VW deception menaces Germany’s future

The Local Germany editor Tom Barfield argues that Volkswagen's irresponsible dodging of emissions limits endangers Germany's economic well-being and its most important diplomatic objectives.

VW deception menaces Germany's future
How much longer with Volkswagen be synonymous with 'Das Auto'?

Read German headlines on the scandal over Volkswagen's (VW) cover-up of its diesel vehicles' high emissions and you'd be forgiven for thinking that the only thing at stake was who will be the next CEO or how low the share price has plunged.

And it's true that the internal company manoeuvering will make for fine spectator sport in the coming weeks – and that the company's plunge in the stock markets will likely create an opportunity for daring investors.

But a company as global in scale as VW – which turned over €200 billion from its sales in 153 countries last year – doesn't operate in a vacuum.

It's one of the brands that has come to stand for Germany abroad, and for everything that German-made goods represent – good design, high-quality engineering, flawless manufacturing and impeccable reliability.

That goes for everything from Braun beard trimmers to Airbus A380 fuselage sections and hundred-metre-tall wind turbines.

Recent statistics from the Bundesbank (German central bank) show that Germany sold goods and services worth €1,319,358,000,000 – more than €1.3 trillion – abroad in 2013 and achieved a trade surplus (exporting more than it imported) of €220 billion.

If just one of Germany's globally respected brands is shown to have abused the trust placed in it by hundreds of millions of people, the damage to the country's reputation as a whole could send those numbers tumbling.

Corporate reputations are hard to earn and easy to ruin. National reputations are less fragile, yet when iconic companies like Volkswagen become part of a national image, their missteps can hurt that image – and the exports it brings.

And Germany really doesn't want to find out what it means to be one of those eurozone countries – like Greece or Spain – which haven't been able to export their way to success.

What's worse, the Volkswagen scandal comes at a time when as a nation Germany has been leading the way in environmental protection.

Chancellor Angela Merkel successfully fought for agreement between the G7 nations in June over a binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so as to keep global warming to below two degrees.

Chancellor Angela Merkel with US President Barack Obama and other world leaders at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria in June. Photo: DPA

She has tried to have her own country lead by example by taking a big gamble on the “Energiewende” (energy transition), giving up nuclear power and highly-polluting forms of generation like brown coal and pushing for clean energy.

Germany has been pushing hard to get other nations to follow suit in the run-up to the COP 21 climate conference in Paris this December, which has been billed as a last chance to achieve a binding agreement on limiting man-made climate change.

Those goals won't be achieved by diplomats sitting around a table, but by ordinary people and companies honestly putting into practice the agreements they reach – something people everywhere will be questioning in the wake of the VW scandal.

And other nations are now even more sure to ask why they should agree to hobble their own industries while those of advanced countries like Germany get to both make and break the rules.

Resentment and disbelief in Europe and the US' good faith at the negotiating table could hobble negotiations whose outcome is far more important than the ultimate fate of Volkswagen, or even that of the Federal Republic of Germany.

That's why Chancellor Angela Merkel called late on Tuesday for “full transparency” and for VW to “clear up the entire matter” as soon as possible.

Because VW's lies and cover-up don't just threaten 500,000 jobs at the company, or billions of Euros in trade, but the guttering light of hope that mankind can overcome the climate crisis in the most German way possible – a hard-fought consensual agreement reached around a negotiating table.

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‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?


One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”


One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”