Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said the company will work with the German ministry for information security in a broad effort to guide policy here and throughout Europe on election interference. The collaboration will build upon previous work between the social network and the regulator during the 2017 federal elections in Germany, Ms. Sandberg said. The effort is part of continued work by Facebook to strengthen its platform against interference. The Integrity & Security Initiative will be a cooperation between Facebook, the German office and other companies and research partners, Ms. Sandberg said, ahead of European Union parliamentary elections this spring. The German cybersecurity watchdog will spearhead the initiative, a person familiar with the matter said. A spokesman for the German Federal Office for Information Security didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. It wasn’t immediately clear which other companies or researchers may be participating in the initiative.
German officials are racing to bolster cyber security after a far-reaching data breach carried out by a 20-year-old student laid bare the vulnerability of Europe’s largest economy ahead of a critical European Parliament election in May. Officials say they are anxious to close security gaps and raise awareness ahead of the upcoming election, where voters from across the European Union will choose lawmakers for the parliament, amid concerns that foreign powers or right-wing forces could seek to manipulate the election. “We have to think about preventive measures,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Reuters.
The German government is seeking to improve its cyber defences in the wake of the country’s largest data breach of its kind, which exposed the personal data of hundreds of politicians. The move comes after it was revealed that an unnamed teenager was responsible for the breach, which affected German chancellor Angela Merkel, federal president Frank Walterand and Greens party leader Robert Habeck. The hacked data, comprising about 1,000 records belonging to celebrities and journalists as well as politicians, included contacts’ email addresses, private chats, mobile numbers, photographs and credit card details. However, the German information security agency (BSI) said no government networks were affected and a government spokesperson said no sensitive data from the chancellor’s office had been leaked.
Lawmakers need to brace for hacking attempts ahead of a European election and get better at protecting their information online, Germany’s interior minister warned in the aftermath of a breach that exposed the private data of almost 1,000 German politicians. “We’re facing European elections in May of this year,” Horst Seehofer told journalists Tuesday. “I don’t want to conjure up or predict anything, but we have to brace ourselves for preventing attempts to influence those elections.” Seehofer announced efforts to increase cybersecurity awareness among public figures and Germany’s general population, in addition to plans for a yet-to-be-developed “early warning system” that could alert authorities and individuals about their private information being shared online.
After hackers, later determined to be working for Russia, broke into Parliament’s main computer network three years ago, the government vowed to fortify its cybersecurity. The authorities schooled lawmakers about changing passwords, using two-step identification and other measures to protect online data. But on Friday, nearly 1,000 lawmakers and other prominent Germans, including rappers, journalists and internet personalities, awoke to find links to their street and email addresses, private chats from social media, bank account details and pictures of their children published on Twitter, in another major breach aimed at the country’s political establishment. All those attacked had a history of criticizing the far right, whose politicians appeared to be spared, raising suspicion that the hacker or hackers were sympathetic to their agenda, though the authorities said they had no indication yet who was behind the attack.
Hackers posted personal data, including credit card details and mobile phone numbers, of hundreds of German politicians, national media reported on Friday (4 January). All major German parties except for the far-right AfD have been affected, the report said. The identity of the hackers and their motive are not known yet. The data, published on a Twitter account seen by EURACTIV, also included addresses, personal letters, and copies of identity cards, the public broadcaster said. The data was spread on Twitter before Christmas, staged as an advent calendar, but the breach was not noticed until Thursday evening. The operator of the account in question claims to be based in Hamburg and had more than 17.000 followers as of Friday morning. Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the report as it was initially open if all data is authentic.
Germany’s ruling parties are reeling from their second electoral upset in a fortnight, after voters in a key state abandoned them in droves. The result in the central state of Hesse could plunge both parties of Angela Merkel’s coalition government into renewed crises. Preliminary final results from a regional election seen as decisive for the future of Germany’s increasingly wobbly coalition showed Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) slumping to 27%, the party’s worst showing in the state since 1966 and a drop of 11 percentage points since Hesse last went to the polls in 2013. Yet the CDU was at pains to present the result as a success. The state’s CDU-Green coalition has scraped a majority, putting an end to speculation over the future of the CDU state premier and close Merkel ally, Volker Bouffier. With tensions running high in the CDU, some members have implied that if Bouffier falls, Merkel may struggle if she stands for re-election as party leader at its conference in December.
Germany: Bavarian election: Voters deal blow to Merkel’s allies, projected results show | The Washington Post
Voters in the southern German heartland of Bavaria dealt a stinging blow Sunday to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative allies, humbling a party that has governed for decades while boosting either political flank in an election defined by polarized opinions about immigration. The dramatic loss of support for the Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), scrambled politics in a region that has been one of the most politically stable in Europe. Votes for the Bavarian state parliament have rarely been competitive in modern lifetimes, with the CSU crafting a “laptops to lederhosen” approach that coupled its support for high-tech industry with its embrace of traditional culture. For decades, the CSU came as close as Western Europe gets to a state party.
Angela Merkel’s conservative partners in Bavaria have had their worst election performance for more than six decades, in a humiliating state poll result that is likely to further weaken Germany’s embattled coalition government. The Christian Social Union secured 37.2% of the vote, preliminary results showed, losing the absolute majority in the prosperous southern state it had had almost consistently since the second world war. The party’s support fell below 40% for the first time since 1954. Markus Söder, the prime minister of Bavaria, called it a “difficult day” for the CSU, but said his party had a clear mandate to form a government. Among the main victors was the environmental, pro-immigration Green party, which as predicted almost doubled its voter share to 17.5% at the expense of the Social Democratic party (SPD), which lost its position as the second-biggest party, with support halving to 9.7%.
It’s hardly a secret that the Alternative for Germany party (known as the AfD in German) is a huge fan of Vladimir Putin. Unlike other German parties, the anti-immigrant group is prone to vocally endorsing the Russian president and his policies, both at home and abroad. And the appreciation is clearly mutual. But this time, the AfD’s cozying to Moscow may backfire. The German parliament has opened an administrative inquiry into a trip to Moscow that three leading AfD members took in early 2017, according to German media. Earlier this month, it emerged that an unidentified Russian sponsor paid for the private jet that flew them back to Berlin, footing a €25,400 bill. The AfD delegation was made up of then-party leader Frauke Petry, her husband Marcus Pretzell, who at the time was also a key party figure, and Julian Flak, a lawmaker in Saxony’s state parliament. Both Mr. Pretzell and Mr. Flak have confirmed the reports. However, they declined to say which person or organization paid for the trip.
Facebook said on Friday it would roll out a new feature designed to make political advertising more transparent in time for a key German regional election, as it seeks to restore trust after a massive data breach. The social network has been at the centre of controversy over suspected Russian manipulation of the 2016 U.S. presidential election via its platform, and the leak of personal data of 87 million users to a political consultancy that advised Donald Trump’s team. On Friday, a German data privacy regulator said it was opening non-compliance procedures against Facebook in relation to the data leak to the consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, that was exposed a month ago.
Germany said on Wednesday hackers had breached its government computer network with an isolated attack that had been brought under control and which security officials were investigating. A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry said the affected government agencies had taken appropriate measures to investigate the incident and protect data. “The attack was isolated and brought under control within the federal administration,” which oversees government computer networks, he said in a statement, adding that the authorities were addressing the incident“with high priority and significant resources”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives on Monday approved a coalition deal with the Social Democrats (SPD), bringing closer a fourth term for her as well as an end to political limbo in Europe’s preeminent power. The more formidable hurdle to ending a five-month political impasse comes next week, however. On March 4, results of a binding postal vote by members of the centre-left SPD will be announced and they are far less certain. “Now I can only say to the SPD that I hope many members feel the same responsibility for giving Germany a good government,” Merkel said in an interview with broadcaster RTL. “I think we can achieve a lot together for Germany and its people.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her Christian Democrats (CDU) on Monday to approve a coalition deal with the Social Democrats (SPD), a step that would bring her closer to a fourth term. The more formidable hurdle to ending a five-month political impasse in Europe’s largest economy comes next week, however. On March 4, results of a binding postal vote by members of the center-left SPD will be announced and they are far less certain. The CDU party congress follows Merkel’s announcement of her picks for a new, younger cabinet intended to revive the party, which has been riven by disagreements over how to respond to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) since losing votes to the far right party in national elections in September.
Members of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) began voting on Tuesday on whether to enter a new coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservatives, a postal ballot which could scupper the chancellor’s chances of a fourth term in office. If the SPD’s nearly half a million members reject the deal, a new election or a minority government in Europe’s biggest economy is likely. Either would be a first for post-war Germany, now without a formal government for nearly five months. The result of the vote, which runs to March 2, is wide open and will be announced on March 4. That will be the same day Italy goes to the polls in a vote seen as too tough to call, as European politics splinter after years of austerity and waves of migrant arrivals from war-torn Syria and elsewhere.
Germany: Merkel passes major hurdle after party leaders agree on new coalition | The Washington Post
After a grueling all-night negotiating session, Germany’s two leading parties reached agreement Wednesday to once again form a governing coalition, after inconclusive elections in September left the country mired in political gridlock. The four months of wrangling and repeated failures to come up with a coalition have weakened Germany, and particularly Chancellor Angela Merkel, at a time when Europe is seeking a strong leader. The talks between Merkel’s bloc — an alliance of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union — and the Social Democrats (SPD) extended past a self-imposed Sunday deadline and a two-day grace period into Wednesday morning, when party leaders finally overcame differences on key issues such as health care and labor policy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was ready to make painful compromises to clinch a coalition deal with the Social Democrats (SPD), whose leader said Tuesday was “decision day” for negotiators after months of political uncertainty. Both blocs agreed late on Monday they needed more time to reach a deal on renewing their “grand coalition” and decided to resume talks at the headquarters of Merkel’s party on Tuesday. “Each of us will have to make painful compromises and I am ready for that,” Merkel told reporters. “When we see the movements on the stock markets over the last hours, we live in turbulent times and what is expected of us as popular parties … is that we form a government for the good of the people, one that brings stability,” she said.
The two largest parties have formally launched talks to form a new government after last year’s inconclusive elections. Party leaders were upbeat about the prospect of a “grand coalition” in the run-up to the talks. Formal coalitions talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), their sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) started on Friday. The talks are aimed at forming what is commonly referred to as a “grand coalition,” bringing together Germany’s two largest parties to form a government. Merkel was optimistic about the talks, saying: “People expect us to move towards forming a government and that’s why I’m very optimistic and very determined in these discussions that we reach a result and I believe that is achievable in a relatively manageable time frame.”
Germany’s Social Democrats plan to establish a cutoff date after which new members won’t be able to participate in a crucial upcoming vote on whether to join a new government, party officials said Wednesday. The move reflect growing annoyance among the party leadership about efforts by its youth wing to recruit new, short-term members in a bid to scuttle a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Union bloc. The Young Socialists and the left wing of the party launched the campaign Monday offering two months’ membership for 10 euros ($12.25) and expressly urged new recruits to oppose a possible renewal of the “grand coalition.”
Germany has inched a step closer to forming a new government after the centre-left Social Democratic party (SPD) gave its lukewarm endorsement for a renewed Angela Merkel-led “grand coalition”. At a special SPD congress in Bonn that welcomed a speech by the party’s leader, Martin Schulz, with sarcastic applause and saw standing ovations for his fiercest critics, 56% of the party’s delegates voted in favour of moving on to the second and final stage of coalition talks with Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The cautious green light provides major relief not just for the beleaguered leaders of Germany’s two largest parties but also European heads of government, who have been holding off on major strategic decisions since federal elections in September.
The leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) cited progress on Wednesday in efforts to win support for formal talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, and some colleagues said rejecting a coalition would dent party ratings. SPD members, who will vote on Sunday on whether to back talks, last week agreed to a coalition blueprint, which some however say does not bear enough of the party’s hallmarks and they would be better off in opposition. SPD leader Martin Schulz is criss-crossing the country to persuade delegates to give him a mandate to pursue formal coalition negotiations in the face of a strong backlash from the party’s left and youth wings.
Chancellor Angela Merkel struck a deal with Social Democrat (SPD) rivals on Friday to open government coalition talks, easing months of uncertainty that has undermined Germany’s global role and raised questions about her political future. But the deal to revive a “grand coalition” that has governed since 2013 must be approved by an SPD congress planned for January 21. Some members fear further association with Merkel’s chancellorship could erode the influence of the party which suffered the worst result in September’s election since the modern Federal Republic was founded in 1949. “We have felt since the elections that the world will not wait for us, and in particular…we are convinced we need a new call for Europe,” Merkel, who has played a central role tackling crises over the euro and refugees, said after exploratory talks that had run through the night.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel embarked Sunday on talks with the center-left Social Democrats on forming a new government, with leaders stressing the need for speed as they attempt to break an impasse more than three months after the country’s election. Leaders aim to decide by Friday whether there’s enough common ground to move on to formal coalition negotiations. Whatever the result, it will be a while yet before a new administration is in place to end what is already post-World War II Germany’s longest effort to put together a new government. Germany’s Sept. 24 election produced a parliamentary majority for only two plausible coalitions: the outgoing alliance of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union and its Bavaria-only sister, the Christian Social Union, with the Social Democrats; or an untried combination of the conservatives, the pro-business Free Democrats and the left-leaning Greens.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, weakened by an election setback in September, launches a second bid to build a coalition government on Sunday when she sits down with the Social Democrats (SPD) for exploratory talks. A re-run of her ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD, in power from 2013 to 2017, appears the best option for conservative Merkel is as it would provide stability in what would be her fourth term. But with success far from guaranteed, there are a range of other possible scenarios. After her conservatives bled support to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Sept. 24 national election, Merkel saw her authority undermined two months later by the collapse of three-way coalition talks with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens.
It was just before midnight on November 19 that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s dream of a so-called “Jamaica coalition” collapsed. The political constellation consisting of the conservative union parties (CDU/CSU), the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and the pro-environment Greens — whose colors together reflect those of the Caribbean country’s flag — was to not be. Christian Lindner, the FDP leader, stood up from the negotiating table in the Parliamentary Association building and declared that his party had had enough. The FDP could not support policies they didn’t believe in, he said. Outside, Lindner said a few words into the microphones, then vanished into the night.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD) have agreed to exploratory talks on forming a new government starting on Jan. 7, both parties said on Wednesday after informal discussions. The decision, 87 days after a national election that returned a fragmented parliament and complicated coalition arithmetic, brightens prospects for a renewal of the “grand coalition” that governed Germany over the past four years. A repeat coalition is Merkel’s best chance of securing a fourth term as chancellor after talks on forming a three-way alliance with two smaller parties broke down, leaving Europe’s largest economy in an unprecedented state of uncertainty. “It was a good discussion in a trusting atmosphere,” the parties said in a joint statement after leaders met on Wednesday. They agreed to hold four days of talks from Jan. 7, with the aim of deciding by Jan. 12 whether to open formal coalition negotiations.
So much for German efficiency. Ongoing attempts to form a new government after the country’s September 24 election are once again looking bleak. After the collapse of lengthy coalition talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the environmental Green party, all hopes were put on resuscitating a grand coalition between the CDU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Now those hopes will have to be put on ice.
Wary of renewing a coalition with conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany’s Social Democrats are instead contemplating a so-called “cooperation” arrangement that would see them agree on a minimal program but leave contested matters up for debate. With talks on a new government starting on Wednesday, the “cooperation” suggestion is seen by some in the party as an answer to the dilemma of a centre-left party that fears sharing power with conservatives blurs its identity in voters’ minds. Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz said he would lead the SPD into opposition after a disastrous showing in September’s national election, but was forced to reconsider after Merkel’s attempts at forming a three-way government collapsed, leaving Europe’s economic powerhouse without a new government.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) say they hope to find clarity soon on prospects for a new ruling coalition as they gear up for exploratory talks this week. The conservatives, meeting on Monday to map out their negotiating positions, believe compromises can be reached to renew the “grand coalition” that governed for the past four years. The two blocs must overcome differences over the future of Europe, pensions, health care and education. Merkel, whose CDU/CSU alliance last month failed to cut a coalition deal with two smaller parties after an inconclusive national election in September, is due to brief the media at 1 pm (1200 GMT).
Germany: Merkel’s center-right party may be trying to form a government with the center-left. That could be a problem. | The Washington Post
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to form a government, but her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) does not have enough seats. She started negotiations with the leaders of three smaller parties, which broke down on Nov. 19. Currently there is a lot of discussion about a possible resumption of a “grand coalition” — between Merkel’s center-right party and the center-left — among the CDU, the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The SPD was initially resistant to the idea, but is now coming around. Here’s what that means for German politics.