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Uli Hoeneß had it all: As a soccer star in the 1970s, he won the German championship three times with his club Bayern Munich, the cup competition once, and three European Cup titles (the former version of UEFA’s Champions League). He played a total of 35 games for Germany and was instrumental in the Euro 72 and 74 World Cup triumphs.
Now, Hoeneß is under investigation for allegedly evading taxes on assets deposited in a Swiss bank account.
Hoeneß was already a legend when he retired from soccer in 1979 at only 27 because of a knee injury and he was only getting started.
The son of a middle class family continued with Bayern as general manager, the youngest the Bundesliga had ever seen.
In the decades that followed, Hoeneß used his considerable business skills to make Bayern Munich the New York Yankees of German football: numerous league and cup titles followed, and in 2001 finally a Champions League title.
For all of this, Hoeneß was paid rather well, of course. Apparently, it was not enough. The relentless hunger for more seems to have become his downfall.
The tax problems of the most powerful man in German club soccer are especially egregious since Hoeneß has also tried to present himself as somewhat of a moral authority. Over the years, he has been on chat shows with opinions on many things - including business ethics.
He has even criticized tax dodgers and once opined: “You can’t preach the virtues of water and then drink wine.” It now appears that he has been quite the ‘wine drinker’ himself.
In January, Hoeneß turned himself in, a move aimed at sparing himself prosecution. It could be too late legally and, in any case, the rags-to-riches fairy tale is in serious trouble: even Chancellor Angela Merkel (an avid soccer fan) is “disappointed”.
Hoeneß could go to prison for this and calls for him to step down as president of Bayern Munich are mounting.
The relentless rise of the son of a small-town butcher is unraveling now and just when his club is in hot pursuit of the rare treble: after the 4-0 thrashing of Barcelona, Bayern is on course for a Champions League triumph, in June, Munich is expected to win another German Cup competition and the national championship is already in the bag.
“We don’t need the euro” is the slogan of the newly formed Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland). At their first party convention in Berlin on Sunday, some 1,500 AfD member voted for participation in this year’s federal Bundestag elections.
This could be a problem for Chancellor Angela Merkel: a recent poll suggested that more than 20 percent of eligible voters would at least consider voting for the new party, and that’s well beyond Germany’s 5 percent parliamentary threshold.
Although experts have serious doubts about these numbers, many of these voters could come from Merkel’s conservative camp. Only established last month, Alternative for Germany has managed to attract the support of some academics and disillusioned members of Merkel’s CDU.
One of the party’s founders, economics professor Bernd Lucke (a former long-time CDU member), told the BBC he wanted to see a “gradual dismantling of the euro as a common currency”.
Contrary to what senior German politicians have been saying, Lucke does not believe, the end of the euro necessarily means the end of the European Union as we know it.
Au contraire: for Lucke the return to national currencies would somehow ease the economic divide in Europe and the anti-German resentment in bailout nations like Greece and Cyprus.
And while the Greeks and Cypriots protest against “German hegemony” in the EU, many in Germany are fed up with spending their tax euros on bailing out what they see as corrupt or incompetent governments in other countries.
Clearly, the European Union is facing a bit of an existential crisis and anti-euro attitudes are visibly on the rise in Germany. Then again, the EU has weathered crises before and most polls indicate that two-thirds of Germans remain in favor of the single currency.
So, where do we go from here? Will the new ‘Alternative for Germany’ have real impact in the Bundestag election in September? Will it be like the UK Independence Party in Britain with its perennial anti-European outlook that never gets quite enough votes?
We will know more in the fall.
The eurozone crisis is back with a vengeance. This time the focus is Cyprus. The banking crisis in the small Mediterranean island nation has reached Icelandic proportions, requiring a dramatic bailout.
If you thought the EU deal for Greece was bad, think again: The Cyprus deal agreed over the weekend is asking for despositors with more than 100,000 euros in their accounts to pay at one time tax of almost ten percent. Below that amount bank customers in Cyprus would have to pay 6.75 percent.
Just imagine that for a moment: the government is taking over six percent of your bank assets to finance a bailout. How would you like that?
Clearly, pretty much nobody in Cyprus likes it. And there are lots of foreign investors, too: Russians, Greeks, Britons.
Yes, many Greeks have tried to escape the economic meltdown in their own country by putting their money in Cyprus accounts. And now a chunk of that “off shore” money could be confiscated.
It’s a tough sell in Cyprus, too. The crucial vote in Cyprus’ parliament on the bailout has been postponed and President Nicos Anastasiades has been meeting with members of parliament in the capital Nicosia. He has indicated that he has second thoughts about the package and wants the terms amended.
The markets were not pleased: the euro fell sharply amid fears that other countries, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Spain, in particular, could go into an economic tailspin over this.
There will also be renewed anger in Germany if the bailout deal falls through: many Germans are pretty fed up with bailing out the Greeks which is widely regarded as throwing money down a bottomless pit, now the Cypriots are seemingly balking at making the necessary tough choices.
In the meantime, a lot of Cypriots (as well as many Greeks) feel that Germany is stealing their money. Not a recipe for an easy way out of the crisis.
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Learn more about Umbanda, Brazil’s only indigenous religion, coming into its own: http://ow.ly/iPvO0