A German court has ruled that the clearing of trees from the site of Tesla Inc.'s first electric car factory in Europe can go ahead, days after it issued an injunction temporarily halting the preparatory work.
The top administrative court in the Berlin-Brandenburg region ruled late Thursday that authorities had been within their rights to clear the way for work to start.
The court had issued an injunction last weekend to give it time to consider the case after an environmental group challenged a lower court's ruling that Tesla could go ahead with felling the trees. Final planning approval for the factory has yet to be granted.
The company wants to start manufacturing 150,000 electric cars a year from mid-2021, with plans to increase that number to half a million annually.
Palo Alto, California-based Tesla announced in November that it had decided to build its first European factory in the Berlin area. The planned site is at Gruenheide, just east of the capital in Brandenburg state.
Germany's main business lobby group, the Federation of German Industries, on Friday welcomed the latest court decision. Holger Loesch, a senior official with the group, described it as "an important signal for Germany as a site for investment."
He called for a wider discussion about planning and approval procedures in Germany, "which over the years have developed into a serious impediment to investment."
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said the latest court ruling "is a good signal for environmental protection, jobs and future technologies." He said he also hopes for an intensified discussion of how to speed up planning procedures.
"It has become clear to us all that we only have a chance with such important projects in the long term if we reach decisions in an appropriate time," he said.
A 43-year-old German man shot and killed nine people at several locations in a Frankfurt suburb in attacks that appeared to have been motivated by far-right beliefs, officials said Thursday.
The gunman first attacked a hookah bar and a neighboring cafe in central Hanau at about 10 p.m. Wednesday, killing several people, before heading about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) west and opening fire again, first on a car and then a sports bar, claiming more victims.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said that while the circumstances of the attack still needed to be fully investigated, the shootings exposed the "poison" of racism in German society. Merkel pledged to stand up against those who seek to divide the country.
"There is much to indicate that the perpetrator acted out of far-right extremist, racist motives. Out of hatred for people with other origins, other faiths or a different appearance," the German leader said.
Hookah lounges are places where people gather to smoke flavored tobacco from Middle Eastern water pipes, and some of the victims appeared to be Turkish.
Witness Kadir Kose ran over from a cafe he runs nearby after he heard the first shots, initially assuming there was an altercation between family members.
"But when I heard the second shots I thought it was a terror attack," Kose said.
He said he was shocked at the extent of the violence, saying that while fights or stabbing aren't unheard of, "this is a whole other level, something we hear about from America."
Witnesses and surveillance videos of the suspect's getaway car led authorities quickly to his home, near the scene of the second attack, where he was found dead near the body of his 72-year-old mother, said Peter Beuth, the interior minister for the state of Hesse.
Neighbor Dieter Hog said he looked out his window and saw 25 or 30 police officers with dogs combing the area.
"They were running around looking for the fugitive who was involved," Hog told The Associated Press, adding that even though he lived close by he did not know the suspect.
Both the suspect and his mother had gunshot wounds, and the weapon was found on the suspect, Beuth said.
At the townhouse Thursday, forensic experts came and went from the building, and police kept people away.
A website believed to be the suspect's is being evaluated, Beuth said.
"Initial analysis of the web page of the suspect indicate a xenophobic motivation," he said. It does not appear, however, that the suspect was known either to police or Germany's domestic intelligence agency, he added.
He said federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation of the crime and are treating it as an act of domestic terrorism.
"This is an attack on our free and peaceful society," he said.
Following a conference call with Germany's state interior ministers, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said on the basis of the investigation so far, "it was a right-radical xenophobic" attack, German news agency dpa reported.
The attack was quickly and broadly condemned by many organizations, including the Central Council of Muslims, the Confederation of Kurdish Associations in Germany, and the Central Council of Jews.
Merkel pledged that "everything will be done to investigate the circumstances of these terrible murders."
In unusually plain words, the German leader said: "Racism is a poison. Hatred is a poison."
"This poison exists in our society and its is responsible for far too many crimes," she added, citing the killings committed by a far-right gang known as the NSU, the fatal shooting last year of a regional politician from her party, and the attack on a synagogue in Halle in October.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the consulate in Frankfurt and the embassy in Berlin were trying to obtain obtain information about the attack, including the possibility that some of the victims were Turkish.
"According to the initial information, it was an attack with a racist motive, but we would need to wait for the (official) statement," he told state television TRT.
German news agency dpa reported that police are examining a video the suspect may have posted online several days earlier in which he details a conspiracy theory about child abuse in the United States. The authenticity of the video couldn't immediately be verified.
In the video, the dark-haired speaker wearing a white button-down shirt under a suit jacket, said he was delivering a "personal message to all Americans" that "your country is under control of invisible secret societies."
In a slow and deliberate voice, in accented English, he says there are "deep underground military bases" in which "they abuse, torture and kill little children."
He makes no reference to the far-right fringe QAnon movement in the U.S., but the missive is similar to the movement's central, but baseless belief that U.S. President Donald Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the "deep state" and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals.
On a website registered by someone with the same name as the man in the video, Tobias R., the owner says he was born in Hanau in 1977 and grew up in the city, later training with a bank and completing a business degree in 2007.
The attack comes amid growing concerns about far-right violence in Germany.
Merkel called off a planned visit Thursday to a university in Halle. Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said she was "being constantly kept abreast of the state of the investigations in Hanau."
Halle was the site of a deadly anti-Semitic attack last year. A man expressing anti-Jewish views tried to shoot his way into a synagogue, failed and killed two passers-by before being arrested.
The shooting in Halle came months after the killing of Walter Luebcke, the regional politician from Merkel's party. The suspect had a long history of neo-Nazi activity and convictions for violent crime.
"Thoughts this morning are with the people of Hanau, in whose midst this terrible crime was committed," Seibert said on Twitter. "Deep sympathy for the affected families, who are grieving for their dead. We hope with those wounded that they will soon recover."
In addition to those killed, Beuth said one person was seriously wounded and multiple other people suffered less serious injuries.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted it was a day of "immense sadness" and pledged his "full support for Germany."
"I'm at the side of Chancellor Merkel in her fight for our values and the protection of our democracies," he said.
Ongoing uncertainty about the effects of Brexit is pushing an increasing number of foreign companies to set up offices in the Netherlands, the Dutch government said Wednesday.
Since the 2016 referendum on Britain leaving the European Union, 140 businesses have established a presence in the Netherlands, with 78 shifting operations there last year, according to the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency.
The agency said in a statement that business uncertainty is increasing despite Britain's departure from the EU because of unanswered questions over the country's future trading relationship with the bloc. London and Brussels have until the end of the year to agree a pact on their post-divorce relationship.
The agency said it is in talks with around 425 companies considering moving or expanding to the Netherlands because of Brexit.
The companies come from Britain, but also include businesses from the Americas and Asia that are reconsidering the structure of their European operations in the aftermath of Brexit.
"For these businesses, 2020 will be an important year," said Jeroen Nijland of the foreign investment agency.
While some businesses are waiting to see how the new UK-EU economic relationship pans out, "more and more companies are choosing the certainty and stability our country offers in the European market," Nijland said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has raised doubts about the efficiency of the U.S.' plan for a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, known as the "Deal of the Century."
Washington's proposal for a solution through unilateral concessions favor Israel, Lavrov said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, which was published by the Russian Foreign Ministry Monday.
Such an approach is unlikely to help rectify the situation, and this is also indicated by the fact that the U.S. plan is categorically rejected by the Palestinians, the minister added.
Washington has essentially ignored the universally recognized international legal basis for a Middle East settlement, which includes the resolutions of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, the UN General Assembly and the Arab Peace Initiative, he said.
Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his 80-page plan for peace in the Middle East in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The proposal outraged the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, who demonstrated and clashed with Israeli soldiers against the plan.
More than 100 Germans evacuated from the hard-hit Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of a new coronavirus outbreak, were set to end their prescribed 14-day quarantine period on Sunday.
They have been kept isolated at a military base in the southern town of Germersheim. None of them have tested positive for the disease, German news agency dpa reported.
The viral outbreak that emerged in China in December has infected more than 69,000 people globally, killing 1,665 people in mainland China and five others elsewhere. The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, meanwhile, announced Sunday that Italy will send a plane to Japan to bring back the 35 Italians aboard the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship that has had 355 passengers and crew test positive for the new virus.
Twenty-five of those Italians are crew members on the ship, including the cruise ship's captain. Italy's ministries of defense, foreign affairs and health as well as civil protection officials were working out the logistics. No date for the flight has been announced yet.
British officials announced Sunday that more than 3,100 people in the U.K. had been tested for the virus but there have been no new positive results beyond the nine who were successfully treated and discharged.
European nations have reported 47 cases of the virus in nine countries. France on Saturday announced the first death of a virus patient in Europe and outside of Asia, an 80-year-old Chinese tourist in Paris.
Chinese authorities have placed some 60 million people under a strict lockdown, built emergency hospitals and instituted tight controls across the country to fight the spread of the virus.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has praised China's intensive measures and urged other governments to step up their own anti-virus efforts, saying "it's impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take."
"We must use the window of opportunity we have to intensify our preparedness," he told foreign policy and security leaders at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. "China has bought the world time. We don't know how much time."