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News from Berlin and Germany, 7th June 2023

Weekly news roundup from Berlin and Germany



No artwashing for repressors

In the run-up to the 24th Long Book Night in Oranienstraße, Berlin, the art association Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (nGbK) is cancelling its participation. The reason: this year, the Cologne real estate investor Pandion is also at the literature festival. Pandion has been operating a cultural venue in a former car dealership on Prinzessinnenstraße for several years as part of an interim use. During the book night, Pandion will present a programme with international authors. While the organisers of the book night did not comment on the decision, some rent activists from Friedrichshain expressed their agreement. Source: taz

Around 50,000 cyclists demonstrate at rally for better protection on the road

By midday on Sunday, around 50,000 cyclists had already taken part in a rally in Berlin to demonstrate for protected cycle paths and safe school roads. During the traditional bicycle star ride in the Großer Stern, participants demanded a more decisive approach by politicians to the traffic transition, a more modern road traffic law, the quicker expansion of cycling lanes, traffic-calmed areas, and 30 km/h speed zones for cars. At the rally, the bicycle club ADFC had demanded the federal government to revise the Road Traffic Act. “We will make Germany a cycling country,” says the appeal. Source: rbb24

Police investigate officer for incitement against refugees

Berlin police are investigating an employee who allegedly incited against climate activists and refugees. According to “Tagesspiegel”, the man is not a classical policeman, but a security guard in the so-called object protection of the police, where employees work guarding government buildings, embassies and synagogues. His posts on Facebook were found to be racist and sexist, he showed enthusiasm for the Wehrmacht and the AfD, agitated against refugees and climate activists and spread conspiracy theories about Ukraine. The investigation is being conducted by the so-called Central Investigation Group (EG). This group is responsible for investigating politically motivated criminality within its own apparatus. Source: Migazin

Republica: focus this year revolves around money

“What kind of digital world do we want to live in in the future and how do we achieve this goal?” This question from Markus Beckedahl, a co-founder of Republica (proper spelling: re:publica), is just one of many that will be answered at this year’s “Conference for Net Politics and Digital Culture,” which started in Berlin on Monday and is, by its own admission, the largest festival for the digital society in Europe. But the common thread of this year’s festival will be the flow of money, hence the clear motto: “Cash.” Minister Christian Lindner (FDP), one of the lecturers of this year, might talk among other topics about the so-called digital euro. Source: nd-aktuell


AfD as strong as SPD

If there had been a federal election last weekend, the right-wing AfD would have got 18 percent of the votes. Among the possible explanations for that is the dissatisfaction of the German citizens with the federal government: two-thirds doubt the efficacy of the “Ampel” coalition. Moreover, eight out of ten respondents think the “traffic light” parties are taking too long to solve the problems at hand. This is the result of a representative survey conducted by the opinion research institute infratest-dimap. Around 1,300 Germans eligible to vote were surveyed on 30 and 31 May 2023. Source: dw

New accusations against Till Lindemann

Several women are making new accusations against Rammstein frontman Lindemann. They describe how young women are apparently recruited specifically to have sex with him. Two women also report alleged sexual acts to which they had not consented. The two women spoke anonymously to NDR and SZ and gave their statements under oath. The reporters also have further statements from witnesses as well as numerous chat transcripts which support parts of the accusations. Both Lindemann and the band left questions from NDR and SZ about concrete accusations unanswered. Source: tagesschau

Police detain Left Party MP at demo in Leipzig

During a demonstration in Leipzig last Thursday, the police temporarily detained Juliane Nagel, a member of the Saxon parliament (Left Party). The police then said it was not an arrest: Nagel had “become part of a police operation.” The MP, who is also a city councilor in Leipzig and had registered the demonstration to mark Children’s Day, said later she was watching an action in which the police established the identities of two people. “I was standing there, a police officer first insulted or called me names. Then he pushed me out of the way. Then it occurred to him that I had allegedly assaulted him.” Source: Spiegel

Antifa because of state failure

With the sentences in the Antifa East trial against Lina E. and three other anti-fascists, the state has made an example. The defendants were not only sentenced for six bodily injuries. The verdict also applies to the anti-fascist self-image of militantly limiting the scope of action of Nazis if necessary, for example, if the state fails. Possible imitators are to be deterred. But the security authorities, from the Saxon Soko Linx to the Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD), are subject to a crucial error: the state itself has long been endangered, especially in the East. But from the right. Source: taz

Celebrities against the asylum course of the Federal Government

The list ranges from Herbert Grönemeyer to Nina Hoss: more than 50 celebrities from the arts and culture in Germany have signed an open letter against the asylum policy of the Federal Government. The non-governmental organisation #LeaveNoOneBehind started the initiative. The background to the criticism: next Thursday, the EU interior ministers want to discuss the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). In essence, the main issue is that at least part of the asylum procedures should be shifted to Europe’s external borders in future. In the case of rejection, applicants should be deported directly to their home countries. Source: Spiegel

News from Berlin and Germany, 31st May 2023

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Why so many votes for Erdogan in Berlin

In contrast to many other European metropolises, the old and new Turkish President Erdogan was ahead in the German capital. According to rbb columnist Cem Dalaman, Erdoğan won because his supporters, including in Berlin, are afraid of change. Dalaman goes on to say that “he [Erdogan] has successfully hammered into their heads that he cares for them like a father”. He goes on to say that the opposition was neither strong or well-organised enough. This might count for those Berliners of Turkish origin who do not feel picked up by German politics, considering as well if they have had racist experiences. He closes his article by saying “Erdogan is also the strong man for them, their protector. An image that catches. Whether we like it or not”. Source: rbb

What lies behind the Tesla data leak

Customer bank details, employee addresses, internal information on battery production: the data leak at Tesla is massive. How was this able to happen? One potential reason is Tesla’s internal organisation. Despite its size, the company is still structured more like a start-up tailored to its boss. Also, what does it mean for the Tesla factory in Grünheide? If the suspicion that Tesla’s internal IT security precautions are inadequate is confirmed, the company will have to make improvements in its German factory. Since the data leak involves data from customers across Europe, the Brandenburg data protection authority passed the case on to the Netherlands, where Tesla has its European headquarters. Source: rbb


Nationwide raid against Last Generation

Time and again, members of the Last Generation cause a stir with their actions, demanding better climate policy. Last week there were large-scale raids in seven federal states (Hesse, Hamburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Bavaria, Berlin and Schleswig-Holstein). The justification given for the searches relates to numerous criminal charges filed since the middle of last year. In addition, the group’s homepage was seized and shut down on the instructions of the public prosecutor’s office. The accusation is the formation or support of a criminal organisation. Many climate protection activists have reacted with sharp criticism. Source: dw

When even two jobs are not enough to live on

More than 3.5 million people in Germany have more than one job. This number has more than doubled in the past 20 years. Now the general secretary of the service sector union ver.di has said that Germany is becoming a low-wage country: “At twelve euros minimum wage, one earns a little less than 2,200 euros for a 42-hour week full-time. That is only about 60 per cent of the average income in Germany and thus not enough to live on.” According to the Paritätischer Armutsbericht (Parity Poverty Report), almost 17 percent of the population in Germany were recently affected by poverty. Source: tagesschau

Ver.di: new members, new responsibilities

Whether from the Deutsche Post, the civil service or the Deutsche Bahn: strike action has been on the rise since the beginning of 2023. The DGB unions negotiate for around eleven million workers, and in times of inflation, the need for organised negotiations is particularly great. It is in this context that Ver.di has gained 100,000 new members since the beginning of the year. We can all be happy about this, ver.di especially. However, the increased power and strength that these numbers represent entail obligations. Otherwise, the trend reversal of decreasing union membership will soon be over. It is not only a question of trade unions not promising their members what they cannot deliver, but also about involving their members in decision-making processes. Source: nd-aktuell

Genç family: determined against racism

On May 29 1993 there was an arson attack on the house of the Genç family in Solingen. Two young women and three girls died. The victims were daughters, granddaughters, and a niece of Mevlüde and Durmus Genç, who immigrated to Germany in the 1970s. The attack in Solingen is one of the most serious racist attacks in post-war German history. On the 30th anniversary, high-ranking politicians and representatives of the German and Turkish state will again come to the commemoration ceremony. However, Germany still owes to all the victims of racism the wish of Mevlüde Genç for a respectful and peaceful coexistence. Source: nd-aktuell

No reason to celebrate

The Minister for the Economy, Robert Habeck (Greens), has announced a relaxation of the proposed “heating exchange law”, which plans to make to heating of house more environmentally friendly. In doing so, he is taking account of the immense public uproar and the falling poll ratings for the Greens. This is understandable – but is bad news. Homeowners who believe they will benefit from rule loosening are mistaken. Once anyone who has a new ‘eco-friendly’ gas or oil heating system installed will soon be groaning under the rising costs of fossil fuels. Only if industry is forced to change over very quickly to climate friendly heating will this become the standard and thus cheaper. Source: taz

News from Berlin and Germany, 24th May 2023

Weekly news roundup from Berlin and Germany



“We are too often underestimated”

Recently, the Federal Council approved a law to give people with disabilities greater access to the labour market. Germany still has a lot of catching up to do in terms of vocational inclusion. Josephine Dröge, 25, from Berlin, has had spastic paralysis in her legs since birth. She manages her everyday life alone and uses a wheelchair for longer journeys. But the path to professional life has not been easy for the young woman. In an interview, the trained office management assistant talks about her professional experience in the catering company Handfest. She concludes by saying “It’s important to involve people. It also gives a greater sense of belonging.” Source: rbb24

Climate activists blocked Deutsche Bank in Berlin

Fridays for Future and activists from “Parents Against the Fossil Industry”, among others, protested last week in front of the Deutsche Bank headquarters on Friedrichstraße in Berlin. Activists from Scientist Rebellion and the Last Generation were also on site. A spokesperson for Finanzwende, who also took part in the protest on Friedrichstraße in front of the “Quartier der Zukunft,” said: “Deutsche Bank is at the forefront of greenwashing. If climate protection goes down the drain, Deutsche Bank wins financially.” Niklas Quidde (Fridays for Future) called on customers to cancel their accounts with Deutsche Bank. Source: bZ


Nationwide strikes in retail

Without them, there is no business. Last Friday, employees of H&M, IKEA, Primark, Netto, Rewe, Zara, Kaufland and Galeria, among others, stopped to work in many places in Baden-Württemberg, Frankfurt am Main, Kassel, Hamburg and the Hanover region. In Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia they already went on strike on Wednesday. The reason is the so far unsuccessful collective bargaining for the almost three million employees in the retail and mail order trade, which the service trade union ver.di is currently conducting regionally. The workers want to push through their share of the retailers’ rising profits and compensation for inflation. Source: jW

A tragedy that no one looks at

Last week, the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden calculated more than one in five people in Germany is affected by poverty or is threatened by slipping into it. That means 20.9 percent of Germany’s population: more than 17 million people, almost as many as live in the whole of North Rhine-Westphalia. If this were a natural catastrophe such as an earthquake, and North Rhine-Westphalia would have made almost all the inhabitants homeless, we wouldn’t hear about anything else for weeks. However, when millions of people have too little money to make a decent living, it’s just everyday life. Source: taz

Police violence ineffectively recorded

Excessive police violence is rarely dealt with in Germany. This is the conclusion of a study by the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. The research team interviewed more than 3,300 victims as well as police officers, judges, and staff of victim counselling centres. Conflict situations or identity checks were frequently mentioned, together with anger as well as loss of trust in the rule of law. Also, while in some countries there is transparent recording of how often and in what form the police use violence or how often people die in the context of police operations, there are statistical gaps in Germany. Source: dw

IGLU children’s reading study: the German results

A new international comparative study shows the state of children’s reading ability in the fourth grade. For German education policy, the results of the “IGLU 2021” study are once again not good news: Germany is only in the middle of the pack and children’s reading skills have recently dropped significantly. Moreover, the performance gaps between high-performing and low-performing children are high. “In twenty years, practically nothing has changed in terms of educational justice and equal opportunities in Germany,” the authors of the study conclude. Another worrying finding is that a quarter of children now do not reach the minimum standard needed for a further successful school career. Source: tagesspiegel

A man for all seasons

Who is the new State Secretary in Habeck’s Ministry of Economics? The 57-year-old Green from Frankfurt am Main is not easily pigeonholed. Phillip Nimmermann is expected to save the controversial energy transition in the heating sector for Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck. The economist has proved himself in the role of a crisis manager for particularly difficult cases in the Green Party’s area of responsibility such as the privatisation of the ailing HSH Nordbank. The fact that, as a former top banker, he can do more than politics and did not stand out as particularly ideology-driven is precisely what brought him to the new post. Source: tagesschau

News from Berlin and Germany, 17th May 2023

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Banning of Nakba demonstrations

This Monday was Nakba Day, Arabic for catastrophe. Always on May 15, Palestinians around the world memorialise the expulsion in the wake of the founding of the Israeli state in 1948. In the past, there have been clashes with the police in Berlin, when anti-Semitic statements are made – or if statements are interpreted in this way. One thing is certain: gatherings with a Palestinian connection are under increased public scrutiny. For instance, in 2022, the police banned all gatherings for the Nakba anniversary. Last Friday it happened again: two demonstrations, supposed to take place last weekend were banned. Source: taz

Court dismisses climate demonstrator’s claim on ‘pain grip’

After a police intervention during a road blockade in Berlin, a climate demonstrator took legal action against the use of the so-called pain grip – and initially has failed. According to the Administrative Court of Berlin, activists are regularly carried away during street blockades. Occasionally, the “hand-bending transport technique” was threatened or used. This technique can cause pain to the person concerned. The footage presented by the climate demonstrator did not show that “painful enforcement practices were regularly used”. According to that court, a general review of this practice is not possible in such a proceedings. Source: rbb

Queer people in housing need: no home after coming out

At Queerhome*, homeless queer people find support – the first counselling centre of its kind in Berlin is met with great demand. It has been around for six months. The project belongs to the supporting association Sonntags-Club, a traditional queer institution in Prenzlauer Berg. “We were overrun,” says Christian Weitzel (Sonntags-Club). “In the first eight weeks, we received 120 enquiries from individual people seeking advice.” In total, they have counted around 250 people looking for support since they started. Some of them need help finding a flat or advice when they are threatened with losing their flat. “But the big issue is housing emergencies,” says Schultz. Source: nd-aktuell

Police officer alleged to have kicked man in the face

A Berlin police officer allegedly kicked an arrested man in the face. The police announced on Saturday proceedings had been initiated against the officer on suspicion of assault and battery. According to the authorities, the police were called to Brentanostraße in Steglitz by residents. They were awakened by loud shouting at around 2.30 am. A man and a woman supposedly hit several parked cars. The police then found the couple at Breitenbachplatz. After their arrest, a policeman, who had injured their nose, apparently kicked the handcuffed man in the face. Source: t-online



Warning strike at the railway cancelled

The announced 50-hour warning strike on the railways will not take place. Deutsche Bahn and the Railway and Transport Union (EVG) have reached an agreement on an important point of the wage dispute. Nevertheless, things are likely to be bumpy on the railways: the EVG stressed the strike call was still valid for some railway companies. EVG spokesperson Uwe Reitz said: “There will be no strike at Deutsche Bahn, but we are negotiating with a total of fifty companies and have also called for warning strikes at other companies, and the strike will continue there.” Source: rbb

Charlemagne Prize with bonus

There was a time when the winners of the Charlemagne Prize of Aachen (a prize awarded for “work in service of European unification”) were given 5,000 euros to take with them. One could ask oneself whether renowned politicians – and they often were – were in need of such a ‘small’ sum. And whether their politics deserved anything at all. It’s now been announced that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has received the Charlemagne Prize, and that he will go back to Ukraine with the prize of 2.7 billion euros: that is the value for which Germany wants to supply further war material. Among them more battle tanks. Source: nd-aktuell

For “personal reasons”

For “personal reasons”, as she put it, Thuringia’s Green Minister for the Environment Anja Siegesmund resigned from her office at the end of last year, for a “time-out”. But then the regional press found out such reasons had a professional touch after all. The Federal Association of the German Waste Management, Water and Environmental Service Industries had apparently already chosen Siegesmund as the next president. However, the green leader will not be able to take up this job as soon as planned. Perhaps it escaped Siegesmund’s attention that the red-red-green coalition to which she belonged had adopted a “grace period regulation.” Source: taz

New draft law reveals strict rules for Germans “cannabis clubs”

When Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) announced last month Germany would get the ball to legalisation rolling quickly, the then-dubbed “Cannabis Social Clubs” (CSC) were pitched as the heart of the government’s plan. Now, according to the new draft law, these clubs are to be strictly regulated. Cultivation, dispensing, club membership and the organisation of the clubs’ premises will be closely monitored, while cannabis consumption will be forbidden at the club itself and within a 250-metre radius of a club’s premises. Public marijuana consumption will also still be restricted. Source: iamexpat

News from Berlin and Germany, 10th May 2023th

Weekly news roundup from Berlin and Germany



“Aquadom” not to be rebuilt

After the bursting of the huge aquarium in a Berlin hotel, no new fish tank is to be built in the lobby. The effort to rebuild the huge aquarium after it burst would be disproportionately high. The 16-metre-high Aquadom aquarium with 1,500 fish in the hotel near Alexanderplatz burst in the early hours of 16 December. As a result, one million litres of water poured out of the destroyed acrylic glass cylinder. Two people were slightly injured. The hotel is still closed and will not reopen this year. The cause of the aquarium’s bursting is still unclear. Source: rbb24

Berlin police probe leak into potential Zelenskyy trip

The news about an investigation, launched by the police, about a possible visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Berlin has reached the media. The information cited statements provided by unnamed sources in Berlin’s police force. Zelenskyy’s trips abroad are usually kept confidential until the last minute for security reasons. Neither the German government nor the Ukrainian Embassy had commented anything on reports of Zelenskyy’s planned visit to the German capital. In an unusual move, Berlin police confirmed the report when asked about it. Police last Thursday defended that decision, saying that by that point the unauthorized leak had already revealed details of the trip. Source: dw


Can a Jewish woman be an antisemite?

Judith Bernstein, born in Israel, whose parents had to flee Germany in 1935 and whose grandparents were deported to Auschwitz, feels that she has been unfairly defamed by Uwe Becker (CDU). Without substantiating it, he labelled her an antisemite and placed her close to the antisemitic assassin of Halle. This had enormous consequences for her, and her concern to give the Palestinians a voice in the Middle East conflict was even made impossible. In court, judges interpreted Becker’s statement as violating the principle of objectivity and Bernstein as a person. The report about this case has already been removed from Frankfurt’s city website. Source: faz

Benin bronzes given away: Annalena Baerbock sees no problem

On the last 6th of May, it became known that outgoing Nigerian President Mohammedu Buhari had transferred the bronzes from the historic kingdom of Benin to the successor of the kings of Benin, Oba Ewuare II. They are now in private hands and the Oba decides what to do with them. On the next day, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) announced: “Who will keep the returned bronzes, which Nigerian institutions and persons will be involved, and where the responsibility for preservation and accessibility lies, are questions which will be decided in Nigeria.” Source: bz

Nationwide there is a shortage of 378,000 daycare places

Throughout Germany, there is a shortage of 378,000 daycare places – despite the legal right to childcare. This is the answer by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs to a question by the Left Party parliamentary group. In the one to three age group, 291,000 places are lacking; in the three to six age group, 87,000. The information was based on figures from 2021. According to calculations by the Left Party, the annual costs for daycare centres now amount to almost 50 billion euros. The federal government bears about 2.8 billion euros, the rest is borne by the federal States and the municipalities. Source: tagesschau

More tofu, less meat

Tofu sausage or veggie burgers: the market for the often more expensive meat substitutes grew in 2022 despite inflation. Companies in Germany produced 6.5 percent more of these foods than in the previous year, according to the Federal Statistical Office. Greenpeace welcomed the minus for meat and the plus for substitute products, and criticised as well incorrect regulation for the latter ones: “It is an absurdity that, for example, a higher tax is levied on oat drinks than on cow’s milk – and at the same time it is forbidden to call it milk,” Mattin Hofstetter, agricultural expert from that environmental organization, said. Source: taz

Refugee summit: German states demand more money

The heads of government of the federal states have decided in a cohesive way to begin their consultations on the consequences of the increasing number of refugees and asylum seekers. The main point of contention between the federal government and the states is the financing of accommodation, care, and integration of those seeking protection. The Länder (States) are calling for a system in which federal payments increase automatically as more people come into the country who need to be cared for. A consensus among them has to do with safeguarding humanitarian and legal obligations. Source: Morgenpost