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Economic sense and sensibility; 5G growing pains; and flower non-power. Here's our Daily Briefing for January 3.
Quelle: Getty Images; Per-Anders Pettersson
Let's get the party started.
(Source: Getty Images; Per-Anders Pettersson)

In the kind of good news that could lead you straight to the backup office bubbly: The economy is humming along. Germany is set for its 10th consecutive year of growth. Sure, Brexit sends economists, and everybody, into crouch position. But were it not for that hiccup, would the good times continue?

Maybe, but not without more skilled workers. Economics Minister Peter Altmaier said in a newspaper interview that the country needs to adapt faster to future-oriented industries like e-car production. But he also noted that economic risks include that shortage of skilled labor. Attracting skilled migrants would help the economy grow.

A new immigration law – the country’s first – could help and when we first reported on it, a reader wrote that he has been working in Germany for 15 years but still finds people unwelcoming and change doesn’t seem to be imminent.

Altmaier said he hopes the new immigration law will pass fast. We’re hoping attitudes toward immigrants can change just as fast.

Telecom providers also want Berlin to shape up. A slew of providers, big and small, are suing the government for its restrictions on the upcoming 5G frequency auctions. Lend infrastructure and frequencies to rivals to increase coverage? Allow a fourth competitor into the market? Blasphemy, they claim. Berlin says it just wants to increase choice for consumers – but the providers say allowing upstarts to access their expensive equipment could lead to economic ruin, not just lower prices.

Beyond such squabbles, governments worry about cyber espionage in connection with 5G, and whether Chinese providers might build back doors into their systems, opening up consumers and businesses to spying. For now, that’s something individual countries in the European Union fear. While 5G might promise us users a world of speedy internet, these problems are likely to rumble on in the slow lane for a while.

Seems like it’s the season to sue: more than 300,000 diesel owners have joined another lawsuit against Volkswagen, extending their period for the claim for damages beyond December 31, 2018. It’s a first for Germany’s version of the class action lawsuit, and I’ll be watching this with interest.

Florence’s Uffizi museum is calling on a German family to return a painting stolen by Nazi soldiers during World War II. “Vase of Flowers,” painted by Jan van Huysum in 1722, disappeared in 1944. German national Eike Schmidt is the first non-Italian Uffizi director and he had to take to Twitter after the failure of repeated attempts by the Italian government to persuade the family, as well as Berlin, to give up the stolen Dutch work. “Because of this, the wounds of Nazi terror are not healed,” Schmidt said. The German government has yet to act and German law puts a 30-year statute of limitations on such claims. For now, visitors to the Italian collection will have to put up with a black and white copy of the picture, labeled “stolen.”

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