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Exclusive-Germany may have been naive on China at first, Merkel says

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November 17, 2021

By Andreas Rinke

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany may at first have been naive in some areas of cooperation with China, but should not sever all connections in reaction to growing tensions, Chancellor Angela Merkel has told Reuters.

Merkel’s strategy of engagement has seen China become Germany’s top trading partner during her 16 years in office, and has shaped Europe’s stance on Asia’s rising superpower, even amid concerns about unfair competition and industrial espionage.

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“Maybe initially we were rather too naive in our approach to some cooperation partnerships,” Merkel said in an interview. “These days we look more closely, and rightly so.”

Merkel, who did not stand for re-election last September and will leave office once a new government is agreed, said Germany and more broadly the European Union should nonetheless continue to cooperate with China, and could learn from one another.

“Total decoupling wouldn’t be right in my view, it would be damaging for us,” she said.

China became Germany’s biggest trade partner in 2016 and its rapid economic expansion has fuelled German growth throughout her tenure. But some critics say Germany is now too reliant on China, and becoming too soft on Beijing on awkward issues such as human rights violations.

Merkel’s government has said she always addresses human rights issues on her official visits to Beijing – of which there have been no fewer than 12 – and has sought to diversify trade in Asia.

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Merkel said Germany was continuously in discussions with Beijing on intellectual property and patent protection, “both with regard to Chinese students in Germany and German enterprises operating in China”.

She also said Western democracies that tried to formulate ethical standards for new technologies had to stay abreast of innovation in order to grasp their impact.

“At the moment, that is not the case in Europe in fields such as quantum computers and artificial intelligence,” she said. “China and in many areas the U.S. are better.”

But Merkel said the state must still protect its critical infrastructure, pointing to a new German IT security law https://www.reuters.com/article/germany-huawei-tech-idUSKBN28Q1ND that sets high hurdles for makers of equipment for next-generation telecommunications networks, such as China’s Huawei.

“However, I feel it is always important to stress that individual companies should not be excluded from the outset.”

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Merkel is now acting in a caretaker capacity pending the formation of a new coalition government, some of whose potential members advocate a tougher line on China.

“We need an open system in which everyone is assessed according to the same standards,” she said.

(Reporting Andreas Rinke; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Russian court remands mine director, inspectors in custody after deadly accident

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court in Siberia on Saturday remanded five people in custody for two months to face charges related to a mining accident that killed more than 50 people this week.

Three managers of the Listvyazhnaya mine, including its director, were ordered to remain in custody until late January for flouting industrial safety standards, a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The court also ordered two safety inspectors, who had issued a certificate for the mine this month but had not actually checked the facility, to remain in custody until late January.

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The accident, which regional authorities say was likely caused by a methane explosion, claimed the lives of 51 people, including five rescuers who were sent to bring out dozens of men stuck deep underground.

The health ministry said on Saturday that 60 people were being treated in hospital for injuries sustained at the mine, TASS news agency reported.

The accident at the mine, located some 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region, was Russia’s worst since 2010 when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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Russia spy chief says Ukraine invasion plan ‘malicious’ U.S. propaganda

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine and suggestions to the contrary are malicious U.S. propaganda, Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said on Saturday.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm in recent weeks over what they say are unusual Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine, suggesting that Moscow may be poised to launch an attack.

Russia has repeatedly said it is free to move its troops on its own territory and that such movements should not be a cause for concern.

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“I need to reassure everyone. Nothing like this is going to happen,” Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, said in an interview broadcast on state television, referring to comments on Russia’s alleged invasion plans.

“Everything that is happening around this topic right now is of course malicious propaganda by the U.S. State Department.”

Naryshkin spoke a day after the State Department’s top U.S. diplomat for European affairs said all options were on the table in how to respond to Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine’s border and that NATO would decide on the next move after consultations next week.

While U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow has accused Washington, Kyiv and NATO of provocative and irresponsible behaviour near its borders.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Spanish police march in Madrid to protest against ‘Gag Law’ reform

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November 27, 2021

By Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo

MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of Spanish police officers marched through Madrid on Saturday to protest against a proposed reform of a security law which they say will hamper their ability to do their work.

Politicians from Spain’s three main conservative parties joined police officers in the protest against proposed changes to the 2015 Citizens Security Law, which critics say violates the right to protest and limits free expression.

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Dubbed the “Gag Law” by those who oppose it, the legislation allows authorities to fine media organisations for distributing unauthorised images of police, strictly limits demonstrations and imposes heavy fines for offenders.

Spain’s leftist government has proposed reforms including no longer classifying the taking of photographs or making of recordings of police at demonstrations as a serious offence.

Under the changes, police will also have to use less harmful materials at protests after a number of people were seriously injured by rubber bullets fired by officers.

The time that suspects who are arrested at protests can be held in custody will be cut from six hours to two and fines will be proportional to how much offenders earn.

“They should either leave the current law as it is or make it better for the police and for the citizens,” Civil Guard officer Vanessa Gonzalez told Reuters.

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Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, of the far-right Vox party, said: “There is strong opposition against (the reform) of this law. It is against our police and we will not let it happen.”

However, Isa Serra, spokeswoman for the far-left Unidas Podemos party, said at a rally in Cantabria in northern Spain that the law had done a “lot of damage to Spanish democracy”.

Organisers said 150,000 people took part in the Madrid demonstration but the government put the figure at 20,000.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley, Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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