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German banks break non-nuclear promises

Two years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, major German banks are funding atomic power projects despite having promised not to do so, a new study claims.

German banks break non-nuclear promises
People in Rostock this weekend marked Fukushima's second anniversary. Photo: DPA

The Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper said on Tuesday that the earthquake-triggered meltdown in Fukushima prompted not only the German government’s hasty change of heart about closing down all nuclear power stations, but also promises from banks to stop investing in such projects.

Germany’s biggest bank, Deutsche Bank, said it was going to initially stop all loans which would be used in nuclear projects, while the Hypo-Vereinsbank (HVB) was clear when it said it would “no longer give credit to companies which do not address the issue of the environment.” This included new nuclear power stations overseas.

Yet two years later, environmental group Urgewald has checked the promises made while the Fukushima plant was in meltdown. Although some banks have discontinued all business with uranium mines and nuclear power stations, others have done practically nothing, the Frankfurter Rundschau said.

The HVB and Deutsche Bank in particular were singled out for criticism. The group Urgewald checked the financing of the three most important uranium firms, Areva, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, which between them cover a third of the global market. Areva is also one of the leading nuclear power station constructors.

The group also asked the association of the eight biggest German banks about their protocols for granting credit.

Commerzbank and BayernLB exited nuclear business

Commerzbank and BayernLB have completely exited the nuclear power business, the result showed. “Fukushima showed that nuclear power is a high-risk technology with consequences that barely be calculated,” said BayernLB in a report. “Thus the bank will not fund any new projects to construct new nuclear power stations or for the mining of nuclear fuel.”

Commerzbank said it “did not finance nuclear power stations or uranium mines on principle.” The Deka-bank said it had never done so.

But the other large banks had changed little, the group said.

The Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW) has funded many nuclear companies, the Frankfurter Rundschau said – and has to this day not adopted special criteria for the nuclear sector. And while Deutsche Bank said it checked each individual case for security, also had no specific nuclear criteria. The HVB said it had standards which were based on the rules of international organisations, but would not say what these were.

Four of the eight big German banks – Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, HVB and LBBW – continued to fund energy companies, the Frankfurter Rundschau said. And although all stress that they support renewable energy, they have no idea what is done with the money they put into the energy firms, the paper said.

Deutsche Bank and HVB invest in uranium mines

And despite the well-known catastrophic effects on public health and the environment associated with uranium mines in Africa and Eastern Europe, Urgewald said that Deutsche Bank put more than €1.1 billion into mining firms Areva and Rio Tinto between March 2011 and January 2013.

HVB put more than €944 million into Areva and BHP, the group said, although the bank would not comment on reports that its managers had given explicit guarantees worth €500 million to Areva for the expansion of the accident-hit Czech nuclear power station Temelin – just on the border with Germany.

The Local/hc

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Cashless payments in Switzerland: What is Twint and how does it work?

If you live in Switzerland, you are likely no stranger to Twint and maybe even use it regularly to make and receive payments. But if you are not familiar with this app, this is what you should know.

Twint app can be installed on a mobile phone.
“Twinting” money with a smartphone is easy and convenient. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

In Switzerland, the word “Twint” is used both as a noun and a verb.

As a noun, it describes the mobile application which allows you to pay for various goods and services practically everywhere in the country.

As a verb, (“to twint”), it means to send someone money, or receive it, via the same app.

So what exactly is Twint?

Simply put, it is digital cash (not to be confused with bitcoin, which is digital currency) that was first introduced in Switzerland in 2014 and has become very popular since then.

Twint logo. Image by Twint.ch

People like it because it is an easy and quick way to make instantaneous payments, especially in situations when credit cards or physical cash can’t be used.

A big part of its convenience is that it can be used at cash registers, vending machines and parking meters, as well as in online shops — pretty much everywhere in Switzerland, even in places that don’t accept credit cards.

The only similar mode of payment would be your maestro debit card issued by your bank.

This video explains exactly how the process works.

Another advantage of Twint is that you can use it to send money to someone else’s mobile phone — as long as they also have Twint. And you can receive money the same way.

And there are no fees or charges for this service.

How does Twint work?

Anyone can use Twint, but you need a Swiss bank account or a credit card and, of course, a smartphone.

According to Twint website, you need a smartphone with either an iOS (from version 12.2 and upwards) or Android (from version 7 and upwards) operating system and Bluetooth capability (from version 4.0 and upwards).

“It is generally not possible for Twint to be used on Apple devices with an operating system older than “iOS 12.2” or on Android devices with an operating system older than “Android 7”. On Android devices without access to the Google Play Store (e.g. on certain HUAWEI models), the use of Twint app is also not possible”.

But If you have a compatible phone, installing Twint is easy.

Swiss banks offer their own version of the app, and you can download it directly from your bank’s website.

Then, when you use Twint to make a payment, the amount is debited directly from your bank account or credit card.

By the same token, if you receive payment from another Twint user, the money is automatically deposited in your account.

And you are not limited to just one Twint app.

If you have accounts is several banks, or have more than one credit card, you can install and use all of them.

READ MORE: How to open a bank account in Switzerland

Can Twint be used to make payments and receive money from abroad?

For the moment, Twint can be used solely in Switzerland and payments can be made only in Swiss francs – although this may change in future. 

“We are, however, working closely with providers in other countries to develop an international and multi-currency solution”, according to Twint website.

You can find more information about Twint here.

READ MORE: Which bank is best for Americans in Switzerland?

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