By Sylvia Cunningham and William Glucroft
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper detailed plans on Wednesday to withdraw nearly 12,000 American troops from Germany, several thousand more than originally expected.
He told reporters nearly 5,600 soldiers will be moved to other NATO countries, while about 6,400 will return to the U.S., adding “many of these or similar units will begin conducting rotational deployments back to Europe.”
Esper said the withdrawal will cost several billion dollars and could begin in a “matter of weeks.”
The move, which was first announced last month by President Trump, took German leaders by surprise and has faced bipartisan pushback in Washington.
The head of the U.S. European Command also announced on Wednesday that its headquarters would be moving from Stuttgart to Mons, Belgium.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet has agreed on a bill that would ban the meat industry from using temporary and contract workers.
Coronavirus outbreaks in German slaughterhouses have put a spotlight on the poor working conditions there.
The German government wants to make large companies more responsible by ending layers of sub-contracts.
Labor Minister Hubertus Heil told public broadcaster ZDF that the lack of accountability in the contract system has become a risk factor for the pandemic but was a “catastrophe” long before COVID-19.
The new law would come into effect next year, pending legislative approval. Opposition critics have said better oversight is more important than a new law.
A COVID-19 outbreak at the bar, Brauhaus neulich, in Neukölln has health officials urging patrons to come forward.
The district’s health office says it is missing information for dozens of customers whose contact details weren’t accurately recorded. The office reports at least 18 people tested positive for the coronavirus who were there between July 16 and July 18.
The bar’s management apologized in a statement to all those who have been endangered by the outbreak.
“Due to the recent loosening of many restrictions and the general mood in Berlin, the wrong picture emerged at [Brauhaus neulich] that undermined the seriousness of the situation,” the statement reads.
Meanwhile, more than 30 people have come forward to say they were at the site of another outbreak, the restaurant MIO Berlin at Alexanderplatz, on July 10. Health officials say customer information wasn’t recorded properly there either, and there are at least 15 confirmed cases so far.
This news is brought to you in cooperation with Berliner Rundfunk.