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German vice chancellor cancels COP28 visit due to budget crisis

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German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck on Monday cancelled a trip to the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai due to the budget crisis at home.

The move follows a landmark court decision earlier this month that blew a huge hole in the government’s spending plans.

Habeck’s presence in Berlin is necessary in order to make further progress in the talks on the 2024 budget, a spokeswoman for the Economy Ministry announced.

The cancellation was done in consultation with and at the request of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, she added.

Habeck, who is also economy and climate minister, was due to participate in the COP28 climate conference in Dubai on Tuesday.

A recent decision by Germany’s Constitutional Court struck down plans to reallocate 60 billion Euros (65 billion dollars) borrowed during the Coronavirus pandemic for climate projects instead.

The fallout from the decision, which almost certainly impacts other special funds as well, has created a major budget crisis for Scholz’s three-party coalition government.

Negotiations on the budget is currently taking place primarily in a three-way round with Scholz, Habeck and Finance Minister Christian Lindner.

The coalition must reach an agreement within the next few days if it wants to adopt the budget for 2024 before the end of the year.

A political agreement in principle must be reached by the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday so that there is still enough time for the parliamentary process.

Habeck, had earlier told Germany’s ARD television station on Sunday evening that he sees progress in the negotiations.

“I am very optimistic that we are well on the way to reaching an agreement,’’ he said.

When asked if this meant that he wasn’t sure that the coalition would reach an agreement, Habeck said: “I can’t speak for everyone. But I repeat that I believe we are making good progress.’’

“It is a process that is arduous, one can see that, but it is making progress,’’ Habeck added.

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Putin Registers As Candidate For Russia’s Next Presidential Election

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Russia on Monday officially recognised Vladimir Putin as a candidate for the presidential elections in March, a vote that he is all but certain to win.

The 71-year-old has led Russia since the turn of the century, winning four presidential ballots and briefly serving as prime minister in a system where opposition has become virtually non-existent.

The Central Election Commission said it had registered Putin, who nominated himself, as well as right-wing firebrand and Putin-loyalist Leonid Slutsky as candidates for the vote.

The election will be held over a three-day period from March 15 to 17, a move that Kremlin critics have argued makes guaranteeing transparency more difficult.

Following a controversial constitutional reform in 2020, Putin could stay in power until at least 2036.

Rights groups say that previous elections have been marred by irregularities and that independent observers are likely to be barred from monitoring the vote.

While Putin is not expected to face any real competition, liberal challenger Boris Nadezhdin has passed the threshold of signatures to be registered as a candidate.

However, it is still unclear if he will be allowed to run, and the Kremlin has said it does not consider him to be a serious rival.

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Hong Kong court grants Chinese real estate giant reorganisation postponement

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Hong Kong’s Supreme Court has once again granted the highly indebted Chinese real estate giant Evergrande a postponement for its reorganisation plan.

Judge Linda Chan surprisingly postponed the decision until Jan. 29, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday.

The property developer, which has liabilities estimated at more than 300 billion dollars, is threatened with liquidation.

However, creditors from abroad had taken the company to court because of its missing several payments.

Chan had already said at the previous hearing that this would be the last postponement and that she would very likely agree to liquidation if China Evergrande did not find a plan for restructuring with its creditors.

According to reports, however, the lawyers of the Hong Kong-listed group had now held out the prospect of being able to reach an agreement with the lenders in the coming weeks.

In the case of liquidation, an insolvency administrator would monetise the company and pay out the creditors.

Meanwhile, some experts were of the opinion that liquidation would return less money to creditors than a reorganisation, China Evergrande argued the same in court, according to reports.

The group had been trying to submit a restructuring plan since 2022, without success. Its founder and once China’s richest man, Hui Ka Yan, is being investigated by the Chinese authorities.

Like many other property groups, the company had been in a serious crisis for some time because it is earning significantly less on the slumping property market.

The company is finding it more difficult to obtain state support and is no longer able to service its loans.

“The Evergrande case also shows that the era of large private property developers in China is coming to an end,’’ says Max Zenglein from the Merics China Institute in Berlin.

If Chan decides to wind up China Evergrande, this could also have an impact on other companies.

“One challenge for the government will be to prevent domino effects in the economy caused by major bankruptcies,’’ says Zenglein.

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