implementing Germany’s space activities and cooperating with the European Space Agency on behalf of the German government. The German government provides a sum of over one billion euros a year for research in the aerospace sector. It aims to expand Germany’s leading position in space research and technology, and to improve the ability of German companies to hold their own against competitors on the European and global markets.
Wednesday, 18 May 2016
ASYLUM VOTE IN THE GERMAN BUNDESTAG
The Maghreb states are safe countries of origin
In future the Maghreb states, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, will be classed as safe countries of origin. The German Bundestag has passed legislation to this end; it must still be approved by the second chamber, the Bundesrat. The new Act should cut the time required to process asylum requests.
The new regulation is to introduce a legal presumption that applications for asylum lodged by citizens of the three North African states are unfounded. The application will be rejected unless the asylum-seeker can prove that he or she has genuine grounds for being granted asylum. The classification of the Maghreb states as safe countries of origin will make it possible to decide more swiftly on applications received from citizens of these states.
A clear signal to potential migrants
The procedure will send a clear signal to individuals who are already in Germany and to those who are considering migration, who have no prospects of being granted protected status. Their asylum procedures will be rapid. Once an application is rejected, the asylum-seeker must return to their country of origin. Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière introduced the bill into the German Bundestag. During the debate the Minister said on Friday (13 May 2016). “Helping also means being able to say no.”
As a general rule, asylum requests lodged by Algeria, Moroccan and Tunisian citizens have no prospects of success. The aim of the law is to make it possible to process these requests more quickly. The length of time these applicants spend in Germany ought to be significantly reduced as a result.
Taking into account the human rights situation
The Federal Interior Minister confirmed that individuals would still be afforded protection if they were threatened by persecution. “The arguments relating to the human rights situation have been taken into account and will continue to be taken into account.” He pointed out, however, that “an abstract threat posed by the existence of the death penalty or by the fact that homosexuality is a punishable offence do not give grounds for granting asylum or protection under the Refugee Convention. That is a fundamental principle of our asylum law and we intend to retain this principle.”
“The large number of problems facing other countries cannot be resolved by German asylum law. The problems that indubitably exist in the Maghreb states will not be resolved by asylum law but within these countries themselves, reasserted Thomas de Maizière.
When a country is classed as a safe country of origin there is a legal presumption that an applicant from that country is not persecuted. This presumption can, however, be overturned by an applicant within the framework of the asylum procedure. Every request will still be reviewed individually. Every asylum procedure involves a face to face hearing with the applicant. Asylum-seekers can present their situation in their home country and, have the chance to provide evidence that they are entitled to protected status in Germany.
At the first reading of the bill on 14 April 2016 the Federal Interior Minister reasserted, “We make a distinction in asylum procedures between war zones like Syria and stable countries like the Maghreb states. Over the last year we have registered about 26,000 asylum-seekers from these states in Germany. The rate of recognition was 0 per cent for Tunisians, less than 1 per cent for Algerians and about 2.3 per cent for Moroccans. In the first quarter of 2016, the rates will, in some case, be even lower. We are now translating into law a trend that has long been everyday reality: requests for asylum from citizens of Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria generally have no prospects of success.”
Friday, 13 May 2016