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News from Berlin and Germany, 22nd May 2024

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Neukölln and the Nakba

The CDU wants to have the publication ‘Mythos Israel 1948’ in Berlin schools. Die Linke in Neukölln opposes this. The brochure was published a few weeks before 7 October and has since been the subject of a fierce debate. ‘It is important for us to point out that it [the Nakba] was not a systematic expulsion,’ declared a spokesperson for the Masiyot association, which published the brochure. The authors mention that ‘the brochure was never intended to be distributed to schools,’ but only as background material for informed readers. Source: taz

Tuntenhaus is saved

For three months, the residents of the Tuntenhaus in Prenzlauer Berg had to fear for their home, but since Thursday it has been clear: the district of Pankow has a preemptive right to buy the property and the future of the queer house project is secure. Tuntenhaus has occupied the building in Kastanienallee since 1990. The Bavarian investor who had bought the house had until last Wednesday night to sign a settlement agreement, but failed to do so. The house will be sold to the Edith Maryon Foundation. Source: taz

Musk is allowed to build

The alliance ‘Tesla den Hahn abdrehen’ (Turn off the tap on Tesla) describes the vote in the Grünheide municipal council as a ‘bitter blow for water protection and democracy:’ 11 of the 19 Grünheide representatives voted in favour of a development plan last Thursday. Despite the fact that more than 60% of Grünheide residents had spoken out against it in a public survey in February, the US car manufacturer Tesla was given the green light to expand its plant. After the result of the vote became known, its opponents announced further resistance. Source: jW


Investigations after demonstration to remember Nakba

The Berlin Police are investigating 25 criminal charges following another demonstration involving thousands of people to mark the Palestinian Nakba Memorial Day. The charges include incitement, insults, and attacks on police officers. 25 participants were provisionally arrested during the protest march on Saturday. According to the police, around 6,200 people took part at the peak. Around 2,000 participants had been expected. The protest march was therefore stopped several times, but the demonstration managed to reach its destination in Mitte. Source: zeit

EU elections: German 16-year-olds to cast their first votes

A decrease in Germany’s voting age from 18 to 16 could bring more than a million additional people to the polls for the European elections. There are even posters designed to encourage young people to vote in June’s European elections. One has the slogan “First kiss, first time, first vote” and was created by media design students Maja Steinbach, Maria Viktoria Junker and Fabian Navarro. Within Germany, 16-year-olds are eligible to vote in state elections in six states, but this is the first year that people as young as 16 can vote in the elections for the European Parliament. Source: dw

Bystron’s offices raided over bribery probe

German police have raided the offices of a leading member of the AfD over money-laundering and bribery allegations. MP Petr Bystron is accused of receiving money from Russia in return for influence – something he denies. The raids were carried out in a number of locations, including Munich, Mallorca, and the MP’s parliamentary office in Berlin. The Bundestag has agreed to lift parliamentary immunity and to allow for criminal proceedings against him. Bystron is the party’s number two candidate for next month’s European Parliament elections. Another of the AfD’s lead candidates, Maximilian Krah, is currently being investigated for alleged payments from Russia and China, but denies any wrongdoing. Source: bbc

News from Berlin and Germany, 15th May 2024

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Neukölln: ‘Mythos Israel 1948’ brochure in schools

The parliamentary group “the Left” in Neukölln has criticised the decision made by the CDU and SPD district council (BVV) on the use of the brochure ‘Mythos#Israel1948’ in schools. According to a Facebook post, the Left believes that politics is influencing the choice of schools materials. Moreover, the brochure itself does not clarify myths about Israel, but rather produces them. A panel discussion on the use of the brochure has been organised on 16 May (7 pm at Café Engels in Herrfurthstraße 21). Taking part are Middle East expert Hikmat El-Hammouri, Neukölln student Yazan Abo Rahmie and Udi Raz, PhD student at the Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies. Source: berliner Zeitung

Police initiate 39 proceedings in Neukölln

The Berlin police have initiated 39 criminal investigations related to a pro-Palestinian demonstration and subsequent riots in the Neukölln district on Saturday evening. According to the police, the charges include suspected incitement to hatred, offences against the assembly law, attempted prisoner liberation and attacks on law enforcement officers. Around 1,500 people marched from Kreuzberg to Neukölln in the late afternoon. Individual participants threw bottles at police officers. The police said they had temporarily detained almost 50 people, in order to take their personal details. Around 220 police officers were deployed. Source: rbb



Nathan Thrall: award-winning there, but cancelled here

It was announced last Monday that Nathan Thrall is one of this year’s Pulitzer Prize winners. His book ‘A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy’, published in 2023, won in the non-fiction category. It deals with the reality of life for Palestinians under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. The next day, the author was due to speak about the current situation in Israel and Palestine at the Union International Club in Frankfurt am Main. However, few days beforehand, the club cancelled the event – without an official explanation. It is not the first time he has been “cancelled”. Source: nd-aktuell

AfD cannot shake suspicion

Last Monday, the AfD’s appeal against its categorisation by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) was rejected in Münster. This means that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution can monitor the AfD as a suspected right-wing extremist organisation and inform the public about it. The same applies to the Junge Alternative, a now disbanded ‘wing’ of the party, which was even definitively categorised as right-wing extremist. The judgement is not yet final. As usual, a further assessment of the AfD will now be made in due course in an open-ended review process. Source: taz

Protesters attempt to storm Tesla German plant in Brandenburg

Last Friday, protesters opposed to the expansion of the U.S. electric vehicle company Tesla clashed with police. The activists claim the expansion would damage the environment. “We are here today to draw attention to the Tesla factory in Grunheide for the environmental destruction here,” Disrupt Tesla spokesperson Ole Becker told Reuters. The group also wants to highlight environmental destruction in other countries like Argentina or Bolivia, brought about by lithium mining, according to Becker. Lithium is a key resource for electric vehicle batteries. Some of the demonstrators have damaged a few Tesla cars using pyrotechnics and paint at a nearby car storage site, a police spokesperson added. Source: Reuters

Germany plans to end homelessness

The federal German government has released an Action Plan to eradicate homelessness by 2030. However, the plans have been critised by Homeless people and charities as too vague, although admirable. In recent years, homelessness has been on the rise, due to an ongoing lack of affordable housing. The 31-point plan includes ideas such as giving money to state governments to build social housing, and helping people get access to health insurance, among others. However, charities say the situation in the housing market is so desperate that, without any indication of how this will be achieved, it is little more than a statement of intent. Source: dw

Asylum seekers in Brandenburg to receive support as cash

The payment card for asylum seekers is to be introduced throughout Brandenburg with only some of the finanical support to be paid out in cash. A decision has now been made regarding the amount of support paid out in cash which does not meet demands of the Greens. According to the local government, adult asylum seekers in Brandenburg will receive 50 euros per month in cash, while children will receive 25 euros in cash. Refugees from Ukraine will not receive a payment card, as they receive citizens’ benefits. Source: rbb

German forests in poor condition

Many trees in German forests are sick. So says a survey carried out by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in 2023. Around 80 per cent of the most common species – spruce, pine, beech, and oak – are damaged. Such stressed condition is due to the heat, drought and beetle damage. Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) said during the presentation of new data in Berlin that only one in five trees is still completely healthy. ‘The forest is turning into a permanent patient.’ The study attributes the problems facing German forests to climate change. Source: rbb

News from Berlin and Germany, 8th May 2024

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



VBB boss Ute Bonde is Berlin’s new transport senator

Berlin’s Mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) has announced that Ute Bonde, a local transport expert, will succeed Manja Schreiner as Berlin’s transport senator. Bonde is managing director of the Berlin-Brandenburg Transport Association Berlin-Brandenburg. She is a CDU member from Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and will be sworn in as the new Senator for Mobility, Transport, Climate Protection and the Environment in the parliamentary session on May 23rd. Transport policy is a high priority in the city. There have been debates, for example, about the introduction of a 29-euro monthly ticket for local transport or the partial conversion of the central Friedrichstraße into a pedestrian zone. Source: rbb24

“We want the fence as quickly as possible”

After months of delays and uncertainty, Mayor Kai Wegner isn’t backing down on his plans for a fence around Görlitzer Park. In a recent interview with the German Press Agency, Wegner mentioned “legal delay tactics” deployed by the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district against the plans. “The tender process for the fence is still ongoing,” he said. “That’s why we can’t give a date for the fence yet,” added Wegner. “We want the fence as quickly as possible.” However, one thing is certain: it’s definitely not happening on schedule. Source: the berliner


All four suspects in attack on SPD politicians identified

Three days after the attack on the Saxon top candidate for the European elections, Matthias Ecke (SPD), the Saxony State Criminal Police Office (LKA) has identified all four suspected attackers. They are all young Germans aged between 17 and 18 years old. However, the suspects are at large as there are no grounds for their arrest. According to the LKA, two of the suspects are already known to the police, the AFP news agency reported. The 41-year-old politician was attacked on Friday evening as he was putting up election posters for his party. He was seriously injured and had to undergo surgery. Source: tagesschau

Bundeswehr’s meetings found online

The German military confirmed earlier reports of a vulnerability affecting the Webex software that it uses for online meetings. The organization admitted last Saturday that a flaw in the video-conferencing tool left more than 6,000 of its meetings publicly accessible online. Zeit Online reported accessing German Bundeswehr meetings by using simple search terms on the military’s Webex system, and mentioned that the military only became aware of the security errors after they approached them for comment. The military said the bug was fixed within 24 hours of being reported. Source: dw

AfD trial in Münster: Will the judgement come soon?

The AfD keeps trying to delay the trial against the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. But the court wants to come to an end. It is considered practically certain that the proceedings in Münster will also determine the threat of the party being categorised as a confirmed right-wing extremist organisation. The party had already failed with two bias motions on the first day of the trial in March. After that, it had painstakingly and sluggishly submitted motions for evidence regarding the questioning of employees of the domestic intelligence service. Source: taz

Green Party and ver.di push for 15-euro minimum wage

The trade union ver.di and the Green Party, who makes up one-third of Germany’s governing coalition, are pushing for a 15-euro per hour minimum wage to be adopted by 2026. They note the German minimum wage should be increased in order to meet the guidelines of an EU Commission directive. As it stands, the German government commission responsible for deciding annual minimum wage increases has only revealed plans to increase the wage from 12,41 to 12,81 euros per hour from January 2025. The wage increase for 2026 will be decided by the German government elected in late 2025. Source: iamexpat

Study in Germany shows correlation between racism and poverty

The German Center for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM) in Berlin published a study entitled “Limits of Equality. Racism and the risk of poverty.” The study shows a correlation between racism and the risk of poverty. The researchers searched comprehensively for discrimination: in the education system, the labor market, the housing market, and the health sector. Other studies before the current one showed that individuals with a migration background often face discrimination when looking for a job. This increases the risk of having to live below the poverty line. Source: dw

News from Berlin and Germany, 1st May 2024

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Berlin police say protests can only be held in German or English

After a pro-Palestine camp protest held by the group “Irish Bloc” outside the German parliament, police in Berlin have said certain protests in the capital city can only be conducted in German, English and, in some cases, Arabic, unless a police-assigned interpreter is present. Despite Irish being one of the EU’s 22 official languages, Berlin police have confirmed that the Gaelic language is forbidden at the protest camp. The Irish Bloc is among several pro-Palestine groups in Berlin which have been targeted recently. In late March, the “Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost” (“Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East”) received notice from a Berlin state run bank its account had been frozen. Source: iamexpat

Berlin transport senator Manja Schreiner resigns after PhD scandel

Berlin’s transport senator Manja Schreiner (CDU) is resigning. In a brief statement, the politician said the University of Rostock would revoke her doctorate. To prevent damage to the Berlin Senate, she had therefore asked the Governing Mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) for her dismissal. Schreiner emphasised she had not deliberately deceived or cheated at any point in her dissertation. As a private individual, she would therefore appeal against the decision. The Berlin mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) announced he would honour Schreiner’s request. It has not yet been decided who will take her place. Source: rbb

Deportation despite endangered child welfare

MP Ferat Koçak (the Left), a refugee policy expert, has criticised the deportation of a parent and a child with mental illness. Koçak affirms: “The child was just stable enough to attend school again. The deportation threatens to massively worsen the health situation of the child and parent again.” According to a statement from several aid organisations, both family members were “lured” to an appointment at the Berlin Immigration Office (LEA) and then deported to Moldova. Berlin’s interior senator Iris Spranger (SPD) told the interior committee that deportations are carried out only if all other legal means have been exhausted. Source: nd-aktuell



Germany will probably not say no

According to Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens), Germany will probably not vote against the abolition of important environmental rules for agricultural subsidies in the Council of EU member states. The last two years have “not always been harmonious” in the coalition government, “so I could imagine that we have different ideas on this issue”, said the politician to “taz”. The recent reform of EU agricultural subsidies on “compulsory fallow land” was, for nature conservationists, one of the few advances, which amount to around 55 billion euros per year. Source: taz

Reichsbürger trial: coup plan and rudimentary theories

They allegedly wanted nothing less than a coup d’état: the group of so-called “Reich Citizens” around Henry XIII Prince Reuss probably wanted to infiltrate the German Bundestag and arrest members of parliament. Particularly targeted were the Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), the Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) and the CDU leader Friedrich Merz. However, a nationwide raid on the suspected right-wing terrorist organisation “Patriotic Union” on 7 December 2022 was successful: 25 people were arrested, including Reuß. This week in Stuttgart begins the first of three trials against the group. Judgements in all trials are not expected until next year. Source: dw

Islamists call for caliphate at Hamburg demo

Over 1,000 people have protested in Hamburg against what they see as Islamophobic politics and media. The rally was secured by a large contingent of police. There were no incidents. Slogans such as “Caliphate is the solution” could be read on posters. The “Muslim Interactive” initiative disguises itself as a campaign to educate people about racism, however, it is one of the Islamist groups that are causing rifts to grow in the country. Following the demonstration, Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) called for “tough intervention” by the state at such events and praised the work of the Hamburg police. Source: zdf

Inflation rate stabilises

The inflation rate in Germany has been falling since December. In April at least, the trend has not reversed. According to initial figures from the Federal Statistical Office, inflation remained at 2.2 per cent. Things are returning to normal after the sometimes-drastic price rises of the past two years. It is relevant to note that, core inflation, which is considered by economists a more reliable measure because it excludes food and energy prices, had fluctuated a little more. In March, core inflation was 3.3 per cent, in April it is now likely to have been 3.0 per cent. Source: taz

News from Berlin and Germany, 24th April 2024

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Berlin rents increase by an average of 18.3%

A survey by the bank Berlin Hyp and brokerage company CBRE found rents in Berlin increased by 18.3% in 2023 compared to 2022. For new rental contracts landlords in Berlin were demanding an average of 13.60 euros cold rent (excluding the cost of utilities) per square metre. Neukölln and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg were the two neighbourhoods with the highest rent increases: over 23%. The report predicts that demand for housing in Berlin will only continue increasing in the coming years as more people move to the city. Source: iamexpat

Tesla plans to cut 400 jobs in Grünheide

The US car manufacturer Tesla wants to cut jobs worldwide. The provisional extent of the cuts at its only European plant, in Grünheide, Brandenburg, is now known. The factory is planning to cut 400 jobs, as announced by the company to rbb last Tuesday. Talks are currently underway with the works council. Tesla says it wants to avoid layoffs and has therefore launched a volunteer programme for employees who wish to leave the company. CEO Elon Musk announced two weeks ago that he wanted to cut ten per cent of the global workforce due to difficulties in selling e-cars. Source: rbb24


Compact and Free Saxony in the wake of the AfD

Almost 300 people came to the Sonneberg train station square in Thuringia on Saturday evening, where the right-wing extremist Compact magazine had promised a “folk festival” – with “Compact and AfD at your fingertips”. Petr Bystron – the AfD’s European candidate who is currently facing allegations of corruption – and Doris von Sayn-Wittgenstein had been announced as speakers. But the connections with the magazine appear closer than the party would have wanted them to look, as the Bundestag administration is investigating a possible donation. Meanwhile, the far-right Free Saxony party seeks to pull the AfD further to the right, and sociologist Johannes Kiess believes that joint majorities of the Free Saxons and the AfD are possible in individual municipalities. Source: tagesschau

More right-wing extremist cases reported at schools

Student representatives of the eastern German federal states are complaining about increasing right-wing extremism in schools. They claim that inhibitions are being eroded and that schools are often not sufficiently prepared for right-wing extremist incidents. The state student councils from Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia therefore called for decisive countermeasures in a joint declaration at the beginning of April. Among other things, they want the subjects of politics and social studies to be strengthened in order to impart more knowledge about the threats that right-wing extremism poses to democracy. Source: rbb24

What are the benefits of a motorway speed limit in Germany?

“Free citizens demand free travel” – with this slogan, the German Automobile Club (ADAC) protested in the 70s against the West German speed limit of 100 kilometres per hour. Although it was only in force for a few months due to the oil crisis, the outrage was huge. Various attempts to introduce a general speed limit have since failed. Currently, more than half of Germans are in favour of a speed limit. Among the benefits there is the fact the slower a car drives, the less fuel it consumes. The 2021 Climate Act, however, makes no mention of a speed limit. Source: dw

Cannabis ban planned at German railway stations

Adults in Germany have been allowed to smoke cannabis since April 1, but bans remain in zones around playgrounds and schools, for example. Deutsche Bahn wants to ban the consumption of cannabis at railway stations as well. The only exception is consumption for medical reasons, which is already permitted and will remain so. Information posters will be displayed at all railway stations nationwide starting as early as next week, and Deutsche Bahn intends to prosecute offences from June. Prior to this, railway employees will ask travellers to refrain from consuming cannabis with “friendly requests and instructions.” Source: dw

Höcke: far-right politician on trial

Björn Höcke, who leads the AfD in Thuringia, is being tried for saying words associated with the SA stormtroopers, who played a key role in the Nazis’ rise to power, at a 2021 rally. At a campaign event in the state of Saxony-Anhalt in May 2021, Höcke ended a speech with the slogan “Everything for our homeland, everything for Saxony-Anhalt, everything for Germany!” Prosecutors say he was aware that the phrase was banned for being associated with the Nazi Sturmabteilung. At another rally, in 2023, Höcke said: “Everything for…”, to which the audience replied: “Germany!” Source: bbc